Report on Global Education and Research Networks
* Book / Report: Fast Thinking. a Research and Education Network Renaissance. Gordon Cook. Volume XIX, No.s 11-12, XX, No.s 1-5 February - August 2011
To receive the URL for downloading the entire book,(twenty dollars US via paypal) fill out the request here
Globally, a small group of people use Internetworked computers for purposes far more profound than than electronic mail and web browsing. They are developing what I call a globally connected, collaborative operating system for scientific research. Few people are aware of the implications of what they have done. I have written Fast Thinking -- a Research and Education Network Renaissance to explain and celebrate their achievements. The purpose of this six-part summary is to relate what they have done and get readers to think how it might be applied to the social, economic and political problems that threaten our society today.
I. A Global Collaborative Operating System Offers the Foundation of a very Different Internet
II. In the United States this collaborative OS can be Extended to US Community Anchor Institutions
III. Leaving the Ivory Tower: R&E Networks Married to Political Reality
IV. Needed – a US UCAN Strategy that revives local learning
V. A Future Goal -- an interconnected Collaborative Civilization
VI. Summing Up and Request for Help
I. A Global Collaborative Operating System and Infrastructure as a Foundation for a Different Internet
Fast Thinking -- a Research and Education Network Renaissance portrays the development of what I choose to call “a global collaborative operating system” based on optical networks which are lit and managed by their Research and Education owners. This federated system of NREN-lit optical networks is becoming a global infrastructure that I contend may emerge as the circulatory system holding civilizations together on all the continents much is the sea lanes provided the opportunity to do so in the four centuries between the Renaissance and the replacement of those sea lanes by airways as a part of the global industrial system in the 20th century.
In 2011 the global collaborative OS is in an early operational stage. Fast Thinking describes its multiple layers and protocols at a technical level as well as from the operational point of view, where national research networks are beginning to release collaboration interfaces for their users and to refine the connective glue offered by the virtual organizations of various grids that enable researchers to plug into the resources they need to do their work.
Fast Thinking takes a broader view of the global ecosystem than what its architects may have intended. The new application tools that I describe are a means to enhance communication and collaboration among researchers and networked communities as well as social groups. These groups are all trying, in independent and yet parallel ways, to bring cooperation and collaboration into research, teaching, and economic activity as a whole.
The new OS invites its users to create the new knowledge that others write about and Google helps still others to find.
The work the Research and Education Network architects are doing is designed to raise the productivity of their university based customers. However, observing what is happening and trying to make sense of it all as it happens, is rather like riding the crest of a breaking wave and trying to figure out how the currents will arrange themselves. Nevertheless, the effort is one that I believe should be undertaken with the hope that it will further a more widely-held understanding of the kind of civilized future in which we should all want to be investing. We all need to become "customers" of the R and E Network designers.
To understand this new world it is necessary to grasp what a full-fledged, optical-network-based, research and collaboration network ecosystem looks like. This book describes the Netherlands version in detail. With continued build outs by Internet2, ESnet and US UCAN, it also shows what it could look like in the USA. In this context, it becomes important to make more people aware of what is happening and the possibilities inherent within SURFnet, the GLIF and, in the United States, Internet2.
In my judgement describing just the technology without examining its possible impact on the world to which it is applied makes no sense. Therefore the beginning and the end of this work, that is the Preface and Chapter 1 and Chapters 17, 18 and 19 contain a political and economic framing for the global optical collaborative infrastructure.
The Global R and E Infrastructure
A group known as the Global Lambda Integrated Facility has evolved to the point where it meets twice a year to coordinate the interconnection of most of the world’s research and education networks. A national R&E network cannot stop at a national boundary. Therefore the GLIF exists to ensure the inter connection by means of lightpaths of the world’s R & E networks. What I call a "global cooperative operating system" has been overlaid on top of photonic networks that is "lightpath" networks. These photonic (lightpath) networks operate at layer 1 and 2 and connect to layer 3 on an as-needed basis. The primary thing being done within the GLIF is the provisioning of large optical links of 1 Gb and above to members on an as needed basis.
The Research and Education Networks of North America, Europe, and Asia are building an overlay infrastructure designed to facilitate globally diverse research projects that lie across all disciplines of learning. However not surprisingly, these are ones that start out needing high-end instruments like radio telescopes or the Large Hadron Collider and large amounts of computational power to be applied to massive acquisition of data. Consequently, the research and education network operators in each country are doing two things in parallel. First they are providing what they call collaboration infrastructure systems. Named coManage in the case of Internet2 and conNext in the case of SURFnet. These systems are designed as an organizational infrastructure to take the eligible research and education populations of each country and provide the mechanisms for authenticated connection and authorized use of the R&E networks. These collaboration infrastructure systems are covered in Chapters 2, 3 and 4.
Processing power, storage facilities and access to instruments
In parallel to this, each national research and education network offers its authorized users an entire ecosystem of computational and storage facilities. These facilities range from a small computational cluster of two or three machines in a single university department; to groups of clusters connected together in such a way as to form computing grids and finally to a smaller but still vital network of supercomputers ranked at national and global levels. Grid applications form the vital glue that holds together access to instruments computing power and storage resources in such a way as to enable first dozens and then hundreds of smaller more specialized researchers to access the shared network computational and storage facilities needed to do their own specialized research.
These grids –- described in Chapters 5 through 9 -- are organized through various national and transnational grid projects. This resulting optical network infrastructure is making possible entirely new approaches to what is known as fourth paradigm or data-intensive science. "Toolsets" often referred to as e-science– are being developed to be applied by researchers within their respective grid infrastructures to make massive data extraction and manipulation with respect to the scientific discipline at hand possible in ways that could never before be attempted. Right now the grids require a considerable amount of intercession by researchers who are skilled at both in the specific discipline and in the networking and computational aspects needed to apply high-performance computing tools to the discipline.
Most researchers access this global optical infrastructure via their national collaboration infrastructure to gain access to the network and to the appropriate tools. They form a range of “virtual organizations.” The result might range from creating of a small group of a half-dozen or dozen researchers to an existing international group numbering in the thousands. For example, consider the high-energy physicists involved in Large Hadron Collider Private Optical Network, a virtual organization making up a global grid.
In every case efforts are underway to make the connection of researchers to the network tools as seamless as possible with the analogy that it be rather like transitioning from the early disk operating system to them much more user-friendly Macintosh OS X graphical user interface. The ultimate idea is that the scientist needs to know little, indeed almost nothing about the network tools underneath that make possible research approaches such as climate modeling at a level of detail that could only have been dreamt about a few years ago.
Chapters 10 through 15 are discipline-specific case studies of grid-based scientific. The topics range from genomics in molecular biology to bird migration studies. Chapter 13 covers the humanities and social sciences in the UK. Chapter 14 explains the Global LHC Grid. Meanwhile, Chapter 12 relates to Brian Hanley's experience in microbiology at the University of California Davis. (This link takes you to a May 20, 2011 Washington Post article on problems faced by recent American microbiology Ph.D's. It also references KAUST University in Saudi Arabia having a $10 billion endowment. What it does not mention is that Tom De Fanti (one of the top 5 people in the world of Fast Thinking) has a contract with KAUST. As a result of using a ten g-bit optical link to KAUST, a professor at UCSD can demonstrate totally immersive protein folding in real-time to students in Saudi Arabia. Chapter 16 describes an interview with the new CEO of Internet2 focusing on Internet2’s role building the USUCAN network.
II The Global High End Infrastructure in the United States has an Opportunity to be Extended to US Community Anchor Institutions
In contrast to my earlier work Building a National Knowledge Infrastructure, Fast Thinking summarizes what is being done in the United States as well as elsewhere in the world. It provides a over view of the late 2010 awards to Internet2 and to the middle mile networks of many states that for the first time will extend the benefits of these optical collaborative networks outwards to Community Anchor Institutions in the United States. These institutions are being defined as schools, libraries, hospitals, public safety, museums, performing arts organizations and the like. This is a major step in the right direction. However, since it has never been attempted in this country before, it need will need a great deal of inclusive effort that Internet 2 is not well equipped to provide.
What is most significant is that scarcity model of bandwidth has the potential to vanish in this new world in which the high end, university-based center could transfer its technology to the local economies via circulatory system of US UCAN.
I have covered the organization known as the GLIF [Global Lambda Integrated Facility] in great detail because the GLIF is both a skillfully constructed federation of interests that makes it possible for independent national networks to develop so as to inter-operate with each other as completely as possible. The mutually-agreed-on goal of the resulting virtual organization is that the participants can cooperatively shape and then use a rapidly spreading global system of interoperable lightpaths. These networks are creating an infrastructure that will enhance the ability of members to communicate, cooperate, and assist each other other not only in their research but also to do this in difficult political and economic circumstances.
I show in some detail how these new systems will work. Federated mechanisms of identity management will connect ultimately millions of users with software and tools that they are authorized to use. They will be enabled to set up and tear down globally based virtual organizations to accomplish their agreed-upon tasks.
Building a Community of Interest between the High End and Grass Roots Edge
As a more ambitious goal, I am seeking to establish whether or not there can be a community-of-interest between the high-end research groups and a rapidly growing grassroots “edge”. These are efforts of small communities of mostly younger people located currently at the edges of twentieth century, large, corporate-based society. The viability of this worn out corporatist center is being challenged by Deloitte’s Center for the Study of the Edge that finds a 65% decline in Return on Equity of the nation’s largest publicly owned corporations since 1965 and by Douglass Rushkoff in Life Inc. How Corporatism Conquered the World. Umair Haque in his The New Capitalist Manefesto points out that corporations need to create “thick value” and Chris Hedges in his 2009 Empire of Illusion shows how corporatism is transforming the middle class in the US into a class of serfs. I begin this discussion with my Preface and Chapter 1 where I explore the undermining of the political and social infrastructure of the United States, Europe and most of the developed world by largely corrupt financial elites.
To do this I use the analysis of John Robb and his blog Global Guerrillas, as well as the broad community-of-thought represented by Michel Bauwens in his Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives, which seeks to organize a globally-based effort on behalf of the open-source knowledge-commons. Increased awareness of the impact of these new technologies has spread in such a way as to place the future locus of economic and political sustainability within local communities rather than where they are currently located namely in the capitals of what Robb calls the “hollowed-out nation states.”
These are states where the political classes have given in to the interests of globally based corporations and a global banking system. Both banking and corporate and military-industrial sectors -- One need only read Chalmers Johnsons’ last four books on the military -- exist to increase the wealth of their executives and shareholders at the expense of the society on which they depend. The banks, by capturing the political system within the boundaries of each state, have, with the collapse they brought about in 2008, made it no longer possible to maintain the economic and social safety-net by which their respective governments have established their legitimacy among their respective peoples. It seems likely that the enormous debt buildup within these states will lead to breakdowns of their central authority and may leave the world fragmented in such a way that long-term sustainability may be found only in what many thinkers are beginning to call “resilient communities.”
