Binghamton University Campus Cyberinfrastructure Plan

As one of the four research universities of the SUNY system, Binghamton University is focused on expanding research and graduate training across all areas of the university. Growth in sponsored research is among the highest for all universities in New York State; research and development expenditures doubled from 2007 to reach $76 million in 2013 (NSF, 2013) and patent applications have nearly tripled in the last three years.[1] The National Academies, Fulbright, Ford, and Guggenheim have recognized the scholarship of our faculty. In the past three years, STEM faculty brought in $65.6 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Education, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, New York State, and industry partners. As the university is growing in its creative and scholarly work, the faculty have guided the creation of five transdisciplinary areas of excellence that bring together diverse teams of researchers to address critical social, scientific, technological, cultural, and economic problems. These areas include health sciences; smart energy; sustainable communities; citizenship, rights, and cultural belonging; and material and visual worlds.

The strategic plan of Binghamton University, The Road Map to Premier, defines the vision by which the institution invests in new resources to improve the experiences of students and support faculty/staff through a time of institutional growth and expanded activity in research. Central and distributed IT organizations at Binghamton University are designing, building and expanding infrastructure in support of this strategic plan, to include:

  • Expanding and enhancing teaching and research infrastructure in support of world-changing discovery and transformational research.
  • Upgrading physical IT infrastructure in support of institutional activity, especially in support of collaborative research, scholarship and creative activities.
  • Optimizing deployment, expansion and support of IT infrastructure towards faculty and student success and improved experiences.

Strategies to achieve these goals include investments in:

  • Network Capacity
  • External Connectivity, including IPv4 and IPv6
  • InCommon Federation
  • Storage Architecture, including research storage
  • High Performance Computing
  • Data Support
  • Security architecture
  • Institutional Outreach
  • Sustainability

Network Capacity - Current Status and Future Plan

The Binghamton University data network is comprised of 750 switches and routers interconnected by a ten gigabit per second backbone. Each campus building, Main Distribution Facility (MDF) and Individual Distribution Facilities (IDF) are fed at a minimum of one gigabit per second, with more network intensive research areas such as the Innovative Technologies Complex having all data rooms connected at ten gigabit per second. All access layer networking equipment within academic, administrative and research areas has been upgraded or installed within the last six years. As a standard, gigabit connectivity is provided to desktops across campus. At present, research, academic and administrative traffic share a common network infrastructure. As such, network upgrade planning takes into account the need for advanced network technologies, flexibility, and high throughput to support research initiatives across campus. Wireless is pervasive across campus, with all learning spaces covered to their capacity. The Binghamton University data network is monitored around the clock to ensure high levels of uptime.

The campus data center network, as well as Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science data center networks, are built with ten and forty gigabit capable switches and are able to support software defined network technologies such as openflow. Dedicated, high speed storage networks have been deployed where necessary.
Future plans for network architecture include: 1) replacing network equipment on a reasonable five to seven year lifecycle; 2) increasing network capacity in areas that show demand for high throughput; 3) upgrading network core routers and switches, including a forty gigabit per second 1.2.1 backbone and hardware to support future 100 gigabit per second 1.2.1 interconnects; 4) evaluating the need for a separate, high speed research network; 5) evaluating the need for software defined network capabilities at the core, distribution and access layers, and 6) replacing the main data center network in 2017 with an Software-Defined Network (SDN) capable spine and leaf architecture.

External connectivity, including IPv4 and IPv6 - Current Status and Future Plan

Internet connectivity is currently provided via two redundant connections, providing a total of four gigabit of rate-shaped bandwidth that is burstable to up to eight gigabit per second. Peering with Internet2 and other research institutions is made possible via a 200 megabit connection to the New York State Education and Research Network. Binghamton University currently owns two blocks of /16 IPv4 address space.
Future plan: Usage data and growth patterns indicate that increased connectivity to both commodity internet and Research & Education (R&E) networks is needed. The commodity connectivity is addressed via the burstability of the existing connections, however the Research & Education (R&E) Network (NYSERNet/Internet2) will need to be addressed via future infrastructure upgrades. Binghamton University is evaluating the need for a Science DMZ at the perimeter of the University network, given optimization already provided via NYSERNet.

While Binghamton University is not currently in danger of depleting its IPv4 address space, a /48 IPv6 IP space has been purchased. IPv6 will begin testing and deployment in the Fall of 2016 to ensure communications with future IPv6 only networks throughout the world.

InCommon Federation - Current Status and Future Plan

Binghamton University has been a member of InCommon since the early 2000s, giving our faculty, staff and students access to services available through membership. Binghamton University will continue to be a member of InCommon. The university is planning to move its IdP to a new locally hosted solution that is decoupled from other virtual hosts on a shared server along with a remotely hosted implementation to enhance reliability. Attainment of InCommon Bronze Certification is under review.

Storage Architecture, including Research Storage- Current Status and Future Plan

Binghamton University currently maintains a 400 TeraByte shared storage system that is based on Dell Equallogic hardware. This is the primary filestore for all general faculty and staff network storage needs. One of its uses is the storage of data for research projects. The Watson School of Engineering at Binghamton University also maintains a separate 120 TeraByte shared storage system for their own research use, with each Research Group receiving 100 GigaBytes. Dedicated, high speed storage networks have been deployed to support these systems.

