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[2009 Innovations in Networking Award Winners]


Long Beach, CA -- March 10, 2009 -- Four groundbreaking projects that focus on the innovative use and expansion of high-performance networking were honored by the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) as recipients of the 2009 Innovations in Networking Awards.

Four awards are presented annually in the categories of Education, Gigabit/Broadband, High-Performance Research, and Experimental/Developmental Applications. The awards are given annually by CENIC to highlight exemplary innovations that leverage ultra high-bandwidth optical networking, particularly where those innovations have the potential to revolutionize the ways in which instruction and research are conducted, or in the case of the Gigabit award, where they further the deployment of broadband in underserved areas. The award presentation ceremony will take place at the CENIC Annual Conference, .Riding the Waves of Innovation,. in Long Beach on March 9-11, 2009.

This year's winners are:

  • Education Applications: Alternate Endings (USC)
  • Gigabit/Broadband Applications: Redwood Coast Connect (Redwood Coast Rural Action)
  • High-Performance Research Applications: iWarp-Based Remote Interactive Scientific Visualization (UCLA)
  • Experimental/Developmental Applications: Project GreenLight (Calit2)

CENIC owns, operates, and manages the California Research & Education Network (CalREN), a state-spanning high-performance optical network consisting of 2,700 miles of optical fiber to which K-20 schools, colleges, universities and other educational and research sites in all 58 of California's counties connect. The most advanced such network in the nation, CalREN serves up to 9.5 million Californians every day and links hundreds of educational and research sites to one another and to colleagues nationally and internationally.

High-Def Movie, High-Performance Network: Revolutionary Interactive Mystery Movie Uses Optical Network to Unite Performers, Audiences with Remote HD Digital Media, Wins 2009 Education Applications Award

Player-directed choose-your-own-adventure games are familiar to many, but making that level of two-way interactivity available to remote movie audiences in high-definition and 5.1 channel sound is a significant step forward in realizing the potential of high-performance networks to change our shared culture.

This is exactly what USC Master's student Greg Townsend and Professor of Cinematic Arts Richard Weinberg have accomplished. On September 15, 2008 as part of a showcase of high-bandwidth demonstrations using CalREN's experimental and high-performance networking tiers, an audience in the highly networked Atkinson Hall on the UC San Diego campus was treated to the remote premiere of .Alternate Endings,. a high-definition comedy-mystery movie that allows its audience to choose the direction of the plot through one of 16 separate paths. The movie itself, streamed from the Trojan Vision television studios in the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts on the USC campus, was digitally merged at the various decision points with remote hosts located elsewhere on campus at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, and sent via CENIC's CalREN to the audience waiting 120 miles away in Atkinson Hall. Audience feedback was solicited by means of applause, sent back along the CalREN fiber-optic backbone to the USC campus, and used to guide the characters' decisions. Characters' guilt, innocence, and even survival were determined by audience feedback, and the experience was a smashing success, with all technology performing flawlessly. A second viewing took place on December 10 at UCSD, with the same excellent audience experience ... but not the same outcome for the movie! The .Alternate Endings. international premiere, where both movie and audience feedback will cross the Pacific Ocean at the speed of light over some of the highest-bandwidth optical fiber in the world, is slated to take place in March 2009 for an audience in Tokyo.

The possibilities raised by the success of .Alternate Endings. promise to revolutionize the cinematic industry, which has been a major driver of modern culture and the California economy for over a century. Remote audiences can be brought together around the globe, and digital media streamed from multiple continents can be combined seamlessly to create a participatory entertainment experience. High-bandwidth networking can also make true interactivity possible in theaters worldwide by obviating the need to store separate copies of a movie at each theater, which can also revolutionize non-interactive cinema. And of course, with the possibility of such interactivity, the craft of moviemaking itself will evolve in ways that the creators of the first black and white movies could only have imagined. Ultimately, the barriers between the active producers and previously passive consumers of entertainment will be radically redefined in exciting new ways.

Getting the Lay of the Land: Understanding the Obstacles to Rural Broadband in Northern California and Overcoming Them, Redwood Coast Connect Wins 2009 Gigabit/Broadband Applications Award

In November 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order calling for the formation of the California Broadband Task Force, a collection of some of the best minds in the state who were charged to determine the current state of broadband penetration in California and the obstacles to its advance, and to posit creative and effective ways by which it could be improved. Particular care was paid to areas with relatively poor broadband penetration and that promise a greater economic or geographic challenge to providing and improving broadband access for all Californians.

One of those regions with unique requirements is the Redwood coast, consisting of the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, and Mendocino along the Pacific Ocean, and the inland county of Trinity. Overcoming the challenges to providing these rugged, often heavily forested areas with the broadband penetration they need in the coming century will require a great deal of careful study and commitment.

Such a study -- Redwood Coast Connect -- has been carried out by Redwood Coast Rural Action, a regional network of community leaders in partnership with the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF). The study provides broadband providers, telecommunications carriers, service providers, elected officials, and other interested parties with precisely the kind of hard data on people, places, and technology needed to propose and implement effective solutions to the networking problems facing the California Redwood coast. By means of written community, online, telephone, and business mail-back surveys, the study examined factors influencing both supply and demand as well as broadband policy climate that could have an impact on any plans to provide the residents and businesses on the Redwood coast with broadband service. For those who would design or implement such plans or similar regional studies, the insights gathered through Redwood Coast Connect will prove themselves invaluable.

