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Iowa State, Iowa join two Midwest universities to create high-speed data network
AMES, Iowa -- Connecting Iowa State University to a new high-speed data network will help Patrick Schnable work with scientists in St. Louis to sequence the corn genome.
The network also makes it possible for James Oliver and his colleagues at Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center to connect a proposed supercomputer in Illinois to Iowa State's virtual reality tools.
And the network will help Krishna Rajan, an Iowa State professor of materials science and engineering, share the imaging data produced by Iowa State's atom probe microscope with researchers around the world.
Those collaborations require researchers to share massive amounts of data. And that can be a challenge, said Schnable, the associate director of Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute and a professor of agronomy.
It can be done with Iowa State's current data connections, Schnable said. But researchers always have to ask: "How patient are you? Are you willing to send huge amounts of data? It takes forever."
That's about to change.
Iowa State has joined the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to create BOREAS-Net (the Broadband Optical Research, Education and Sciences Network). The high-speed optical network is named after the Greek god of the north wind and will connect the four universities and link them to national and international networks through connections in Chicago and Kansas City. The network will allow Iowa State, Iowa and the state's Iowa Communications Network to combine Internet traffic and purchase Internet service in bulk quantities at reduced costs. The network's connections to Chicago and Kansas City also provide backup Internet service in case network traffic is interrupted in either city. And the network can quickly move a lot of data.
"BOREAS-Net gives Iowa State researchers the ability to collaborate with other institutions and labs," said James Davis, Iowa State's chief information officer. "They can share large amounts of data in a way they couldn't without this network."
Davis said BOREAS-Net will give Iowa State researchers access to high-capacity circuits that are more than 64 times faster than Iowa State's current research network connection. He said the new network is also capable of moving Iowa State's non-research Internet traffic up to 10 times faster than the current connection.
Schnable and Srinivas Aluru, an Iowa State professor of electrical and computer engineering, are working with researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Arizona in Tucson and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York to sequence the corn genome.
That kind of collaboration is becoming the norm for researchers.
"No one person or group can do everything," Schnable said. "And we're feeling external pressures to do more of these collaborations. Scientists today need to work in these dispersed, cross-disciplinary groups."
Oliver, the director of Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center and a professor of mechanical engineering, said the BOREAS-Net connection makes it possible for Iowa State to work with the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computing. The consortium is competing for a grant to build a supercomputer capable of a quadrillion calculations per second. Oliver said C6, Iowa State's six-sided virtual reality room, would be an ideal place to build interfaces that can display and work with all the data produced by the proposed supercomputer.
Rajan directs the Combinatorial Sciences and Materials Informatics Collaboratory, an international research and education center supported by the National Science Foundation. The center depends on a cyber-infrastructure to connect researchers and educators who are using high-powered computing techniques to discover and design new materials. Rajan said researchers exchange large amounts of imaging data -- sometimes as much as a trillion bytes. And so Rajan said he and his collaborators need the bigger, faster connection offered by BOREAS-Net.
The four universities have shared the cost of creating the network from unused optical fiber owned by telecommunications companies. Iowa State's share was about $2 million.
The initiative to create BOREAS-Net began with the Northern Tier Network Consortium, a group of research universities and laboratories in Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The consortium was established because of a lack of cyber infrastructure between Chicago and Seattle.
"Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Iowa State have made the investment for the benefit of researchers at our universities," said Steve Cawley, vice president and chief information officer at the University of Minnesota and chair of BOREAS-Net. "We hope that BOREAS-Net can provide a foundation for other institutions in the northern tier so we can jointly make progress on our primary goal -- to advance research in higher education."
Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have created a high-speed optical network that will allow researchers to share massive amounts of data with collaborators around the world.
"BOREAS-Net gives Iowa State researchers the ability to collaborate with other institutions and labs. They can share large amounts of data in a way they couldn't without this network."
James Davis, Iowa State's chief information officer