Internet2, Microsoft pact fuels universities' big data research

A peering arrangement gives schools fast access to Microsoft cloud services, offering improved collaboration, the ability to quickly exchange large data sets and faster app development.

Students, staff and researchers at college campuses across the nation can now rapidly build and manage cloud applications as well as move large data sets over secure connections due, as a result of  a peering arrangement between Microsoft and Internet2, a research and education network founded by leading institutions of higher learning.

The agreement improves access to infrastructure and application services that support virtual learning environments and large-scale, data-intensive research projects through the use of Microsoft’s high-performance computing clusters, collaboration tools and disaster recovery services, according to an Internet2 release.

Campuses around the world will have enhanced access to two Internet2 NET+ offerings from Microsoft — Windows Azure and Microsoft Office 365 Education, Internet2 officials said. Windows Azure is a cloud computing platform for building, deploying and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters. Microsoft Office 365 Education provides educators, staff, and students with access to email and calendars, Office Web Apps, video and online meetings.

Peering involves the interconnection of administratively separate Internet networks for the purpose of exchanging traffic between the users of each network. Privately peering Microsoft data centers to the Internet2 Network eliminates the need to move very large data sets over the public Internet. Students, faculty and staff now have a high-bandwidth connection to Windows Azure and Office 365. Bandwidth is managed and ensures high-speed delivery, with minimal delay or latency, officials said.

Internet2 recently completed a dramatic expansion to its network — the nation's first 100 gigabit/sec open, software-defined network — built to support advanced services and cloud applications to spur innovation in education, research and industry, Internet2 officials said.

With Internet2, big data researchers will be able to transfer very large data sets to and from Windows Azure across the 100 gigabit/sec network, Kelli Trosvig, vice president for information technology and CIO of the University of Washington, said in a statement. "This same high-performance will also be available for applications such as Office 365 Education."

"During our service validation phase of Office 365 Education and Windows Azure, both sides quickly realized that these services not only address campuses' big data research, communication, collaboration and compute needs,” but also ensure that the higher education community is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, said Elias G. Eldayrie, vice president and CIO of the University of Florida. Microsoft has worked closely with the university to understand and meet its needs, Eldayrie noted. 

The upgraded Internet2 network was funded in part through the Commerce Department’s National Broadband Technology Opportunities Program along with Internet2 partners. The network uses brand new 100G technology and has an unprecedented 8.8 terabits of capacity. The Internet2 network is the first national network to deploy 100G waves on its entire footprint and the most sophisticated research and education platform in the world, Internet2 officials claim.

Working with its regional network partners, the Internet2 network provides access to advanced networking features for more than 200,000 of the country's community anchor institutions, including libraries, hospitals, K-12 schools, community colleges and public safety organizations. The network infrastructure also will support advanced applications, such as high definition and multi-cast video, distance learning and telemedicine.

Internet2's members also can leverage the new Internet2 network to deliver other cloud services and keep pace with the exponential growth in big data science being driven by the nation's collaborative researchers in labs and universities. Internet2 NET+ Services currently offers more than 30 cloud services to college campuses nationwide that are tailored to the unique needs of the research and education community, officials said.

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