USC Wins National Science Foundation Grant for Big-Data Network

From left to right: John Silvester, Maureen Dougherty, and Peter M. Siegel

From left to right: John Silvester, Maureen Dougherty, and Peter M. Siegel

By Kevin Durkin

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded USC a $500,000 grant to create the Trojan Express Network II (TEN-II), a research and education project that will provide USC researchers with a high-speed expressway to transfer massive amounts of data across and beyond campus.

The TEN-II project will deploy the new network over existing fiber infrastructure, providing high data-rate services to at least six research laboratories across three USC facilities that are geographically dispersed around Los Angeles.

The project is co-led by principal investigators Maureen Dougherty, director of the USC Center for High-Performance Computing (HPC), part of Information Technology Services (ITS), and John Silvester, professor of electrical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

“The TEN-II proposal is a testament to key partnerships between USC faculty and ITS,” said Peter Siegel, chief information officer and vice provost for ITS. “The grant benefits faculty in a variety of disciplines, including behavioral genetics, computer science, cybersecurity, digital cinema microscopy, digital humanities and social sciences, earth science and materials science.”

Siegel co-led a similar NSF Campus Cyberinfrastructure-Network Infrastructure and Engineering grant last year. He has served as a member of the board of trustees of Internet2, a national research and education network, and as chair of the Internet2 research advisory council. He was also a member of the board of directors of CENIC, a consortium supporting advanced research and educational networks in California.

Multiple-port switches that are 100-gigabit-per-second capable will be installed in each building connected to the network. The switches will be managed with OpenFlow, an emerging open standard for network management that allows the network to be managed from a central controller and programmed and optimized for particular applications, resulting in a highly flexible software-defined network (SDN).

“The TEN-II network will be anchored on a high-performance switch already installed in USC’s HPC — home to the fifth-fastest academic supercomputer in the nation — and is connected through CENIC to Internet2’s Innovation Platform at 100 gigabits-per-second,” Dougherty said.

“Scientific research and education continues to be ever more data- and compute- intensive, and the demand for higher performance and more reliable data transfer will continue to grow over the next decade,” said Silvester, who served as past chair of the board of directors of CENIC, as well as on the national planning and policy advisory committee of Internet2.

“TEN-II will enable significant new scientific research and education opportunities for multiple departments and research groups at USC. Beneficiaries will include researchers who need access to large data flows from remote instruments or who transfer large data sets to or from national computing centers or cloud-based providers,” Silvester said.

“In addition, the network will enable multi-institutional research and education collaborations to transfer large data sets between partners rapidly and predictably.”

The TEN-II project will develop in-house OpenFlow and SDN expertise to assist researchers in effectively using the new network for on-campus connectivity, as well as for interinstitutional connectivity over state and national research and education networks.

“This is an exciting time for USC as we deploy new technologies to tackle the challenges and opportunities inherent in a world of big data and data analysis on a scale never seen before. TEN-II will help USC faculty and students stay at the forefront and take advantage of these transformative developments,” Siegel said.