Future growth of storage infrastructure will focus more on the organization of performance needs of Binghamton University rather than raw bulk storage capacity in order to meet the increasing demands of data analysis. This focus will include implementation of ultra fast tiered storage solutions as well as investigation and implementation of cloud services when applicable. Binghamton University also recognizes the need for failover methods to keep vital data available as much as possible. With the focus of research moving from individual experiments to cross discipline and multi-institutional research, the future storage environment will be designed with the ability to share data across multiple platforms and architected so it can be accessed in a securely from locations outside of the departmental and local University boundaries.

In discussions with research faculty, backup of large data sets that are stored locally on research computers is a critical need. Binghamton University will evaluate options, including cloud options, for providing this type of storage for our researchers and then implement a solution. Currently, the central storage infrastructure is backed up using a two site Exagrid Array system with Tivoli Storage Manager installed as the backup application and control console. This backup environment will need to be expanded to permit backups from research servers that are not centrally managed.

High Performance Computing - Current Status and Future Plan

High Performance Computing (HPC) is a frequently used resource across many of the disciplines of the university. At present Binghamton University does not have a centralized HPC system. Many departments maintain their own small scale compute systems that are capable of addressing their day to day analytic needs. Some departments also employ local HPC clusters for larger scale compute needs, but once again these are managed and maintained at a departmental level.

Binghamton University is a member of XSEDE, and faculty members use the resources for research in a variety of research areas.

The Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science manages a compute cluster that is based around four Dell M1000E blade chassis. Via this they make available 848 processor cores and five TeraBytes of memory. This system is primarily used by faculty in the Watson School, however it is occasionally used by faculty from other colleges.

Moving forward, Binghamton University is working to consolidate the disparate compute and storage systems distributed throughout campus under a single centralized data center. Consolidation would allow for more efficient use of resources and improved climate control, power reliability, etc. for those currently decentralized systems. Additionally, Binghamton University Information Technology Services (ITS) collaborates with the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science to advertise and support HPC resources which are made available to all research faculty.

IT Staffing - Current Status and Future Plan

The Network Administrations and Enterprise Systems Groups are staffed at levels that can support the current research cyberinfrastructure. An interim Research Support Liaison has been appointed as a part of the Technology Support Services team. This individual acts as a resource for research faculty to assist in the navigation of the various computational and storage services (outlined elsewhere in this document) which are available both on campus and externally. Additional personnel in the Technology Support Services organization provide one on one assistance to research faculty in a desktop support capacity.

Moving forward, Binghamton University will maintain Network Administration and Enterprise Systems staff at appropriate levels to support expanding research cyberinfrastructure and provide adequate training on emerging network and systems technologies (e.g. Software Defined Networking, Storage, IPv6, etc.) prior to their need and implementation.

Binghamton University will appoint a permanent Research Support Liaison who will continue in the existing support role, as per the job description above, as well as drive the direction of research support services as they relate to Binghamton University's IT organization. Additional personnel as required will be added to the research support team to assist in various additional activities including: maintenance of faculty-owned "ad-hoc" storage and compute resources, assistance in HPC software development and parallelization / optimization, as well as other related tasks.

In addition to Binghamton University identifying resources internally to dedicate to research support, the University is also working on collaborative efforts with NYSERNet and the other SUNY schools to identify areas where research support resources could be shared between campuses to provide for specialized support.

Security Architecture - Current and Future Status

The information security strategy of Binghamton University utilizes traditional static firewalling and detection methods. In addition, the university uses SANS Institute "Secure the Human" training to increase user awareness of security concerns.

Future State: The university looks forward to a risk based approach to security. Based on the sensitivity of the data being handled, systems and networks will be separated into zones with other assets of similar risk. Appropriate controls for each zone can be implemented while minimizing impact to lower risk (less sensitive data) zones.

Institutional Outreach

As part of broad-based and inclusive IT strategic planning, research computing has been identified as an area of both challenge and opportunity for the university. This domain of strategic planning will be studied by key stakeholders for the ultimate development of goals and objectives. Information Technology Services is meeting with researchers across multiple disciplines to gather requirements for storage, compute, data management, and statistical consulting. In addition, the CIO and University Librarian have convened a Research Committee to address research needs to include technology support, research data management, and definition in faculty and institutional research capabilities.

Moving forward, Binghamton University is identifying resources to provide storage, compute, data management, data loss protection and the statistical consulting needs of researchers, including identifying partners who could provide services including organizations such as NYSERNet. Information Technology Services and the Watson School of Engineering Technology Department are investigating the possibility of hosting quarterly open meetings with researchers to learn more about their technology needs and to encourage collaboration amongst the researchers. Research services will ultimately be documented in the IT service catalog and supported via an ITSM tool, planned for launch in Fall 2016.

Sustainability

Binghamton University will develop success criteria to evaluate programs funded through grants and will continue to fund programs that are successful. Funding will come from a variety of sources such as state, Research Foundation, and Student Technology Fee.

 

Glossary of Acronyms

HPC- High Performance Computing
IdP- Identity Provider
ITSM- Information Technology Service Management
ITS- Information Technology Services
IDF- Independent Distribution Facility
MDF- Main Distribution Facility
SDN- Software-Defined Networking
STEM- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
SUNY- State University of New York
XSEDE- Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment

Last Updated: 1/20/17