Where to Start - Creating a CyberInfrastructure Plan

Strategic planning is an important component of the technology lifecycle for a campus or regional network. The goals of this activity should be to highlight current technology capabilities, planned upgrades to reach critical milestones to support R&E activities, and enumerate projects that will directly address challenges facing the institution in the future. The entire information technology organization has a vested interest in regularly revisiting these plans to ensure that they are meeting the goals of the community that they serve: the educators and researchers that take advantage of the technology to further their own activities. These plans should not be created in a vacuum, however, and should be a collaborative effort meant to create a fully featured, secure, and performant infrastructure to support the users and use cases across the environment.

The Campus Cyberinfrastructure (CC*) program invests in coordinated campus-level networking and cyberinfrastructure improvements, innovation, integration, and engineering for science applications and distributed research projects. Science-driven requirements are the primary motivation for any proposed activity. The NSF acknowledges that institutional strategic planning efforts should help guide proposals to the CC* Program. To this end, proposals submitted to the Campus Cyberinfrastructure (CC*) program must include a Campus CI plan that addresses how the proposed CI improvements are conceived, designed, and implemented in the context of a coherent campus-wide strategy and approach to CI that is integrated horizontally intra-­ campus and vertically with regional and national CI investments and best practices.

The structure of a CI plan should reflect the current status, near term plans, and future goals of an institution or region, and should address several core components related to the technology capabilities. Specifics of what to include will vary from year to year within the CC* program, but there are several general themes that have emerged throughout the life of the program. The Campus CI plan must be included with CC* proposals as a Supplementary Document, and is limited to no more than 5 pages. As a result of this restriction, it is recommended that a longer form version, to be used for strategic planning, be maintained in perpetuity and fully addressing other aspects of campus CI Readiness.

The following sections discuss these prompts, and should serve as guidance as the CI plan is created and maintained over time.

CI Plan Review Criteria

Starting in 2024, there is a set of questions that the CI plan will be compared against during the peer review process.  These questions can be found in the 2024 CC* solicitation, near the end (you may text search for “A Cyberinfrastructure (CI) plan” to reach the section):

  • To what extent is the planned cyberinfrastructure likely to enhance capacity for discovery, innovation, and education in science and engineering?
  • How well does the plan as presented position the proposing institution(s) for future cyberinfrastructure development?
  • How well does the cyberinfrastructure plan support and integrate with the institutions' science and technology plan?
  • Are IPv6 deployment and InCommon Federation addressed?
  • Are the activities described in the proposal consistent with the institution's cyberinfrastructure plan?

Introductory Background Materials

The CI Plan should enumerate the authors, their position within the institution (e.g. the information technology organization, or the office of research support, etc), and the audience the document is intended to reach. It is recommended that all contributors be mentioned, along with the key stakeholders critical to success.

Time Quanta

The following sections on technology support should include a notion of the time quanta involved for any current versus future activities. These can be defined as:

  • Current: Items in place and in use at the time of documentation. 
  • Near Term: Items funded and planned, even if not immediately ready and deployed 
  • Future: Items planned, but perhaps not funded, fully designed, or tied to specific use cases.

Networking Capabilities

The CC* program invests in coordinated campus-level networking first and foremost, as well as other inter-related cyberinfrastructure improvements. The networking capabilities, and future trajectories, are important to present as a part of this documentation effort. The following sections detail areas that must be documented.

Local Area

The local environment should cover all aspects of the institutional network infrastructure:

  • Core connectivity to the metro and wide area connections
  • Distribution layer to other parts of the infrastructure
  • Edge connectivity (wired and wireless)
  • Special facilities, and details on how they are operated
  • Capacity for each component
  • "Layers" of network, and how are supported
  • Specifics on make and model of the infrastructure
  • Network diagrams (where applicable)

Metro Area

The metro, or regional, network is often operated by a different entity than the author of the CI Plan. It is recommended that the institution seek both input from that outside entity on this section, as well as seeking a letter of collaboration for any proposal to indicate that there are a shared set of understandings regarding technology capabilities and trajectories.

