Research and Faculty Partnership

Technology to support scholarship and research can generally be seen as developing from two sources: Divisional Liaisons and the Local IT Specialists they supervise, and the staff in Research and Faculty Partnerships. Locally, utilizing the DL Council at a locus of information exchange, academic divisions leverage one another’s expertise and developed services to meet common needs. Research and Faculty partnerships works strategically at the campus level to leverage local, regional and national partnerships to extend and improve research infrastructure. 

Two efforts are undertaken to develop technology in support of scholarship and research. First, through the development and creative application of state-of-the-art information technology ITS, in collaboration with faculty, enables new avenues of research and approaches to instruction that leverage the power of IT in support of the information intensive activities of research and education. Second, by monitoring funding opportunities for the integration of information technology into academic activities and for the implementation of new IT infrastructure, ITS can help fund improvements in the campus infrastructure, alleviating some of the pressure on state and research overhead funds.


Divisional Successes

Local IT Staff Support

The Division of Arts recently celebrated the Opening of the Digital Arts Research Center, a facility with deep technology integrations that was designed and brought to fruition with close involvement of the local IT staff who has now added support of this facility to their expanding portfolio. In Humanities, local IT Staff have leveraged centralized service to create the capacity to add support for three research labs in linguistics, in addition to a media and learning lab in languages, and extending web services.   The list of current projects by Local IT Staff in Physical and Biological Sciences include Cluster deployments and support (Physics, SCIPP, EPS/OS, Chemistry), expanding and enhancing Thin client research and instruction labs, Consolidating research web sites and provide robust web capabilities, Cluster support and deployment (ROCKS, OSCAR, SunGRID), Cooperative support for research servers, genome, HPC, Chemical Screening Center, installing and maintaining, scientific software both per client and pooled.

Local IT Staff in School of Engineering (SOE) support an infrastructure environment to allow research into newer technologies, including a research network, multiple data centers.  As computing environments continue to grow in SOE, local IT Staff are working to develop a realistic expansion plan utilizing the San Diego Supercomputer Center 450 miles away. SOE Staff have further extended services to the larger campus research community by leveraging open source tools and local investments in full tunnel VPN services, server monitoring and the ROCKS cluster.  Leveraging partnerships with Core Technologies, the Division of Social Sciences has added Geographical Information Systems software and Shoestring, the division’s “compute server,” supports both econometric and statistical modeling, and other compute-intensive applications.

Research and Faculty Partnership Support

Dark Fiber. Soon after consolidation, RFP identified the critical need for dark fiber to the UCSC campus (the only UC campus lacking such infrastructure). With support of then Vice Provost IT (VPIT) Merkley, we launched an effort to simultaneously articulate and communicate the effort to the campus community, and to develop a viable solution. After a multi-year effort we found a solution, and the campus leadership and faculty worked with UCOP to obtain funding. RFP managed the project to build the infrastructure, which concluded in early 2010 with the completion of this new infrastructure that is critical to the future of the campuses academic mission.

The Pleiades Cluster. In early 2005, through on-going dialog with faculty, we became aware of an NSF Major Research Infrastructure (MRI) solicitation that could fund the computing needs of the Astronomy, Astrophysics, Earth Sciences, Physics, and Applied Math faculty. Based on previous experience installing and managing a cluster, there was some hesitancy on the part of the faculty to submit a proposal for another cluster. To address these concerns ITS, in cooperation with the Vice Chancellor Research and EVC, partnered with the Astrophysics and Earth Sciences PIs in what was, ultimately, a successful proposal for a new $1.2M compute cluster. As a part of this project RFP coordinated the technical support and data center renovation needed for the new cluster. At the time the pleiades cluster was provisioned (March 2007), it was ranked as the 254th fastest computer in the world on the "Top500" list (www.top500.org).

Hosting the CBSE Web Cluster. Late in 2005 we became aware of on-going problems of the CBSE Web cluster (the cluster that implements http://genome.ucsc.edu, for which the CBSE group is world renown), which was having significant, on-going stability problems (mostly related to power). After some discussions, RFP coordinated the move of the CBSE cluster from a locally maintained facility in Baskin Engineering to the campuses data center. In a subsequent (approximately 1 year later) conversation with Professor Haussler he indicated that, before the move, problems with the Genome cluster were a monthly issue for him, and that since the move he hadn't had to think of it at all.