High-Def on the Fly: Real-time Manipulation and Transport of High-Definition Video Wins 2009 High-Performance Research Applications Award

Sending frame after frame of high-definition video reliably from one place to another, possibly located on another continent, is enough of a challenge to merit its own recognition. When the individual on the far end of the fiber-optic cable expects to rotate, grow or shrink, and otherwise manipulate the video images in real time and experience no latency, that challenge becomes even more daunting. And yet this is precisely what Scott Friedman of UCLA's Office of Information Technology achieved with iWarp-Based Remote Interactive Scientific Visualization. Since winning an Honorable Mention at the 2007 Supercomputing conference for, as one judge put it, .making it look easy,. Friedman has added temporally evolving data to the challenge, which increases the processing demands along with the requirement for reliability and zero latency in the advanced network linking the data, the processing, and those interacting with both.

The networking challenges to Friedman's project have been unique, and overcoming them has resulted in a creative, novel network topology. Typically, researchers who wish to use interactive visualization resources must use them locally, which can be inconvenient even if the resources are available across campus. As part of Friedman's project, cluster-based high-performance interactive visualization resources were made available to remote researchers by leveraging the latest high-speed wide-area networking technologies. This was accomplished by extending the Infiniband-based visualization cluster with a 10Gbps iWarp-capable remote visualization bridge node. Remote users connect to this node to establish an interactive visualization session. The system supports multiple, simultaneous high-definition interactive visualizations by sharing the capabilities of the back-end cluster.

Calit2's Project GreenLight Examines Ways to Create and Make Available Carbon-Thrifty Computing and Data Storage over Advanced Networks, Wins 2009 Experimental/Developmental Applications Award

According to The Climate Group's Smart 2020 report released in June of last year, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry's carbon footprint is equal to that of the airline industry, which has the largest carbon footprint of any single industry on Earth excepting energy generation. However, wise application of ICT across all sectors could create a reduction in our overall carbon footprint by as much as five times the ICT industry's own footprint.

Such news sounds a call to action for everyone, but for researchers at Calit2, it's also a unique call to innovation. They have initiated Project GreenLight to discover creative ways to ensure that the next generation of data centers supports a sustainable lifestyle and that the research sectors that use them are aware of the issues surrounding carbon-thrifty computing. Not only will the hardware and software itself be studied to determine how best they can be optimized, but the equally crucial factors of cooling and structural engineering will be studied in depth along with applications from a myriad of data-intensive disciplines. Project GreenLight will also analyze how best to share the insights that will result to enable as many other researchers to benefit from them as possible.

Of course, the ways in which such technology depends on and leverages advanced networks like CalREN are numerous. Researchers in fields like metagenomics, ocean observing, microscopy, bioinformatics, astronomy, digital media, and others that depend on massive data storage and processing require the unfettered global access to such resources that networks like CalREN provide. Without the ease of access made possible by these networks, the positive impact of carbon-thrifty or carbon-neutral computing can only reach as far as a campus VLAN. And the insights gained from Project GreenLight can reach around the world and have an enormous impact on the health of our shared environment, provided that the world's researchers can access them and put them to use themselves by creating more thrifty data centers and computing technologies.

CENIC also presented the 2009 Outstanding Individual Contribution Award to Russ Hobby, CI Program Architect at UC Davis. Russ has long been active in the research and application of networking and in particular has been active in California's networking efforts through various roles with CENIC.

Russ served as the first chair of CENIC's Technical Advisory Council (TAC) and continued to serve in this position from 1997 to July 2001. As the chair, he provided the leadership required to build camaraderie across institutions within California. He was instrumental in conducting design efforts for the original CalREN-2 network and coordinated efforts to set technical policy and future directions for the new network, vital foundational work that will continue to benefit California's research and education community for a long time to come.

Russ led CENIC's Optical Network Initiative (ONI) architecture team to develop the first CalREN optical network, which is now the underlying framework for CalREN's DC, HPR, and XD network tiers. He also served on CENIC Annual Conference Program Committees during his tenure as TAC Chair and has continued to participate in CENIC activities, including participating in the HPR Network TAC and speaking at several CENIC conferences.

Russ's longstanding commitment to CENIC and its goals makes him a worthy recipient for this award, and CENIC is proud to present it to him and even more so to have benefited from his insight and leadership.

Any questions about the awards or the CENIC annual conference RIDING THE WAVES OF INNOVATION can be directed to Janis Cortese, Manager of Publicity and Communications, at (714) 220-3454 or jcortese@cenic.org.

More information can be found in the CENIC Annual Conference website at cenic09.cenic.org.


California's education and research communities leverage their networking resources under CENIC, the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, in order to obtain cost-effective, high-bandwidth networking to support their missions and answer the needs of their faculty, staff, and students. CENIC designs, implements, and operates CalREN, the California Research and Education Network, a high-bandwidth, high-capacity Internet network specially designed to meet the unique requirements of these communities, and to which the vast majority of the state's K-20 educational institutions are connected. In order to facilitate collaboration in education and research, CENIC also provides connectivity to non-California institutions and industry research organizations with which CENIC's Associate researchers and educators are engaged.

CENIC is governed by its member institutions. Representatives from these institutions also donate expertise through their participation in various committees designed to ensure that CENIC is managed effectively and efficiently, and to support the continued evolution of the network as technology advances.