Such local communities may well come to depend on what they can provide, build, and provision for their own members. It is here that I suggest that a confluence of interest may exist between the university-based researchers and their high-end networks and what programs such as the United States Unified Community Anchor Institution Network will offer locally on a much more widespread basis. Will the offering be a foundation for schools, libraries and local civic institutions that can move local self-reliance away from the increasingly bankrupt and hierarchical, political, and corporate sectors into the hands of local communities having their own self-interests at heart? This seems to me to be the most critical question we face going forward.
The critical question: can the edge-based low-end and university-based higher-end can establish a mutually beneficial dialogue whereby the people can work with each other to build a more humane and sustainable civilization?
As Kevin Carson - author of The Home Brew Industrial Revolution said to me: "Might we have the means for establishing a society where exchange of CAD/CAM files, teleconferencing, etc., replaces most of the physical movement of goods and people?" Kevin continued “In general, I think most of the solution will be automatic, as this is a sort of perfect storm given the crisis conditions of capitalism. People are becoming underemployed and being thrown back on the informal economy, looking for means of self-provisioning through networking with their neighbors, etc, at the very same time that we're experiencing a singularity in the possibilities of low-cost small-scale production technology. So networked local micro-manufacturing economies will emerge from this “time of troubles” because it's the only solution possible given the tools at hand.”
III. Leaving the Ivory Tower: The R&E Networks Married to Political Reality
Faced with the destructive and largely unpunished corruption of Goldman Sachs and its Wall Street siblings, many may decide to question any national concept of justice, and to focus on their own local economy. When doing that, they should give the US UCAN network (as a concept at least) a good strong look -- and perhaps an investment of their own time. As the corporate nation state is, as far as the rest of us are concerned, hollowed out, political and legal power is swinging back toward state control. If you are not part of the plutocracy, you are on your own. Good luck. Therefore grassroots progressives who are Internet savvy and peer-to-peer savvy and who see nothing wrong with hard work and self-reliance have little choice but to regroup into focusing on strengthening their local economies and making the places where they live as resilient as possible. Any and all of us who are involved with our local schools, our libraries, our hospitals, our local government or cultural institutions will have a stake in US UCAN.
The global R&E network collaboration system in many respects can be thought of as a replacement for the old government-sponsored Advanced Projects Research Agency (ARPA). Driven by the emphasis on short-term profits that has resulted from the financialization of our economy, only a relatively small handful of highly complex technology giants maintain meaningful R&D facilities on their own. The government gives universities the money. They do the research and the results are immediately privatized.
But we are at a tipping point. Our university system with its tuition priced increasingly out of reach can choose to downsize and exist only for the elite in the United States. Or with the emergence of US UCAN, it can make a decision to work with a broader range of grassroots progressives to showcase the amazing achievements of the research and education network community. In doing so, it must focus on showing the 200,000 community anchor institutions what the best of this as-yet poorly-understood, collaboration-based, global operating system can do.
As readers should imagine, all this is evolving rapidly. Fast Thinking – published on April 25th 2011 covered as much information on US UCAN as I could get by April 23. In the one month since then it has become clear to me that Internet 2 is not interested outside input. It is huge, rigid, insular and bureaucratic. Nevertheless the Feds are spending approximately 1.5 billion dollars on US UCAN and its infrastructure. Right or wrong, the money is being spent. Activists need to be aware of what is happening and, since the top down pathways are not open to outsiders, ativists need to engage with it bottom up from within their own communities. The schools, libraries, hospitals and so on are their community institutions – in theory US UCAN is being built to serve these community institutions. The reality appears to be that within the next 12 to 24 months, US UCAN -- depending on where activists happen to live -- will be done. Bottom up activity must happen NOW before US UCAN reaches your neighborhood.
I have written Fast Thinking from the point of view of the kind of US UCAN I would build were I in charge. Of course I am NOT in charge and there are many many other issues such as the operational business model that have the potential to affect the recipients of the federal largesse. The first steps of the business model process are may be found here. A major issue is how to pay for the costs of operation once everything is in place. That is something that those who are interested in living in resilient communities should pay careful attention to because US UCAN, done right, can be a key enabler of resilient communities. This is my contention in Fast Thinking and it remains so today.
Ask Yourself Where You Stand
The choice will define our future. Ask yourself where you stand. As for myself, I would like to see these technologies given a decentralized and grassroots greenfield on which to grow. The most critical question is to ascertain whether they can be used to strengthen local economies. Such local economies must begin to grow in order to replace the discredited global financial system and the kind of capitalism based on the end of endless production of goods backed by merchandising marketing and an environmentally destructive, throwaway culture.
Our option is to unlock all sorts of hitherto unimagined possibilities in education, in complex systems modeling and in the understanding needed to cope with ecological change and the ability to micro-manufacture in one’s local community and potentially reverse the worst effects of two centuries of industrialization.
I want to spread an awareness and understanding of what these new cooperative, collaborative tools can bring to several thousands of otherwise isolated communities. To pretend that the Washington Wall Street “Nexus” will be able to endlessly engage in grabbing more and more wealth for two or three per cent of the entire population without an upheaval occurring sooner or later, is outstanding foolishness. What is left of the American middle class understands that something is wrong. I am looking to ally with a thoughtful and empathic group of people many of whom have now grown up with the Internet and are very creatively using it to establish a critique of what capitalism has become and try to build a more sound sustainable society themselves.
For local communities to become self sustaining, access to this network infrastructure and to this emerging collaborative tool set as a viable operating system is critical. The next critical question I see is how many of these tools can be copied by users of the US UCAN network who are interested in the economic development within what they call the open knowledge commons?