This section should include details on the metro or regional:

  • Core connectivity to wide area connections
  • Distribution layer to other metro or regional facilities 
  • Capacity for each component
  • "Layers" of network, and how are supported
  • Specifics on make and model of the infrastructure
  • Network diagrams (where applicable)

Wide Area

The national network is operated by a different entity than the author of the CI Plan. It is recommended that the institution seek a letter of collaboration from the national entity for any proposal.

This section should include details on the national network:

  • Core connectivity to wide area connections
  • Distribution layer to other national and international entities 
  • Capacity for each component
  • "Layers" of network, and how are supported
  • Specifics on make and model of the infrastructure
  • Network diagrams (where applicable)

Network Protocols

This section should detail information on how the institution manages network address space internally and externally, e.g. through the IPv4 and IPv6 protocols. If the institution does not support IPv6, it is recommended that either a justification as to why, or a plan as to how it may be implemented, be provided.

Passive & Active Performance Monitoring

A campus environment most likely performs some form of network monitoring to understand the scope and health of the entire environment. The CI plan should enumerate what tools and approaches are used to address this functionality:

  • Passive monitoring: Observing the state and changing metrics of devices that make this information available. Examples include SNMP, TL1, Netflow, sFlow, or other forms of data that can be observed from active parts of an infrastructure. 
  • Active monitoring: Performing active tests of the infrastructure. This can be to local things that are controlled by the institution, or to other resources deployed on a regional, national, or international scale. The perfSONAR ( framework is widely deployed within the R&E community, and has mechanisms to track key network metrics (achievable bandwidth, one way and bidirectional latency, layer 3 path, etc.) over time.

Network and Information Security

All proposals submitted to CC* are expected to address the relevant cybersecurity issues and challenges related to their proposed activities. Since security and resilience are fundamental issues in campus CI, the Campus CI plan should address the campus-wide approach to cybersecurity in the scientific research and education infrastructure, including the campus approach to data and privacy.

Depending on the type of proposal, these issues may include, but are not limited to:

  • data integrity
  • privacy
  • network security measures 
  • federated access and identity management
  • infrastructure monitoring

Campuses are encouraged to consider emerging best practices in network routing security for network operators as expressed in the Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS).

Computational and Storage Capabilities

If applicable, outline the current capabilities that may exist on campus that can support high performance or high throughput computing as a service to the user community. This could include technical specifications for the computing environment (current or planned), as well as the policy for use.

Remote Use Cases

Not all CI capabilities may be provided locally, often campuses partner with regional and national entities to deliver parts of their CI strategy. This section can discuss some of these, and if they are provided by other R&E communities, or are services that are purchased at an institutional level.

R&E Partnerships & Collaborations

There are a number of CI services that are provide on a national level: some are focused on delivering computation and storage, others may provide services such as reviews of security or scientific drivers, others may be specialized research efforts that provide a dedicated testbed or operating environment. Examples include:

Commercial Partnerships & Collaborations

Commercial entities offer computing and storage services for a fee. If your campus has a regular relationship to utilize these, discuss how it fits into the overall CI strategy.

Collaboration Environment

The collaboration environment can be defined as the policy and social constructs that are build around the technology that is offered locally, or integrated with national and international scale efforts. These activities include memberships that allow for seamless access, as well as assistance that may be available to help accelerate workflows to use networks, storage, and computational resources.

Federated Identity

The plan should include the campus status and plans with respect to federated identity and specifically InCommon, including:

  • if the campus is registered with InCommon as supporting the Research and Scholarship (R&S) Entity Category to streamline integration with research applications;
  • if the campus meets the InCommon Baseline Expectations for Trust in Federation.

Software and Workflow Support

If the campus supports any hands-on assistance to facilitate the use of technology, it can be described as a service to the users. Examples include:

Outreach and Engagement

Science-driven requirements are the primary motivation for any proposed activity under CC*. As a campus CI program, funded activities should represent ongoing opportunities for student engagement, education, and training. Proposals that demonstrate opportunities to engage students directly in the deployment, operation, and advancement of the CI funded activities, consistent with the required Campus CI plan, are encouraged. Note that NSF encourages Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) supplement proposals on active awards as well.


Further, proposals are expected to address within the Campus CI plan the sustainability of the proposed work in terms of ongoing operational and engineering costs.

Diagrams and Appendices

Including any relevant diagrams related to the above sections. Diagrams are often not required, but can be used as a supplement to describe complex components.