Framing a Case for NRENs in the Longest Last Mile

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

February 27, 2019

Michael Foley delivered the opening keynote at the recent South African Centre for High Performance Computing National Conference. As the lead Distance Learning Specialist at the World Bank in the United States (US) from 1997 until 2015, Foley’s work focused on all aspects of the development of the Global Development Learning Network. Now that he’s retired, he has more time to pursue his passion for photography but remains engaged with National Research and Education Network (NREN) advocacy on behalf of underserved regions.

Photo used with the permission of the photographer, Michael Foley.

“Once I saw a number of transatlantic cables begin to connect the US and Europe, I began to focus on the status of network development in Africa,” he said, realizing that anyone who wasn’t connected would be left behind in the digital age. He also recognized the need to help local advocates establish a case for NREN development to government leaders, donors and other stakeholders. In 2016, Foley published a report titled, “The Role and Status of NRENs in Africa.” The two-part report is available online.

“In many regions, an NREN could be perceived as a threat to local Internet Service Providers (ISPs),” he said. It’s important to frame a unique case for laypeople, administrators, legislators and donors in terms that each group will understand. “Don’t ask if it is sustainable; instead, ask how we can make it sustainable,” said Foley, who suggested that a public investment can support the development of NRENs as well as future accountability. Establishing an NREN requires a government commitment. In many cases, there is either too much or too little regulation. “NRENs must be perceived as being for the public good and university readiness,” he added.

“When building a case for an NREN, headway can be made by dispelling long-standing myths about science,” he said. “Many continue to think that scientists work alone in a lab; they envision a male scientist who is disconnected from the world, but these clichés simply aren’t accurate,” he said. Science is becoming increasingly collaborative and reliant upon diverse, interdisciplinary teams who use advanced instrumentation and share huge amounts of data across fast networks. He noted that research with the record number of authors—more than 5,000—concerns the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN) and the discovery of the Higgs boson particle. The Higgs boson gives other particles their mass, and without mass, there would be no matter. This discovery helped us better understand the forces that shape the Universe and would not have been possible if contributing scientists from dozens of countries lacked access to fast networks that connect them to the LHC at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

Much more than bandwidth; NRENs add value above what ISPs can provide

Unlike an ISP, the NREN pipe isn’t shared with commercial stakeholders. NRENs’ value added is their ability to offer vast service and resource portfolios developed by global research communities, for example: authentication (security); grid-enabled middleware; email services; digital libraries; content mirroring; cloud resources; access to federated and inter-federated compute resources; performance monitoring; point-to-point Internet protocol circuits for special applications; bandwidth-on-demand; dedicated point-to-point Internet Protocol (IP) circuits for special applications; and educational resources for human capacity development. “NRENs end digital exclusion and academic isolation by providing access to digital libraries, journals, databases and instrumentation that few of end-points could afford on their own,” said Foley.

Foley cited the “Seven Levels of NREN Development; Capability Maturity Model,” by Duncan Greaves (South Africa/TENET).

He suggests that NREN stakeholders can collaborate with commercial providers to incorporate commodity services. Since the future is mobile, together they can think of new ways to leverage mobile interfaces; this is especially true in countries where a large percentage of the population engaged with the Internet for the first time via mobile devices. Since many in these regions are also “unbanked” and lack the financial clout necessary to secure a monthly mobile contract, a SIM culture ensues where people access telecommunications and Internet services via prepaid SIM from a single ISP.

The price of fiber is high in many regions and continues to be a financial stumbling block. The World Bank supported NREN development in Somalia via the AfricaConnect2 program and the next-generation project, AfricaConnect3 (2018-2020), was just announced. This program has allocated 37.5 million euros to improve connectivity among African nations and European collaborators. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) supported the NEAAR Project, based at Indiana University, which will improve the pipeline between Europe and Africa via GÉANT. As for capacity-building, he credits the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) at the University of Oregon-US. With 25-years of experience in network skills development, NSRC has vastly improved the global network workforce pipeline. NSRC can also help universities upgrade switches and routers. “An NREN is only as good as its last mile,” said Foley.

Gray areas have not begun to develop an NREN.

He closed with acknowledgement that NRENs won’t do all of the work, and that human and analog factors must be addressed with an equal amount of vigor. Higher education institutions can help by encouraging the technical literacy of staff and employing champions of innovation who understand the importance of a well-connected university. “Invest in capacity-building to become more competitive and create ways to expand the use of dark fiber where there is local expertise,” he added.

The CHPC19 National Conference will be held December 1-5, 2019; the venue will be announced soon. Watch the STEM-Trek and CHPC sites for more information.

About the Author

HPCwire Contributing Editor Elizabeth Leake is a consultant, correspondent and advocate who serves the global high performance computing (HPC) and data science industries. In 2012, she founded STEM-Trek, a global, grassroots nonprofit organization that supports workforce development opportunities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scholars from underserved regions and underrepresented groups.