How Many of the High End Tools Can be Copied in US UCAN Connected Communities
We shall not get a good answer to this question without being informed. I hope that this book provides the basic information to start that process. When the next meltdown hits, we better hope that US UCAN is in place. Our communities will need it and there will be rafts of unemployed and under employed people that find strategic direction from the peer-to-peer movement which has, I contend, a much more sound agenda that the Washington, Wall Street Military Complex that some are beginning to speak of as a “nexus.” This “nexus” which in its unreconstructed Cold War guise seems to demand an enemy from which it has to protect us. We have now a half century of the military industrial complex against which Eisenhower warned us. Moloch like, it demands to be fed and, if one enemy disappears, it finds a new one. After all it took less than ten years for fear of Communists to be replaced by fear of radical Islam. There is no strategy, no national narrative. In looking at the opportunity of US UCAN, that absence of strategy needs to be fixed.
In 1913 a warning shot against the triumph of industrial era finance
Charles A. Beard’s Economic Interpretation of the Constitution was published in 1913, the year of the founding of the Federal Reserve that, for the first time, established a central banking system in the US. In retrospect this marked the triumph of the Hamiltonian, one government, one currency, one bank system, the ground work for which was established in 1787 and perhaps served us well through industrialization. But one may now argue – post industrialization, that a swing in the Jeffersonian direction is long over due.
A Hamiltonian world is not sustainable. This is a decision and realization that we shall have to reach on a community-by-community basis. Beard’s 1913 work offers an argument with an overtone familiar to the framing of post 2008 meltdown discussions. First, in An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913) and then in An Economic Interpretation of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915) he extended an earlier hypothesis in terms of class conflict. In these two books Beard examined American history from the 1776 Revolution to the election of Jefferson in 1800. To Beard, the Constitution was a counter-revolution, set up by rich bond holders (bonds were "personal property"), in opposition to the farmers and planters (land was "real property.") The Constitution, Beard argued, was designed to reverse the radical democratic tendencies unleashed by the Revolution among the common people, especially farmers and debtors (people who owed money to the rich). In 1800, said Beard, the farmers and debtors, led by plantation slave owners, overthrew the capitalists and established Jeffersonian democracy.
It is clear now however that power is moving from a despised Washington DC back to the states. From the center to the edge and it is the edge which the internet is so well set up to serve. But let me add that the global cooperative operating system that this book describes will function best applied to the problems of ecology and climate change, alternative energy, life sciences -- in short the huge global problems that most seriously are bearing down on us. This ethos and culture of collaboration and cooperation is what is needed – yea demanded by the future.
IV. Needed – a US UCAN Strategy
The Current System Does not Value What is worthy of Value
As long as the US continues its current course, the affordability of education at the research universities for any but the children of elite comes into question. And as John Seely Brown points out in his emerging trilogy, the increased speed of continued technology change demands reform of education. The collaborative systems outlined here must become the foundation of future education. The Ivy league offers scarcity of degree and not necessarily a difference in quality. Kevin Carson who writes his books from northwestern Arkansas on a dial up connection -- books worthy of a PhD from any Ivy League school. US UCAN must put a firm foundation under the Kevin Carsons of America.
I further argue that the most critical part of the future of US UCAN are our public libraries that must become the environments used by local scholars, small businesses, and local “makers” and “fabers” who for example will need the ability to ship designs larger than ten megabits to 3d printers. The commercial ISPs (telcos and cable cos) are incapable of understanding this new world. And that is just fine. But I also argue that, if the libraries don’t get it, they shall put themselves out of business by not getting it.
Inevitably there will be the: ”this is ready for privatization and commercialization” cry. The schools and especially the libraries must have a sustainable funding model but they also must never give in to the privatizers. The minute this were to happen I argue that the whole raison d’etre of US UCAN would be destroyed because the legal duty of the corporation is to suck money as profits for shareholder out of every community robbing them all of the ability to be sustainable an resilient in the face of the next collapse of the Central Banks and Wall Street. Public libraries were founded to serve their local communities and NOT the Barons of private equity.
Obama’s home town of Chicago sold its parking meters to a private company that now gets the cash flow, some of which it shares with the city, but the bargain is treacherous because, if the city ever wants to close a street for a street fair, it is in the contract that the city must pay the absentee owners for the missed revenue. If the library community doesn’t get the business model right in each community, it will one day soon be invited to commercialize and it will find something like a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs that puts a parking meter on each US UCAN terminal and predator like will continually raise rates to keep the bond holders at bay. They will do this while automating the facilities with VOIP to India to replace American librarians with workers less capable but cheaper on behalf of the absent corporate masters.
What Might the Real US UCANN Strategy Be?
When the Wall Street crashed and Obama was elected, he persuaded Congress to approve the stimulus plan and obtained authorization to spend billions via the ARRA act to put people back to work. Almost seven billion was allocated to telecom. NTIA and RUS were charged to do something about broadband. But what? The White House didn’t know precisely because other fires were burning. It was not until late December 2009 and early January 2010 that the White House OSTP was contacted via the broadband plan commission and said: why not let Internet 2 and NLR know that they should work directly together on a proposal for a backbone for a United States Community Anchor Institution Network. If we got fiber a lot closer to schools and libraries, we could get more bang-for-the-buck with the annual subsidy they get through the schools and library program of the Universal Service Fund. Hmmmm. Wouldn’t you know?
It is conceivable that the basic premise behind US UCAN is nothing more profound that this. Carry on as before with the subsidies for the telcos. What might the real strategy be? All that is overtly clear is a panicked “here is some money – quick go spend it.” It is urgent that Internet 2, as they roll out US UCAN, think big and recognize the potential that I have outlined. Potential that I doubt the White House was aware of. Of course US UCAN must get built as specified, but built with a broad strategic vision.
Instead of submitting to eventual commercialization, public libraries under US UCAN should choose to become community invested gateways to self-reliance. These institutions, instead of drawling people to the big cities, should show every town how to use the internet not for its commercial web and porn but rather to show what is available throughout the nation and the world in the way of knowledge and learning. The US UCAN libraries must use this network to give their communities access to science, and to the arts in a world where the size of the window is not dictated by demands stockholder scarcity. We are now in the very decade when a century ago most of the Carnegie libraries were built The self-service stacks pioneered by these libraries should be copied a century later with librarians as mentors to users and then working in learning teams in a manner analogous to the ideas of John Seely Brown in his book, A New Culture of Learning.
Give the towns something that the telcos and cablecos could have given had their profit oriented horizons been capable of seeing more than 90 days into the future. Enable each community to discover what is in its own interest. Encourage communities to compete in terms of interdependence and sustainability. Do not allow distant corporations who, absent government money showed no interest, to come in and exploit them.
An inflection point stands not far down the road. We must realize that it is there and unite in our local communities to send the message “Don’t Tread on Me” to the distant predators. The message of self-reliance and independence should be that which occupies the packet flows of US UCAN. This tech is not that hard. If we understand its value -- and the weekend Democracy Camps can help with that -- we can and must take control of the technology and use it on behalf of each US UCAN community.
In October 2010 Steve Wolff, now the newly appointed interim CTO for Internet2, gave the major presentation. He called it “Reflections on the Pickle We’re In.” Steve said that “commercializing the NSFnet was a great idea,” but that “privatizing it was not.” As Steve put it “the NSF should’ve believed in itself” and “realized that as R&E became an ever smaller fraction of the business, it would have an ever diminishing voice in the service it received.” Trying to be upbeat Steve concluded that "the good news is we are not alone. Expanded role for the NRENs is becoming common.” Then (in a statement that I cannot overemphasize how strongly I agree with) he concludes “that it is easier to hold a centrally funded not-for-profit to its social obligations than to subvert the investor focus of a Corporation.”
V. A Future Goal -- an interconnected Collaborative Civilization
What’s Happened and What is Possible
Let’s recall what has happened. Physical highways still exist. However the globe has been encircled many times over with glass highways. The small band of men and women honored in this book have taken what they have learned about packet networking and applied it to fiber and the light paths that replace electron streams. Their doing so has banished the old world of bandwidth scarcity based on copper and dependent on all manner of electrically hungry equipment to shove bits down those relatively resistant copper pathways.
This book describes the collaborative research ecosystem that is emerging. It shows how they have woven together an intelligent canvas called by various names of “grid” or “e-grids”. This is a canvas that, right now from the individual user’s point-of-view, is more like a star network than a mesh network that the term “grid” calls to mind. It is however an environment that is unlike any environment on the commercial Internet today. This uniqueness is because, from the ground floor to the penthouse, it has been designed for collaboration and for social networking by facilitating the formation of groups of people with like interests gathered into virtual communities. It offers such groups a portal into a global community numbering probably hundreds of thousands if not millions.
The fortunate inhabitants of this new world can gain entry through authentication and authorization provided by their affiliated community. Once they join, they will have the opportunity to see the disciplinary grids offered by the organization. In talking with their local experts they may select one or more of these grids. They will be given then the proper instructions for accessing them. At the present moment, their access will be pointed to a physical server that is a part of the infrastructure of their home institution and country in which they live. However this does not always have to be true. In any case software, in what you might call their home node, speaks to many other nodes that are gathered together to assist researchers in this particular community. Furthermore, in the case of the LHC the offering is likely well into the hundreds of thousands of computing cores spread all over the world and linked by optical fiber at bitstream speeds so high that for most practical purposes they could all be in the same room. T he grid fabric could be thought of as an organization - like a department store or a library - to be used as a foundation for the building of human knowledge. The basic idea is to take the grid software stack, whose various components are discussed throughout the chapters of this book, then to modify it in ways that enable individual users to work with versions tailored to their interests. Yet, the network technical folk are finding that they must do much more work in order to make these intelligent systems scale. It is easier said than done. That said, as has been shown by the organization of FTP repositories into the searchable World Wide Web, it can be done. Most importantly, it can be done in a variety of environments, such as University R and E communities or at the level of the US UCAN libraries.
Right now this global eco-system is in its beginning stages and requires a lot of manpower to make it work. Work is ongoing to develop a user interface that is more intelligent and needs much less mediation by people who are both computer and subject matter specialists. The goal is to refine it in such a way that it is much more amenable to questions from its users and can guide them to connecting the resources they need in the most expeditious way. Achieving this is the 21st century equivalent to the duties of a reference librarian in the 1980s.
The US UCAN “Grid” must give its user communities the means of organizing and networking on a social and intellectual level while being connected to the services they require. These services may range from those that focus on the sciences of the atomic and molecular level all the way up to the ecological level of the surrounding world and the global level of tectonic plates and weather patterns to the universal intergalactic level of radio telescopes. With access to instruments, they also have access to data collection into huge data stores measured in terabytes and petabytes. The system will enable them to catalogue these data stores, find them, retrieve some, send them where desired for the application of various forms of high-performance computing, retrieve the results, visualize the results, and finally discuss them in videoconferences – locally, regionally or globally. The are doing this on a grand global scale and with leadership can adopt to the needs of their localities.
In Whose Interest is the global collaborative OS?
At the R and E level the ability to do all of this exists right now. It is being worked out and refined in a self-organizing way that is fascinating to observe. At this level the movers and shakers not surprisingly have been the computer and network people. Scientists have been working alongside them to explain the abilities of the tools which they desire. But by now these abilities are reasonably well understood and a second and absolutely critical phase is beginning. This is one that is designed to reach out to entire scientific communities and show these communities what is available and how it is in their interest to begin to adopt them.
