Wednesday, April 18, 2007

CANARIE Platforms Workshop and Funding Program

CANARIE’s Network-Enabled Platforms Workshop:
"Convergence of Cyber-Infrastructure and the Next-Generation Internet" June 26-27, 2007 Ottawa, Ontario

The purpose of CANARIE’s Network-Enabled Platforms Workshop is to explore the development of and participation in network-enabled platforms by Canadian researchers and other interested parties. The workshop will be an important step towards the launch of a CANARIE funding program in this area.

Over the past several months, the CANARIE Board has been discussing the organization’s vision and strategy for the 2007-12 period. One important focus has been the next-generation technologies and related network-based infrastructure that enable distributed communities of researchers and their public and private sector partners to collaborate more effectively. CANARIE’s involvement in this area could involve:
(i) Assisting distributed, collaborative communities to use CANARIE’s network and SOA - and Web 2.0-based middleware in the development of network-enabled “platforms” for research;
(ii) Supporting the development of middleware and other aspects of what has often been called “grid” or “cyber-infrastructure” to support platform development; and
(iii) Developing aspects of the “Next-Generation Internet” (NGI) that pertain to the future evolution of CANARIE’s network as one of the world’s leading-edge research networks. Work in these areas is viewed by the Board and by Industry Canada as complementing CANARIE's primary role in operating and upgrading its network to support a full range of research and educational applications, including network-enabled platforms at the national and international levels.

Network-Enabled Platforms:
The term "network-enabled platform" is taken to comprise the network, a range of infrastructure at the edge of the network and the services and tools that make these resources useable by a distributed community of collaborators. Of special interest are the data, servers, sensors, equipment and other resources used by the community, and the related data acquisition, storage, manipulation, sharing and analysis tools that are of primary concern to the collaborators. Web services, Web 2.0 and workflow tools are the most common middleware for linking these resources and supporting their ease of use. Dedicated, “partitionable” lightpath networks, virtual routers and other facilities are also common features of platforms.

One of the clearest examples of a network-enabled platform is the Eucalyptus project ( Eucalyptus was funded under the CANARIE CIIP program; the team has developed a portal for collaborative architectural design teams to link HDTV video conferencing, rendering, visualization, grid and UCLP lightpaths.
Other network-based research platforms in Canada are at an earlier stage of development. Many have been supported by CANARIE funding, including those relating to the Neptune project, the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, the provision of access to the data collected by the international telescopes in Hawaii, the Grid X1 project for high energy physics. The bioinformatics community has developed several platforms, with much of the work being funded by Genome Canada and the regional genome centres.
Canadians are also participating in the early stages of formation of some international "grid" efforts that are in many ways network-enabled platforms under a different label. Some of these have arisen in the context of the Canada-California Strategic Innovation Partnership, including the creation of Optiputer nodes at CRC and Nortel, Ryerson’s becoming a member of CineGrid, and McGill’s Neurological Institute being linked with BIRN, the Biomedical Informatics Research Network.

Next-Generation Internet:
In parallel with CANARIE’s interest in network-enabled platforms is an on-going concern with next-generation Internet initiatives. The Internet of today continues to evolve rapidly and has become critical infrastructure for the economy and society. A consensus has developed, however, that the Internet's fundamental design constrains its ability to respond to many of the challenges it faces, such as security, scaleability and reliability. Accordingly, new urgency is being placed on research regarding next-generation alternatives to the current Internet.
One model of the future Internet borrows from the concept of platforms. The GENI architecture, for example, proposes to link servers, sensors, equipment and other resources through massive virtualization and parallelization of network facilities in order to support multiple platforms for testing new Internet protocols and applications. CANARIE’s User Controlled LightPath (UCLP) software also enables deployment of multiple platforms on separate, parallel “lightpath” networks, also referred to as Articulated Private Networks, or APNs.

Potential focus of Funding Program:
Needless to say, CANARIE is not in a position to fund the development of a network-enabled platform in its entirety, whether a data-based platform like bioinformatics or a sensor-based platform like project Neptune. Accordingly, any CANARIE funding program would have to be focused, for example by directing it at encouraging those groups that have platforms to engage in development efforts associated with using more advanced middleware and other technologies to support the platform’s use.
One aspect of a CANARIE funding program in this area could be to encourage more Canadian participation in international platform development efforts, especially in new areas (i.e. the astronomy and physics communities, for example, are already active in international efforts). This is an area that requires further discussion at the workshop.
In short, the earmarks of an ideal new project relating to network-enabled platforms might be: 1. The area is a Canadian strength; 2. Pan-Canadian and perhaps international collaboration have been established; 3. The data flows to support the collaboration are potentially significant; 4. The community involved has some familiarity with web services and SOA; and 5. The community feels a need to become more sophisticated in its use of these technologies.
CANARIE also recognizes the potential for the development of network-enabled platforms in areas relating to the social sciences, humanities, digital libraries, collaborative animation, and distributed simulation, among others. As data needs expand and as the need for architectures and tools to support sharing and collaboration become apparent, CANARIE would like to assist communities such as these to become more aware of platform technologies and to use the tools and other resources that have been developed. Specifically what CANARIE’s role should be with communities such as these until such time as their national platforms have been initiated or developed will be explored during the workshop.

Workshop Logistics:
To ensure effective discussion and interaction, participation in this workshop will be on an invitation only basis. Anyone interested in deploying a platform or joining an existing one is invited to submit a request to attend the workshop.
Requests to attend and additional questions should be addressed by e-mail to: