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Internet2 Series, Part 3: SDN

Posted By David Marble, Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Several of our discussions turned to the significant progress that has been made in the area of Software Defined Networks (SDN) over the last couple years.  I was in a session which demonstrated an OpenFlow controller that was used to call up a wavelength on-demand, and move a VM to a new server in a different location without disruption to any traffic.  The project was completed by students and faculty at Marist College, in cooperation with the optical vendor Adva.  The results of the project, which are very impressive, indicate a shift in the technology that moves it out of its "science project stage”.  I believe we still have a way to go before it becomes truly useful in multi-vendor and multi-provider environments, but you have to go through this stage to get there.  I foresee that some of the barriers to widespread use will not be technical at all, but rather, will revolve around policy and the interaction of departments, divisions, institutions, and enterprises.  By definition, SDN is a control plane, and it’s not clear to me where, or with whom, that control will lie in many use cases.

Tags:  broadband rhode island  Internet2  OpenFlow controller  OSHEAN  sdn  software defined networks 

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Internet2 Series, Part 2: Data Preservation

Posted By David Marble, Thursday, April 24, 2014
Updated: Thursday, April 24, 2014

I was intrigued by a “Future of the University” discussion, which postured that the University now has three fundamental responsibilities: education, research, and—surprisingly—data preservation. The discussion centered around the fact that as we move further and further to the Internet of Things and all things digital we may now be entering an era where universities become required by moral obligation to be the preservationists of a vast portion of the world’s digital knowledge base.  The quote was, “If not us, then who?”  Because I had also been attending sessions on Big Data, and I2’s Innovation Platform, it was easy to see how apt this was.  Universities and the R&E community have embarked on a historic construction of an infrastructure that will be the ground floor of one incredible knowledge center.  It is not the amount of data that intrigues me most, it’s the complexities involved in preserving that data for generations to come.  We have all seen computer languages come and go.  For this task of preservation we need languages that will live on forever to enable, for example, the search engine of the future to comb databases of the past.

The keynote for this session was Dr. Shirley Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).  To say that she was impressive is an understatement.  Dr. Jackson is a theoretical physicist and former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and serves on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.  Her grasp on the deepest technical aspects of a wide swath of science was impressive on its own, but her ability to connect it to the human condition was something else entirely.  She described a project at RPI to make Lake George in NY the “smartest” lake in the world. To achieve this, scientists have created a massive sensor overlay to analyze in real time an enormous range of conditions.  The breadth of knowledge gained from this one project cannot be underestimated.

One of the other themes of this talk was the concept of breaking down the walls between research disciplines.  What we are finding out more and more are the interdependencies and links between branches of science heretofore unknown. This is classically revealed in biotechnology, where computer science and biology are becoming increasingly connected, but this concept extends all over.  One of the barriers recognized is the need for better communications as we tend to have our own way of relating to each other within the walls of a given research discipline.

Tags:  broadband rhode island  future of the university  internet of things  internet2  lake george  oshean 

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Internet 2 Series, Part 1: Trust and Identity

Posted By David Marble, Monday, April 21, 2014
One of the major themes running throughout the 2014 Internet2 Global Summit wasTrust and Identity.  Major initiatives are underway with Internet2 members to develop a framework architecture for a global identity and trust infrastructure. This follows on the work that has been done by the I2 community with InCommon, but now is expanded to include areas like MultiFactor Authentication (MFA). 

While I applaud this effort, I'm a bit jaded. Is the OSHEAN community interested in Federated ID?  Are we interested in having trust relationships between members?  To date, I have not seen a compelling use case that hasn't already been handled.  I thought, for instance, that the hospital community and medical schools might be candidates, but have been told that credentials are already handled among the institutions.  I have not heard of a push for a unified student credentialing system for K-12 in RI, yet I see pilots taking place around the country.

The length of time it has taken to make progress in this area also fills me with trepidation. I think back to the early days when Microsoft was championing single sign-onthe days of the birth of Federated ID.  I don’t know about you, but I have seen very few instances of even the basic single sign-on other than logging into a website with my Facebook or Google ID.

I do see great potential for this in federated clouds.  The use of a Federated ID and authentication schema for accessing an organized multi-cloud resource pool could prove invaluable.  To that end, Internet2 has mandated the implementation of InCommon amongst its partners in the Net+ Cloud Services program.