Of course this will involve some problems of training and serious fundamental issues of getting these research disciplines to adopt toolsets that will, in all likelihood, be mandatory both for enabling them to do what they need to do, and for solving the problems they need to solve. But at this point the innovators have no immediate proof. All they have is yet more tools and concepts for the rank and file researcher to master. Consequently the problems of adoption and transition are not small. In fact they are on the same level of importance as those encountered in the transition from hand-written books to the printing press. This is just one more set of devices that the human mind has developed to be able to use the information it acquires and make it into meaningful stores of knowledge.
Consequently what is happening is not well understood. Therefore in order to create appropriate evaluation and measurement criteria in setting priorities for the use of capital and resources, it is necessary to think about this in terms somewhat different from those of 20th century capitalism.
We are building a infrastructural system for the circulation of knowledge. We’ve all come to understand the infrastructure of highways, water and sewage services, and electric grids. Although there has been much discussion in the last 5 to 10 years of Internet as infrastructure, I submit that there is a new operational ecosystem described in this book. I consider it to be an enabling system for the continued creation of knowledge infrastructure.
I see this mechanism for building knowledge as something that is so basically uniform in what it does that it makes absolutely no sense to think of it ever becoming a private corporation. Would you try to make photosynthesis into some ones intellectual property? I would not. Lights, road systems, water systems, electric systems -- you name them. They are all parts of a single global system of basic civilized infrastructure that cannot be isolated into the ownership of one company or group of people because basically they are natural monopolies. It is so basic and so uniform that it makes absolutely no sense to even try to define let alone think of a competing system. It would mean building something huge and expensive twice when doing it once is quite adequate. After all, humans may have two hemispheres but they possess only one brain.
We have the opportunity to create collaborative eco-systems of people who are working within their communities and with their colleagues to define and redefine on a community-by-community basis the necessary knowledge creation systems. It is imperative that we understand from community to community such systems are vital. But they are not mass produceable they are more like a living system that must be tailored to their different environments.
In the United States it is imperative that we seize the opportunity of US UCAN to bring these tools into their respective communities at a level where they are understood and developed by the community as infrastructure. They must not be thought of as new package of soon to be commercialized Internet services that would pump capital into corp[orate coffers outside the community. They are the glue that makes the community a community and they will be, in their own way, unique to the people and the values of their respective communities. These community infrastructures will be open and run on uniform interoperable standards that can be tailored to the preferences and needs of their local users.
What this book is talking about and what it is seeking to articulate is an understanding of the development and emergence of something much better thought of as a global collaborative operating system. This is an OS that can be embedded in the values and points of view and interests of each of its communities and in no way is defined as something that can be packaged and merchandised and sold and delivered top-down from any commercial organization to purchasers at the edge.
Can you imagine a world established by means of a communication mechanism that connected all its knowledge makers, its teachers and its curious citizens who wanted to understand more about their own environment into a learning system for research and discovery? How about a communications environment that has made possible a grid on which its inhabitants could self-organize to accomplish their tasks? This is what has been happening over the past 15 years or so in such a quiet a way that most people are entirely unaware of the significant changes and developments outlined in this book.
Becoming somewhat aware of what was happening, I wanted to understand it in its totality which, at the end of about two years of solid work, I now do. But I also believe that, outside the small circle of implementers, few people are aware of the significance of what has been done. It may have been the case in times of prosperity before 2008 that it served the cause well to fly under the radar. I would argue however that in the very different environment of 2011 with the global rush toward austerity it becomes vitally important, if this good work is to be kept alive and benefit all of us, for a much broader public to understand it, talk about it and help in its implementation and support. These goals were another reason for writing this book.
VI. Summing Up and Request for Help
The Situation in Late May 2011
As I have pointed out, we now have a global set of largely open-source, collaborative tools running on high-end optical (photonic) networks that, while using IP, often are effectively circuit-switched at layer 2. These tools, over the last five years especially, have been designed to launch a global network of collaborative, data intensive, fourth-generation science that is available now to accredited researchers in perhaps 50 or 60 different nations in all the world's continents save for Antarctica. Powerful projects ranging from the Large Hadron Collider, to radio astronomy, to global warming, and microbiology are fueled by these networks and are largely dependent on them.
All this exciting and inspirational material comes with one small problem. Most people are absolutely unaware that these networks, tools, or processes even exist because of the tools' dependence on high bandwidth fiber in the “last mile” and because their users have never depended on out reach. Furthermore they are accessible to relatively few people right now. On a global basis, at some future point at most 20 million people, spread among not more than 500 universities.
No one knows the precise number because the networks, while growing, are changing all the time. This is a largely federated movement not centrally guided or directed. It is a movement that has never been explained before. I do so in this book because I'm convinced of its extraordinary potential power. Furthermore, when I say 20 million people in perhaps 500 universities, this is a potential audience. Right now I would guess that the global level directly involved is more like 20,000 people. The federated users of these tools realize that the justification for their existence depends on their outreach to a global community of scientists -- many of whom are only just now learning how to use them in professions where their use is not yet strongly rewarded but where successful first-time users can achieve things that are otherwise impossible.
So, as with all new technology, we see a painful process of outreach, recognition, training, and bridge-building to researchers who can benefit but who also may be unaware or rather poorly informed of the potential gains and losses involved with their decision to devote sufficient time to adopt and embrace the tools. All this is underway. The questions are where and to what end?
The Position of the United States
It was only nine months ago that NTIA announced -- as stimulus grants designed to bring broadband Internet to more Americans -- some $1.5 billion involving a nationwide dedicated 100 Gb backbone and several dozen middle mile network builds for the creation of what is called the United States Unified Community Anchor Institution Network (US UCAN). This network is to connect, mostly by fiber some 200,000 so-called community anchor institutions to a state-of-the-art national network that - in concept at least - can become the first National public Internet as opposed to commercial internet that we have ever had.
The prospect of US UCAN is encouraging. It holds out the possibility of a very desirable paradigm shift in the way some of the most significant organizations of our society will be able to communicate with each other during a time of ever more rapid change and financial stress. The opportunity here, with appropriate education and outreach, is to connect schools and libraries and hospitals in such a way that they could enjoy state-of-the-art information flow and participation in everything “near and dear” to the users of the peer-to-peer foundation list, wiki and blog. Why make a fuss? Because a well executed US UCAN could be the circulatory system enabling resilient communities to function on their own when the next economic crisis hits.
But the problem is this $1.5 billion expenditure is a part of the Obama administration's stimulus plan with strict guidelines that every penny must be spent within the next 24 months. We have something that could -- with adequate planning and coordination -- yield an outcome that could be very useful to our communities and strengthen our children's education. But it is more likely something that US UCAN may become a prime target for chopping down to size and doing things the way they've always been done. Why? Because for a corporatized society, the latter is the way of least resistance.
Between January and June 2011 I have communicated with most leadership behind this effort and with many of them face-to-face an the Internet2 international meeting a month ago. However, I regret to say I see a unique opportunity very possibly being wasted because -- for political reasons -- the orders are just: get the money spent to build the networks you promised to build and we will figure out how to pay for and how to operate them -- later. Once they're built, we will think a little bit about how to train potential users what they're good for. All of it is haphazard and slapdash to a potentially tragic degree.
Basic hypothesis - With Internet2 and US UCAN, one possible tool set is there for us to use in solving our problems. However because of the enormous complexity, the demand for speed on the part of the US government as well as the insularity of Internet 2, the outcome may be poor. But all eggs are not in the US UCAN basket. That is good. There are also two other programs getting underway. Neither of these involve internet2. One known informally as Gig U is completely private sector and involves setting up a buying consortium where as many as fifty universities may buy bandwidth from carriers and use that bandwidth to provide high speed connectivity for their entire surrounding communities. The other is US Ignite where OSTP and NSF are aligning forces and are suggesting that high bandwidth applications may materialize if one creates a testbed where communities like Lafayette, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Cleveland Ohio and one or two more places are connected via a high speed R and E backbone. The situation in the USA is not good but it is encouraging that there are many talented people who in the presence of many obstacles refuse to give up.
Some of the Builders of the Global OS Tell Me That Given Vision it Could also Run On US UCAN
I have described in detail the global, University-based what I chose to call “collaborative operating system”. One month ago at the Internet 2 meeting as part of separate 30 to 45 minute conversations with three of the key builders, I asked three major questions. First I outlined verbally my understanding of the global, optical network based, and grid computing based ecosystem they have launched and said to each of the three people “do I understand correctly what this is and how it works?” All three of them said “yes you do.”
And then I said "what you appear to be focused on over the next five years or so is to make it more user-friendly so that your average scientist can use it as easily as he would use Microsoft Office e-mail and the web.” They agreed and I continued that: you are also “extending the operation of all of this into a high-speed wireless cloud that will incorporate user mobility as well as all manner of sensor networks.” They affirmed that that was also correct. The final question was “is there anything that were an effort to be made would prevent the use of this ecosystem of collaborative tools by the hugely larger community of those 200,000 community anchor institutions?”
They said it “would take a conscious effort but that with training in the fiber-based infrastructure being built for US UCAN that there was nothing of a technology nature standing in the way.”
So there you are -- a huge opportunity that will be lucky to live up to 1% of its potential. Why? Because it's being built in the dark while people are basically asleep -- although if you know where to look it's being built very openly. But the people who can benefit from it may well not because they don't know it exists.
Achieving an operational infrastructure based on any kind of common understanding of the potential good that can be offered by this networked collaboration is at this point not very likely. Why? Because at this point the command is “just get the damn thing built and we will think about what to do with it later.”
So what do I want to do right now? Undertaking the necessary editing and publication to revise this 440 page encyclopedia in the way that it can create the broadest possible understanding of the potential gains. And then to market, educate and do outreach that otherwise will not be done. A foundation could be helpful here as well as money from the same or perhaps a different foundation to put together at least one proposal and carry it out to validate the ideas and concepts that I have explained in my book "Fast thinking a Research and Education Network Renaissance. "
Perhaps there are other things that need to be done? With this in mind I would like to use the p2p blog to submit my work to the collective intelligence of this group. Please help me in the fine-tuning these ideas and in getting access groups of like-minded people with the necessary support so I can gather together a group of people, sharpen and focus the agenda, and go out and make sure this opportunity is positively and well-fulfilled.
However, I have done what I have so far largely pro-bono. Without monetary support, I cannot afford to continue. Ideas, suggestions and introductions will be appreciated ... as will suggestions on where I may find an affordable editing service for the book. While a strategy needs to be shaped, a significant part of the problem is that there is an expectation - especially among the most wealthy - that if it is published on Internet, it should be free. This is one reason why, for those who would like to read the entire volume, I have created a URL at the front of this entry where, for a PayPal donation of $20, I will send you the URL that downloads the entire volume.
