NSF awards $500,000 grant to Division of IT

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to FIU’s Division of Information Technology to create and build a dedicated network for the university’s researchers.

This new network — which is a scientific network within the university’s existing network — is known as a science DMZ, or science demilitarized zone. It will be optimized for high-performance scientific use rather than for general-purpose business systems.

“This NSF funding for FIU will enhance our ability to support researchers at the state, national and international levels,” says Robert Grillo, vice president and chief information officer for the Division of Information Technology. The award was effective Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30, 2014.

The project, titled “Campus Cyberinfrastructure-Network Infrastructure Engineering (CC-NIE) Network Infrastructure: FlowSurge: Supporting Science Data Flows Towards Discovery, Innovation and Education,” will be carried out under the direction of Julio Ibarra, Heidi Alvarez and Maria Rosa Drake from the Division of IT, along with Eric Johnson from the School of Computer Science.

The network will be supported by technology that is gaining adoption in research environments referred to as OpenFlow and Software Defined Networking (SDN). FIU’s project, called FlowSurge, will enable the university’s Division of IT to “scale the network, or dynamically allocate network resources to researchers, very quickly,” according to Grillo. Presently, university employees all use the same network, regardless of the type of work they are performing, leaving little opportunity to adjust the network in a nimble fashion for the benefit of the researchers.

“Right now, we have to collaborate with the researchers if large amounts of data sets need to be processed,” explains Grillo. “With this new network, a researcher will have more flexibility to process their work independent of the requirements of a traditional campus network. This will be an enormous improvement for everyone involved.”

The work of researchers typically involves the transfer of high-volume data sets and remote experiment control, necessitating the need for the creation of a science DMZ.