Overall I am interested in learning how our members feel about this area, and if there is a sense that we should be getting more aggressive in examining potential architectures.

Tags:  broadband rhode island  federated id  incommon  internet2  MultiFactor Authentication  oshean 

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The Pace of Technology Change

Posted By Dave Marble, Monday, December 16, 2013

I was at a school district meeting on technology the other night and one of the parents in attendance asked why her son’s teacher didn’t use the beautiful SmartBoard the school had purchased over a year ago. The discussion quickly turned to the school’s lack of resources: no training, poor planning, not enough time in the teacher’s day, etc. My thoughts, however, went elsewhere. I began ruminating on the so-called "Digital Divide” that exists between the technological haves and have-nots.

The traditional argument delineates the Digital Divide at an economic level. While economic factors can (and often do) play a role in the Divide, they are certainly not the only factors worth considering. Isn’t there also a clear divide that can exist at a generational level? Grampy will usually get his butt kicked by his 10 year old grandson in a game of Madden -- and, while my parents are overwhelmed by the Skype video call, I just wonder why this technology took 20+ years from the days when I was involved with PictureTel.

The rate of adoption for technology at an individual level is driven by a few factors, including one’s personality, education, and overall acumen. Some folks may not be self-starters or adventurous types where technology is concerned. Still others may just not have had the education necessary to get them started with new technologies. This alone can prevent them from ever turning their new SmartBoards, meaning that they miss out on hundreds of tutorial videos, and, in turn, hundreds of potential lesson plans that utilize SmartBoard features. Acumen, education, and economics go hand-in-hand. A geometry teacher with the acumen to try a flipped classroom knows whether all of his or her students have access to a computer and high-speed internet at night so they can watch their Khan Academy videos on the Pythagorean Theorem.

I recently watched an interview with a doctor who is closing his practice after 30 years because he can’t adapt to the government’s new Electronic Medical Records requirements. Much like the discussion at the school district meeting, this gave me pause. I realized that our expectations aren’t often aligned with an understanding of the Digital Divide -- so just as we expect all teachers to be using SmartBoard technology, we expect all doctors to have their records maintained electronically and accessible by any hospital. Without the proper training and resources at hand, this is neither fair to the teachers and doctors, nor the students and patients. It seems in the best interests of administrators and planners to consider this when building well-intended technology programs.

I am encouraged about the state of such things in RI. We have strong advocacy and deep technological understanding in this area at the state level, led by our friends at BroadBand RI (BBRI). To learn more, check out their policy paper here:


Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tags:  BBRI  broadband rhode island  Digital Divide  flipped classroom  OSHEAN  Rhode Island  SmartBoards 

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Did You Know? Akamai at OSHEAN.

Posted By David Marble, Monday, November 25, 2013

I have always been a fan of the "Did You Know” series which stems from this popular technology trend video: . I like perspective pieces like this one where we learn things like: it took 50 years for radio to reach 50 million people; it took Facebook only two.

Every day of my first year here at OSHEAN was like that. I would talk to a member, or one of my OSHEAN team members, and hear, "Hey Dave, did you know that OSHEAN …?” And there was always something new to learn about the services we were providing, or the resources we had.

For our OSHEAN Members, here’s a revelatory "Did you Know”--one that came to me more gradually: OSHEAN has an Akamai installation in one of our aggregation PoPs in Providence. Akamai servers support the local caching of popular content to mitigate centralized server and network bottlenecks. This service sits on the Beacon 2.0 network as a basic function, at no additional cost. In fact, the traffic served from the Akamai caches operate over the unmetered portion of the OSHEAN backbone, which is not charged against a Member’s Internet subscription. The benefits of this architecture were never more apparent than during the recent release of Apple’s IoS 7 upgrade. The day of the release was historic from a bandwidth utilization perspective-- but the OSHEAN Akamai servers handled the traffic with ease, and our membership had virtually no knowledge of the event. Microsoft updates are handled the same way. We estimate that 20-30% of the commercial Internet traffic from our membership is handled locally via the Akamai cache which translates to direct dollar savings and much higher performance.

Did you know?

Tags:  akamai  oshean  services 

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Did You Know?

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