4. appended items
Major update to GLIF maps from Kevin Meynell <[email protected]>
- 25 May 2011* -- GLIF, the Global Lambda Integrated Facility, announces the availability of new world and regional maps that showcase its advanced research and education multi-gigabit optical network infrastructure. The infrastructure has grown since the original map was created in 2005, with participation from more National Research & Education Networks, consortia, institutions and individual research initiatives, in more countries and continents. These participants provide the physical lambda networks that are interconnected at GLIF Open Lightpath Exchanges, or GOLEs. GOLEs have the equipment necessary to interconnect and establish end-to-end lightpaths, which are used by international research teams who are working together to discover innovative solutions to complex problems of global importance.
GLIF is a virtual organization or facility of network providers, network engineers, computer scientists and computational scientists who are developing new computing paradigms and cyberinfrastructure, based on optical networks, to enable international multidisciplinary teams to work together. Science has no geographical boundaries, and GLIF's network of interconnected optical wavelengths (also known as /lambda grids/) is used to dynamically create powerful distributed systems of computers, data storage, visualization displays and instruments at collaborating sites around the globe, making it easier for researchers to share resources, information and knowledge.
The GLIF map does *not* represent all the world's Research & Education optical networks. The GLIF map also does not show international capacity that is dedicated to production usage. The GLIF map only illustrates *excess* capacity that its participants are willing to share with international research teams for applications-driven and computer-system experiments. GLIF's resource providers agree to share all or part of their lambdas, all or some of the time. GLIF does not provide any network services itself and researchers should approach individual GLIF network resource providers to obtain lightpath services.
The GLIF Map 2011 visualization was created by Robert Patterson of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), using an Earth image provided by NASA with texture retouching by Jeff Carpenter, NCSA. Data was compiled by Maxine D. Brown of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Support was provided by GLIF, NCSA/UIUC, the State of Illinois, and US National Science Foundation grant # OCI-0962997 to EVL/UIC.
- Participating Networks* -- AARNet Optical Network (Australia), AARNet-SXTransPORT (Australia), ACE (US), AJANet (Germany), AmLight Andes (US/South America), AmLight Central-LEARN-CUDI (US/Mexico), AmLight East/RNP-ANSP-RedCLARA (US/South America), AmLight West (US/Mexico), ASGCNet (Taiwan), AtlanticWave (US), C-Wave (US), CANARIE (Canada), CATLight-i2CAT (Catalonia), CAVEwave (US), CENIC (US), CERN-TIFR (Switzerland/India), CESNET (Czech Republic), CSTNet-GLORIAD (China), CSTNet-NICT (China/Japan), e-Arena-Informica-RUNNet-GLORIAD (Russia), ESnet-SDN (US), EVALSO/REUNA-ESO-RedCLARA (South America), Fermi Lightpath (US), Florida LambdaRail (US), IceLink (Nordic Region/Canada/GLORIAD), IllinoisWave (US), Innova-Red (Argentina). Internet2-ION (US), JGN-X (Japan), KAUST (Saudi Arabia), KOREN-APII-JGN-X (South Korea/Japan), KREONet2-GLORIAD (South Korea), KyaTera-Fapesp (Brazil), LONI (US), MiLR-UltraLight (US). National LambdaRail (US), NORDUnet (Nordic Region), Pacific Wave (US), PIONIER (Poland), RedCLARA-Innova-Red (South America), RedCLARA-RNP-Innova-Red (South America), REUNA (Chile), RNP-CPqD-GIGA (Brazil), RNP-Ipe (Brazil), Southern Light Rail (US), SURFnet (Netherlands), TaiwanLight (Taiwan), Taj-GLORIAD (US/Egypt/India/Singapore), Teraflow (US), TransLight (US), TransPAC3 (US), UltraLight (US), UltraScience Net (US), and US LHCNet (US).
- Participating GOLEs* -- AMPATH (Miami), CERNLight (Geneva), CzechLight (Prague), HKOEP (Hong Kong), KRLight (Daejoen), MAN LAN (New York), MoscowLight (Moscow), NetherLight (Amsterdam), NGIX-East (Washington DC), NorthernLight (Copenhagen), Pacific Wave (Los Angeles, Seattle, and Sunnyvale), SingLight (Singapore), SouthernLight (São Paulo), StarLight (Chicago), T-LEX (Tokyo), and TaiwanLight (Taipei).
From Bill St Arnaud May 25
[Over the past several weeks there has been a lot of exciting developments in the R&E network community at the Spring Internet 2 meeting and more recently at the Terena meeting in Prague about new Internet architectures built around GOLEs – GLIF Open Lightpath Exchanges. There is a growing consensus amongst most of the major R&E networks that we need to move away from traditional hierarchical networks to GOLEs enabling the direct peering of networks, institutions and/or researchers. This is primarily being driven by the data demands of global collaborative research. GOLEs enable a policy free interconnection with no bandwidth constraints or blocking between the connecting parties and therefore research is not constrained by policy or bandwidth issues as on traditional networks. GOLEs are also important for the R&E networks in the new research intensive nations like Brazil, China, South Africa, Korea, etc. In the future networks and researchers of these nations will be far less dependent on having to transit intermediary networks by peering directly with networks or institutions in designated host nations. The CANARIE UCLP (User Controlled LightPaths) and more recently Internet 2’s OS3E service are intended to allow institutions, or even researchers to establish their own private networks for specific VOs or communities of interest who can interconnect at these GOLEs.
There is no question that GOLEs are going to challenge traditional business models for R&E networking, but the first priority must be to enable the needs of the researchers themselves in the exponential growth of data driven science. Here are 2 excellent slide presentations explaining this explosion of data driven science and why we need GOLES – BSA]
The Missing Link: Dedicated End-to-End 10Gbps Optical Lightpaths for Clusters, Grids, and Clouds
Dr Larry Smarr
Dynamically Provisioned Networks as a Substrate for Science
David Foster CERN