Optiputer Visualization Wall. In early discussions (2007) with Astrophysics faculty and subsequent visits to visualization facilities at Stanford, NASA/Ames, and CalIT2 at UCSD, we uncovered the need for visualization capabilities by many research groups on campus, and the availability of packaged technology from CalIT2 to implement this technology. Following discussions with a number of interested parties around campus, Professor Mantey, Director of the Center for IT Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), identified funding available from the School of Engineering. On behalf of ITS, RFP committed time of Shawfend Dong, the manager of the Pleiades cluster discussed above, to assist in the installation and administration of the Optiputer. In exchange SoE agreed to allow campus access to the system. Since its provisioning, users of the system have included Astrophysics, the Dance program in Arts, and History faculty from Social Sciences. Work continues to develop this facility for new uses. 

In addition, following are a number of activities currently underway that show promise of further accomplishments in the near future. 

Dynamic circuits. Following installation of the dark fiber to campus, RFP began an effort to identify new capabilities available with the fiber that might provide advantage to campus researchers. One technology we identified was dynamic circuits. Dynamic circuits are a new network service that allows researchers and network engineers to create dedicated, point-to-point circuits, either in real time or reserved in advance. Dynamic circuits provide support for new, demanding applications being developed for the Internet. They support the large data transfers and bandwidth-intensive applications that are becoming more critical to global scientific collaboration in the genomics and nuclear physics communities. They also are critical for meeting the latency needs of advanced media and telepresence applications, such as those used for telemedicine, and remote performance in music and dance.

Dynamic circuit services currently in development by organizations such as CENIC and Internet2 will support the creation of circuits across network domains and international boundaries. This will allow the creation of circuits across regional, national, and international networks to connect researchers with their colleagues worldwide without the cost and setup time associated with dedicated circuits. To obtain the resources needed to provide these services (including funding and technical support) RFP submitted an ultimately successful proposal to participate in the DYnamic Network System project (see below).

The DYNES project is a collaborative effort by Internet2, Caltech, University of Michigan, and Vanderbilt University to develop and deploy the Dynamic Network System (DYNES), a nationwide cyber-instrument spanning about 40 US universities and 14 Internet2 connectors. DYNES will, in coordination with regional and campus network organizations, develop and deploy the signaling infrastructure to extend Internet2's existing ION dynamic circuit service to researcher's labs.

Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC). Starting in 2005, RFP began representing the campus at meetings of parties interested in developing broadband in the tri-county area (Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties), hosted by CSU Monterey Bay. In 2008 funding to leverage these meetings to a regional consortium were provided by the California Emerging Technology Fund. Brad initially served as the Chair of the Coordinating Council for the CCBC. The primary activity of the CCBC over the past two years has been to submit proposals to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for the development of regional broadband infrastructure. As a part of this infrastructure, UCSC would acquire the redundant dark fiber path it needs to ensure the full robustness of its network connectivity. Unfortunately neither of these proposals was funded. Working with the CCBC, RFP continues to look for opportunities to develop broadband for the Central Coast.

NSF Academic Research Infrastructure (ARI) Proposal. In early 2009, NSF (as a part of the ARRA funding) issued a solicitation for proposals for funding to upgrade the research infrastructure if the nation’s universities. ITS coordinated the effort for UCSC to develop a proposal for this program, and the CT and RFP units took leadership roles for this effort. The campus submitted a proposal for $2M to cover the cost of upgrading inter-building fiber and network electronics to support 1Gb/s to the office and lab, 10Gb/s between buildings, and cable-plant upgrades to a select set of research labs to provide advanced network services. Unfortunately, this proposal did not receive funding. Based on feedback from the NSF Program Officer, the proposal reviewed well however, due to the large number of proposals submitted, we did not make the cutoff. The PO encouraged us to follow up with on other programs that were being developed for further infrastructure funding, which we are doing.