Origins & Evolution

The Ecosystem for Research Networking (ERN, formerly the Eastern Regional Network) started with a small group of people representing universities (Rutgers, Syracuse, University of Maine – Orono), research and education networks (KINBER, OSHEAN, NYSERNet), and the MGHPCC, who were interested in simplifying multi-campus collaborations and partnerships that advance the frontiers of research, pedagogy, and innovation. Since its inception, interest in the ERN has grown both within and outside the Northeast, with membership currently representing 22 colleges and universities, 10 research and education networks, the MGPHCC, the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub, Internet2, and Google Cloud all contributing in different ways.

First Steps
When the ERN was formed, it launched two infrastructure-centric projects intended to both develop and test new capabilities and to strengthen working relationships among cyberinfrastructure providers in the region. Both were “coalition of the willing” initiatives where the participating organizations contributed time and equipment.

The first project tested a method for launching high performance computing jobs to remote campus clusters and to commercial cloud services. The prototype implementation illustrated in Figure 1 enabled launching of jobs across federated clusters at 9 cooperating sites (Rutgers University, University of New Hampshire, NJIT, University of Maine, Syracuse University, Lafayette College, Penn State, NJEdge, and the MGHPCC) plus the Google Cloud Platform. It is now being put into production use for a cooperative effort between Rutgers and Penn State. 

The second project formed the Northeast perfSONAR Mesh, which remains active and available to help identify and diagnose network throughput and delay issues. The mesh currently includes 26 nodes and 17 sites spanning 9 states.

Ongoing Workshops and Working Groups

To continue the momentum, members of the ERN community have gathered for annual all-hands meetings in June of 2019 and 2020 to discuss next steps toward achieving its goal to create a Cyberinfrastructure that enables multi-campus collaboration.  During the 2020 meeting, the community committed to forming three science-oriented working groups (Structural Biology; Materials Discovery; and Computer Science), along with three systems-oriented working groups (Architecture and Federation; Policies; and Broadening the Reach).  Funding from NSF CC* CRIA planning grant (OAC-2018927) has supported a year-long series of virtual meetings and workshops to explore opportunities in each of these areas.

Notes and conclusions from these meetings and workshops continue to motivate formation of large and small projects and proposals that grow the ERN’s ability to engage productively with the research and education community. As they progress, these projects produce measurable outcomes for specific science and cyberinfrastructure domains while at the same time serving as learning experiences that inform similar initiatives in other domains.

Next Steps

Concurrent with the workshop series, the ERN continues to explore opportunities for collaboration, including:

  • Regional technology testbeds
  • A regional data DMZ
  • Uniform interfaces to campus and national resources
  • Resource sharing policies
  • Common security models
  • Regional engagement with national initiatives such as
    • National Research Platform
    • Open Storage Network
    • Big Data Hubs
    • Open Science Grid
    • Commercial cloud providers
    • National resources such as XSEDE, Cloudlab, FABRIC, Chamelion,
      the Open Cloud Testbed, and the Open Storage Network