Lead regional CI engagements

Women In Networking at SC
The participants in the first Women In Networking at SC (WINS) discuss a diagram of the network on display at SC15. The networking equipment they helped install and operate appears behind the clear panels at the SCinet installation in the exhibit hall.

CISL will actively initiate and lead networking partnerships and collaborations and engage in regional HPC activities such as the Wyoming-NCAR Alliance, the Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium (RMACC), and the Pacific Research Platform. In networking technology, CISL will provide the technical leadership for operating several regional networks that are tightly integrated with national networks. Examples include the Front Range GigaPop (FRGP) and the Bi-State Optical Network (BiSON).

CISL’s strategy is to engage the community in numerous activities to advance high performance computing (HPC), data storage, and networking technologies, and to improve regional, national, and international cyberinfrastructure (CI). NCAR’s CI partnership strategy is to engage research CI communities in activities that complement NCAR’s goals and mission, that broadly advance HPC, data storage, and networking technologies, and that improve regional, national, and international CI. All of these activities are aligned with NCAR’s leadership role as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center. Further, this work also addresses CISL’s imperative to broaden participation in technology, education, and applied research.

Information technology is a fast-paced business, driven by exponential growth in the capabilities of the underlying technologies, so it requires an agile approach to the partnerships surrounding it. Consequently, partnerships in computational science and technology at NCAR have typically grown up from the challenges created by emerging, disruptive technologies. Two key components of NCAR’s partnership development strategy are technology tracking and applied research. The former activity alerts the lab to emerging challenges, while the latter enables the lab to exploit them as opportunities. Knowledge gained from both serves as a guide to help direct and prioritize CISL's research and development partnerships and to realize its goals in operational systems.

Contributions to metropolitan and regional networks

CISL’s Network Engineering and Telecommunications Section (NETS) is a recognized leader and participant in many regional networking projects that support national networks. NETS provides a vital service to NCAR’s research communities by linking scientists to supercomputing resources and each other. These activities are essential for the effective use of UCAR/NCAR scientific resources, and they foster the overall advancement of scientific inquiry.

CISL’s involvement with regional networking consortia includes the Front Range GigaPoP (FRGP), the Bi-State Optical Network (BiSON), Western Regional Network (WRN), Boulder Point-Of-Presence (BPOP), Boulder Research and Administration Network (BRAN), the City of Boulder CG4 inter-building cabling, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the National Research and Educational Networks (RENs) consortium named The Quilt. These collaborations and networks are all designed to provide NCAR/UCAR and other regional institutions with robust regional and wide-area data pathways.

On behalf of UCAR, CISL continues to lead and participate in these important metropolitan, regional, and national networking initiatives. The tangible benefits of such participation include economical, diverse, high-performance networking for UCAR and its member universities. However, the intangible benefits are at least as important: participating in these initiatives reinforces UCAR’s public mission of providing services to its members while simultaneously fostering cooperative ventures, collaborations, and relationships among these institutions. As a leading participant in such community alliances, NETS contributes to strengthening UCAR’s value as an institution and helps UCAR fulfill its leadership and outreach obligations for NSF funding.

Commitment to HPC partnerships

CISL is actively engaged with regional HPC partnerships. These activities allow CISL to gain hands-on experience in collaborating with campus IT staff through the processes of CI acquisition, deployment, and resource federation.

Wyoming-NCAR Alliance and regional campus partnerships

Perhaps CISL’s most important regional partnership is the Wyoming-NCAR Alliance (WNA), which governs the joint activities of NCAR and the State and University of Wyoming related to the NWSC facility, supercomputing environment, and its education, outreach, and training activities. Through this partnership, CISL collaborates with Wyoming to enhance their campus HPC capabilities and extend Wyoming’s research partnerships with other EPSCoR states. CISL has also supported several University of Wyoming-focused STEM education activities and proposals including a recently funded NSF ITEST proposal related to robotics and computer gaming.

In FY2016, CISL concluded its collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Colorado at Denver on a Major Research Instrumentation project that brought Janus, a 184-TFLOPS supercomputer to the CU Boulder campus. In addition, the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) moved its IBM supercomputer named “BlueM” out of the Mesa Lab Computing Facility, as part of preparations for upgrading the Mesa Lab Data Center (MLDC).

Intel Parallel Computing Center for Weather And Climate Simulation

CISL and the University of Colorado at Boulder continued their collaboration on an Intel award for the Intel Parallel Computing Center for Weather And Climate Simulation (IPCC-WACS). This collaborative center promotes the discovery of new methods for optimizing the performance of weather and climate models on Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi hardware and accelerates the adoption of these optimizations in key weather and climate community models. Additional details of this work are provided in Explore many-core and accelerator-based architectures.

Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium

The Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium (RMACC) is a collaboration among academic and research institutions located throughout the intermountain states. Its mission is to facilitate widespread effective use of regional high performance computing. In FY2016 CISL continued its participation in RMACC, collaborating in areas such as education, outreach, training, and HPC research. Each year RMACC holds an HPC Symposium that provides opportunities for professional development via scientific and technical presentations and training lectures. CISL helps organize and plan the Symposium. RMACC also showcases student research through a student poster competition at the symposium. CISL's SIParCS students did very well again, winning three out of the top four posters recognized by RMACC. The RMACC community also considers other collaborative measures to benefit the regional development of HPC, such as writing joint infrastructure proposals and having a Consortium booth at the IEEE Supercomputing Conference.

Rocky Mountain Cyberinfrastructure Mentoring and Outreach Alliance

CISL was awarded an NSF Collaborative Research CC*IIE Region Proposal titled the “Rocky Mountain Cyberinfrastructure Mentoring and Outreach Alliance (RMCMOA).” Colorado State University (CSU), the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON), the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB), and the University of Utah (UU) have a long and fruitful history of collaboration, leadership, and innovation in regional and state networking, CI, and HPC technology and infrastructure operations. These partners are leveraging their expertise and organizational structures to lead and manage an outreach effort to better inform, educate, and drive adoption and expansion of advanced networking and CI technologies to small colleges and universities in the western region of the United States, specifically those in Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

During the two-year award term, the project team conducted four regional workshops for smaller institutions. The workshops focused on High Performance Networking (HPN) as an enabler of scientific discovery through computational modeling and simulation, data-driven analysis, collaboration, and community building. Two workshops were held in FY2015. The third, held in January 2016 at the University of Arizona in conjunction with Westnet and the Westnet CIO Meetings, focused on lessons learned in previous NSF CC* awards and goals from NSF for future CC* solicitations especially for small schools. The fourth and final workshop was held in conjunction with the RMACC Symposium in August 2016 at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins. This workshop focused on strategies for engaging researchers and current network performance and troubleshooting techniques. A formal Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere Requirements Review was produced as an example of the researcher engagement process and results.

The team consulted with smaller institutions in the region to mentor, educate, and support proposal development and campus investment for research infrastructure and related funding opportunities. Engineering support is being provided to smaller institutions on the approaches and benefits of HPN performance measurement, performance troubleshooting and optimization, use of Science DMZs, enhanced information security protection, IPv6, and network interactions with HPC data nodes. Finally, strategies for preparing and submitting CI-related proposals are being addressed for administrators and faculty leaders, and many proposals from the community were submitted and awarded in the recent round of NSF CC*DNI (Data Networking and Infrastructure) awards. The outcome of this proposal will benefit many students and faculty in the geographically challenged Intermountain region and enhance the deployment, utilization, and access of advanced CI. CISL has also collaborated through the RMCMOA grant, with the other five regional awardees in The Quilt including presentations on the effort at Internet2, NSF PI, and Quilt Meetings.

CISL also submitted and was awarded a supplement to the RMCMOA grant. This proposal is a partnership between UCAR, the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), and the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER). Five women received funding to participate in the 2015 Supercomputing Conference (SC15 was held in FY2016) while gaining valuable hands-on training in building one of the world’s premier IT networks.

The five awardees worked directly with the volunteer workforce that builds and operates the dedicated high-performance research network known as SCinet. It comes to life for the duration of the Supercomputing Conference each year, and is critical to the conference’s information and communication flow. The network is among the fastest and most advanced in the world, often referred to as “the fastest network connecting the fastest computers” by SC organizers. The new initiative is known as “Women in IT Networking at SC” – WINS for short – and it is an effort to expand the diversity of SCinet volunteer staff and provide professional development opportunities to highly qualified women in the field of networking.

The RMCMOA grant has received a No Cost Extension to 2/28/17, which will allow three WINS SC15 awardees to return to participate in SCinet and SC16 and will allow RMCMOA participants to return to the January 2017 Westnet CIO and Westnet meetings.

Women in Networking at SC

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) together with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Science Network (ESnet) received a three-year grant from NSF to continue the successful WINS pilot program. Aimed at increasing hands-on training opportunities for women in the Information Technology, the team has created the Women in Networking at SC (WINS) program. Funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and directly from DOE, the 2016 program funds eight early-to-mid-career women in the research and education (R&E) network community to participate in the setup, build, and live operation of SCinet, SC's ultra-high-performance network that supports large-scale computing demonstrations. SC is considered the premier U.S. conference on HPC, networking, data storage, and data analysis and is attended by over 10,000 of the leading minds in these areas of research.

Women In Networking at SC
Marla Meehl and Jason Zurawski (on left) and Mary Hester (far right) were instrumental in making the WINS program possible. Here, they visit the new NCAR booth at SC15 with the five WINS recipients: from left, Sana Bellamine, Kathy West, Amy Liebowitz, Debbie Fligor, and Megan Sorensen.

Internet2 Gender Diversity Initiative

Internet2 began the Gender Diversity Initiative (GDI) in 2013 as a community-driven effort to increase diversity in advanced networking community at all stages of professional development, because I2 believes that a more diverse and inclusive community is a stronger one and will generate better solutions, tools, and results for the many people we serve around the world. Marla Meehl from NETS has co-chaired the GDI Steering Committee since its inception with Laurie Burns McRobbie from Indiana University. At each Internet2 Global Summit and Technology Exchange, the Diversity Steering group of the Gender Diversity Initiative chooses one or more awardees to attend the meeting. The Goals of Gender Diversity Initiative are to:

  • Provide a national forum for discussion and sharing of best practices in improving gender diversity in technical fields, particularly advanced networking.
  • Explore and support specific projects that have application to the membership community at large.
  • Partner with other national organizations engaged in similar work, such as the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and other organizations with a national scope.
  • Communicate regularly to the membership and the public on effective approaches and progress toward improved diversity.


CISL’s work in this area is supported by NSF Core funding, NSF MRI grant CNS-0821794, NSF ACI 1440642, NSF ACI 1640987, and UCAR non-federal funds. UCAR Indirect funds supported the operating costs of the colocated BlueM computer system.