As a program director, Leake has mentored hundreds of early-career professionals who are breaking cultural barriers in an effort to accelerate scientific and engineering discoveries. Her multinational programs have specific themes that resonate with global stakeholders, such as food security data science, blockchain for social good, cybersecurity/risk mitigation, and more. As a conference blogger and communicator, her work drew recognition when STEM-Trek received the 2016 and 2017 HPCwire Editors’ Choice Awards for Workforce Diversity Leadership.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Organizations Partner to Rescue Petabytes of Data from the Arecibo Observatory

April 21, 2021

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico stood as the world’s largest single-aperture telescope for more than half a century, its grandiosity earning it a turn as a major filming location in the James Bond movie GoldenEy Read more…

MLPerf Issues New Inferencing Results, Adds Power Metrics, Nvidia Wins (Again)

April 21, 2021

MLPerf.org, the young ML benchmarking organization, today issued its third round of inferencing results (MLPerf Inference v1.0) intended to compare how well various systems and accelerators perform inferencing on a suite Read more…

Cerebras Doubles AI Performance with Second-Gen 7nm Wafer Scale Engine

April 20, 2021

Nearly two years since its massive 1.2 trillion transistor Wafer Scale Engine chip debuted at Hot Chips, Cerebras Systems is announcing its second-generation technology (WSE-2), which its says packs twice the performance Read more…

The New Scalability

April 20, 2021

HPC is all about scalability. The most powerful systems. The biggest data sets. The most cores, the most bytes, the most flops, the most bandwidth. HPC scales! Notwithstanding a few recurring arguments over the last twenty years about scaling up versus scaling out, the definition of scalability... Read more…

Supercomputer-Powered Climate Model Makes Startling Sea Level Rise Prediction

April 19, 2021

The climate science community is tasked with striking a difficult balance: inspiring precisely the amount of alarm commensurate to the climate crisis. Make estimates that are too conservative, and the public might not re Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Research computing with RONIN on AWS

To allow more visibility into and management of Amazon Web Services (AWS) resources and expenses and minimize the cloud skills training required to operate these resources, AWS Partner RONIN created the RONIN research computing platform. Read more…

San Diego Supercomputer Center Opens ‘Expanse’ to Industry Users

April 15, 2021

When San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego was getting ready to deploy its flagship Expanse supercomputer for the large research community it supports, it also sought to optimize Read more…

MLPerf Issues New Inferencing Results, Adds Power Metrics, Nvidia Wins (Again)

April 21, 2021

MLPerf.org, the young ML benchmarking organization, today issued its third round of inferencing results (MLPerf Inference v1.0) intended to compare how well var Read more…

Cerebras Doubles AI Performance with Second-Gen 7nm Wafer Scale Engine

April 20, 2021

Nearly two years since its massive 1.2 trillion transistor Wafer Scale Engine chip debuted at Hot Chips, Cerebras Systems is announcing its second-generation te Read more…

The New Scalability

April 20, 2021

HPC is all about scalability. The most powerful systems. The biggest data sets. The most cores, the most bytes, the most flops, the most bandwidth. HPC scales! Notwithstanding a few recurring arguments over the last twenty years about scaling up versus scaling out, the definition of scalability... Read more…

San Diego Supercomputer Center Opens ‘Expanse’ to Industry Users

April 15, 2021

When San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego was getting ready to deploy its flagship Expanse supercomputer for the larg Read more…

GTC21: Dell Building Cloud Native Supercomputers at U Cambridge and Durham

April 14, 2021

In conjunction with GTC21, Dell Technologies today announced new supercomputers at universities across DiRAC (Distributed Research utilizing Advanced Computing) in the UK with plans to explore use of Nvidia BlueField DPU technology. The University of Cambridge will expand... Read more…

The Role and Potential of CPUs in Deep Learning

April 14, 2021

Deep learning (DL) applications have unique architectural characteristics and efficiency requirements. Hence, the choice of computing system has a profound impa Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

Nvidia Aims Clara Healthcare at Drug Discovery, Imaging via DGX

April 12, 2021

Nvidia Corp. continues to expand its Clara healthcare platform with the addition of computational drug discovery and medical imaging tools based on its DGX A100 platform, related InfiniBand networking and its AGX developer kit. The Clara partnerships announced during... Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

CERN Is Betting Big on Exascale

April 1, 2021

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) involves 23 countries, 15,000 researchers, billions of dollars a year, and the biggest machine in the worl Read more…

Programming the Soon-to-Be World’s Fastest Supercomputer, Frontier

January 5, 2021

What’s it like designing an app for the world’s fastest supercomputer, set to come online in the United States in 2021? The University of Delaware’s Sunita Chandrasekaran is leading an elite international team in just that task. Chandrasekaran, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, recently was named... Read more…

HPE Launches Storage Line Loaded with IBM’s Spectrum Scale File System

April 6, 2021

HPE today launched a new family of storage solutions bundled with IBM’s Spectrum Scale Erasure Code Edition parallel file system (description below) and featu Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

Quantum Computer Start-up IonQ Plans IPO via SPAC

March 8, 2021

IonQ, a Maryland-based quantum computing start-up working with ion trap technology, plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) merger a Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Can Deep Learning Replace Numerical Weather Prediction?

March 3, 2021

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a mainstay of supercomputing. Some of the first applications of the first supercomputers dealt with climate modeling, and Read more…

Livermore’s El Capitan Supercomputer to Debut HPE ‘Rabbit’ Near Node Local Storage

February 18, 2021

A near node local storage innovation called Rabbit factored heavily into Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s decision to select Cray’s proposal for its CORAL-2 machine, the lab’s first exascale-class supercomputer, El Capitan. Details of this new storage technology were revealed... Read more…

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the Read more…

AMD Launches Epyc ‘Milan’ with 19 SKUs for HPC, Enterprise and Hyperscale

March 15, 2021

At a virtual launch event held today (Monday), AMD revealed its third-generation Epyc “Milan” CPU lineup: a set of 19 SKUs -- including the flagship 64-core, 280-watt 7763 part --  aimed at HPC, enterprise and cloud workloads. Notably, the third-gen Epyc Milan chips achieve 19 percent... Read more…

The History of Supercomputing vs. COVID-19

March 9, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a greater challenge to the high-performance computing community than any before. HPCwire's coverage of the supercomputing response t Read more…

HPE Names Justin Hotard New HPC Chief as Pete Ungaro Departs

March 2, 2021

HPE CEO Antonio Neri announced today (March 2, 2021) the appointment of Justin Hotard as general manager of HPC, mission critical solutions and labs, effective Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire