Latest read: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

Tim Wu’s second book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires is wonderful examination how American information empires were established and stifled innovation at the same time. This is my second book by Wu following his brilliant Who Controls the Internet.
The Master SwitchWu identifies long business cycles surrounding the birth of information systems. While they begin open over time they were consolidated and driven by the market to become closed.

We displays how they become open again following amazing innovations force a business change in order to survive in the new marketplace.

The Master Switch opens with the birth of the Bell AT&T telephone monopoly. This is a facinating story when held against the garage startups of Apple and Google.

There is an amazing look at how countries and cultures also view information empires differently. The case for Wu is the capitalist, independent market approach to radio vs the UK’s BBC dominated by the royal family.

The Master Switch reveals how four key markets actually hold government infrastructure: telecommunications, banking, energy and transportation. These four and their capitalist owners for generations established control over any citizen’s attempt at challenging their monopolies. The lesson Wu establishes is corporate control by closed technologies. Yet one cannot help but understand they magically protected the country from the devastating affects of revolution leading up to and more importantly the horrific aftermath of World War I that forever removed Paris as the hub for film entertainment.
Continue reading “Latest read: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires”

Latest read: Reliability Assurance of Big Data in the Cloud: Cost-Effective Replication-Based Storage

While focused on the task of generating data for astrophysics Reliability Assurance of Big Data in the Cloud is a worthy read when focused around designing cloud service contacts.
Reliability Assurance of Big Data in the CloudThe work of authors Yang, Li and Yuan surround capturing big data reliability, and measuring disk storage solutions including from noted cloud vendors.

Their work at Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology focused on reducing cloud-based storage cost and energy consumption methods.

They also share the impact of multiple replication-based data storage approaches based upon Proactive Replica Checking for Reliability (PRCR). That was very interesting in their research data gathering.

I found Reliability Assurance of Big Data in the Cloud also supports moving data into the cloud across advanced research networks including Internet2.

Processing raw data inside the data center impacts network models (based upon available bandwidth) in their work. Their research gathers and stores 8 minute segments of telescope data that generates 236GB of raw data. By no means in the petabyte stage (yet) but it still sets a solid understanding of contractual demands on big data cloud storage.

My interest peaked around impacts developing knowledgeable contracts for cloud services. Their background regarding data gathering and processing should influence procurement contract language. This is even more applicable when applied to petabyte data sets and the SLAs regarding data reliability requirements. Never leave money on the table when scaling to the petabyte range. Must read for purchasing agents and corporate (and university) CPSMs.

University cloud computing contracts

Did you hear about the university professor signed up for a cloud service and unknowingly left his department on the hook for two years of service beyond his grant….or the university who had more than 500,000 student records (social security, addresses and grades) hacked? Cloud computing poses special demands upon Universities who can no longer employ the same procurement process used to acquire computers and software since the 1980s.

Are you aware that today many Universities (and K12 School districts) use a popular email marketing program that sells contact information of students to vertical marketing firms who in turn re-sell them to other marketing and product companies?

Today’s aggressive marketplace and the business of cloud services has radically changed the procurement process. Many of us have a fiduciary duty to protect data of our students, research and institutions.  Regardless of how students freely give away their data on Facebook, our institution will still be held responsible to  protect all of our institution’s data.

My views on the impact of Cloud Computing in Higher Education have been slowly evolving. This past May I was given an incredible opportunity to further my learning by participating in an Engineering & Technology Short Course with the UCLA Extension.
Remember those “must-take classes” in college?  UCLA’s Contracting for Cloud Computing Services is one on my list of those opportunities you cannot afford to ignore.  My advice: Find your way to UCLA.

Again, I hope this can help as many people as possible understand the lessons taught in class.  Due to the nature of the beast they are in no specific order. They are all top level concerns:

For over a generation traditional desktop PC vendors focused on features and price. Since the late 1980s schools established trust in vendor’s products to conduct business, educate students and store student data. From floppy disks to magnetic tape all data was stored locally on campus.

Today’s globalized internet marketplace is radically different when compared to the modem era of computing. The cloud computing model represents a number of fundamental shifts including Software as a Service(SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) are well established.

And although it’s a bit ahead on the radar we should not overlook the quickly emerging SuperComputer as a Service. While there is no  standard acronym, there are established vendors like SGI’s Cyclone, Amazon’s Cluster Compute, IBM’s Watson, and with forthcoming merge between PiCloud and D-Wave‘s quantum computing….more options for High Performance Computing will be available to many smaller, lean and aggressive institutions.

These new services are directly tied to the “consumerization” of technology: advanced technologies at affordable price points. As a result the new focus is around access.  The shift to mobile computing via netbooks, smartphones and tablets is well underway, yet many school’s do not have a sufficient wireless infrastructure. Students, faculty and administrators are today carrying a laptop, smartphone and probably an iPad. Schools are struggling to to handle bandwidth demands of so many devices in concentrated areas around campus, from the Student Union to the ResHalls.

IMHO the tipping point with Cloud computing and digital devices is the convenience of access. Today many diverse schools have a campus community that simply demands anytime/anywhere access to data. And it’s no longer just email and web.  Its BIG data from data base research to the delivery of HD media. For better (or for worse) society has become trained to demand mobile solutions that easily integrate into the app economy and their mobile lifestyles.
Continue reading “University cloud computing contracts”

Internet2: Arthron – A Tool for Video Streaming Remote Management in Artistic Performances Experiences

Arthron was concept for experiences in the domain of Art and Technology. Arthron facilities include its simple user interface and the manipulation of different media sources. Users can remotely add, remove and configure the presentation format as well as schedule the media streaming during an artistic performance.
Arthron is composed by six components described as follow. The Articulator is responsible for the remote management. This component concentrates a great part of the Arthron functionalities, such as stream scheduling (manual or automatic), network monitoring and measurement, remote configuration of other modules, access control, web page automatic generation for online publication, video effects, and communication tools. The Encoder is responsible for capturing and encoding (when necessary) of media source, which can be external (DV or HDV camera, DVD) or internal (a local file). The Decoder’s main functionality is to decode and display the media stream in a specific device (monitor, projector, etc). The Reflector is responsible for the replication and redistribution of media streaming over the network.

The VideoServer component is able to transcoding media streaming that will be published online. This component is also responsible for working with flv, ogg and h264 formats. The MapManager controls and displays the interactive map of Arthron components. MapManager offers to users an overview of the geographical distributed locations of Arthron components.

Latest read: Cognitive Surplus

Remember the last time you read a great story that you caught yourself peaking at the remaining unread pages because you didn’t want the story to end?  That’s how I can best describe Clay Shirky‘s book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.  His stories were coming to a close before I was ready to put the book down.

cognitive surplusThis is a great follow-up to his first book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.  Shirky is right on target with engaging, connecting stories to share his ideas about our new ability today to share collective knowledge.

Over 1 trillion hours of TV is watched per year. Imagine what can happen when people turn TV off and begin contributing.  And Shirky elegantly shares the shifting nature of professionals vs. amateurs in the age of the internet.  Pretty amazing reading.

I believe there have been attempts to move in the direction he outlines but a tipping point has been the mass availability of consumer devices at very affordable price points.  I recall Peter Gabriel‘s interview on the Today Show in 1988 talking about the efforts of Amnesty International and their attempts to videotape human rights abuses with large, analog cameras.
Today we know all to well from the murder of Oscar Grant that cameraphones have made their efforts real.

The Napster thing
IMHO Clay’s single oversight in the book surrounds Napster.  I think he was trying to communicate a holistic answer to why people (not just Gen Xers) were stealing music.  He called it sharing — it was stealing plain and simple.
Continue reading “Latest read: Cognitive Surplus”

Google to build multiple fiber cities ?

Google may launch more than one “fiber city” in America.  This cyberinfrastructure project could will be a tipping point for a few lucky cities.

Tags: experimental network, Google, Network, internet access, Research, Internet2, Broadbandt, gigabit, high speed, trends,

K12 Technology Plan: CIPA

K12 Teachers and Administrators have questions about some of the finer points regarding CIPA and their school district.  It appears there is a misunderstanding: not all CIPA products are created equal and more importantly your District may actually have the wrong CIPA product installed.

From a technical point-of-view CIPA solutions range in flexibility like Tylenol:  Extra Strength Tylenol, Regular Strength Tylenol, Tylenol 8 hour and Tylenol PM.
For a real-world overview of YouTube, K12 web filtering & CIPA: Click Here

Many CIPA related questions from teachers and administrators can be addressed by a single resource:  District Technology Policy.  If you do not have one — get one — following these easy steps:

1. Google “K12 district technology policy
2. Read policies posted online by Districts around the country
2a. Find one that looks appealing for the needs of your District

2b. Don’t forget to acknowledge their efforts…send an email acknowledging their work
3. Copy/paste
4. Modify as needed WITH District-wide consensus
5. Publish your Policy under Creative Commons

In many respects the CIPA vendor you choose may limit your flexibility in unblocking webpages.  Most robust CIPA products DO permit teachers/district coordinators to permit custom URLs to be available on the fly.
Continue reading “K12 Technology Plan: CIPA”

YouTube, K12 web filtering and CIPA

I recently posted a tweet about YouTube, K12 web filtering and CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act. I was very happy to receive a couple of DMs from Angela Maiers and Elizabeth Holmes, two educational professionals who I consider to be leaders in both knowledge sharing and teaching experiences.They share insights on Twitter as well. Follow Angela here and follow Elizabeth here — you will learn much about K12 education from them.

Apologies up front for this long post.  I sincerely hope by sharing my experiences more teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, technology coordinators and parents will have a better understanding regarding how internet filtering ultimately impacts learning.

1. This post will not address content found on YouTube.  This post will speak to the technologies behind filtering YouTube in K12 Districts and how solutions from 3rd party vendors permit access to rich media content websites including YouTube. School Districts, based upon an established technology policy have options when choosing their web filtering solution.
2. Michael Wesch was a keynote speaker at WiscNet’s 2007 Future Technologies Conference …and just off the enormous success of his own video on YouTube.  His presentation “Human Futures for Technology and Education” resulted in many attendees sharing his video at their schools helping fellow teachers and administrators better understand how students use the internet.
3. This post does not endorse any specific product or vendor.
4. This post draws upon my work with K12 technology coordinators, teachers and administrators along with vendor technical support and the excellent network support group at WiscNet.
5. This post addresses in a roundabout way the need for every district to have an established technology policy regarding filtering. Finally this post will address the critical issue of bandwidth necessary to deliver rich media content into the school.
–Wish this was an easy, short post.  The filtering process can become complex and frustrating. I have learned this isolates teachers who want to share compelling content with their students.  This started as an answer to questions regarding filtering in K12 outside the 140 limit of Twitter and then kinda steamrolled…

K12 school districts are required by federal law to implement content filtering to block adult, illegal or offensive content from minors. The law is known as the Children’s Internet Protection Act:

The 2001 Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a federal law enacted by Congress to address concerns about access to offensive content over the internet on school and library computers. CIPA imposes certain types of requirements on any school or library that receives funding for Internet access or internal connections from the E-rate program – a program that makes certain communications technology more affordable for eligible schools and libraries.

Many computing vendors sell dedicated hardware, software and network appliances (devices that combine filtering along with firewall, anti-spam and even anti-virus protection) that address CIPA requirements for K12 school districts or any Public Library. Their solutions integrate CIPA guidelines into filtering categories for technology coordinators. 8e6’s R3000 Enterprise Filter solution is shown below:

CIPA and K12 Web filtering

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CIPA solutions vary from district to district due to any vendor’s installed filtering solution AND by the adopted policy of the District or Library.  However technology coordinators can edit filtering settings.  Combined with Mudcrawlers (see below) a district or library can stay up-to-date and block the latest sites and webpages that conflict with CIPA guidelines.

Powerful video that moves/educates students

There are very compelling education-related videos on YouTube including Michael Wesch’s Web 2.0: The Machine is Us/ing us.  Michael has also shared some rather powerful statistics regarding YouTube here. His page was last updated in March of this year so consider those numbers even higher today.

And if you think those are powerful, consider the staggering numbers for FaceBook here.  Again parents, teachers and administrators need to understand how students already use the internet.

Just like other Web2.0 media driven websites that have popped up on the internet, YouTube gained traction and became a powerful location to upload videos for free. No thought was put into establishing an educational access point when YouTube was launched. YouTube’s founders were burning through credit cards just to keep the site live — and waiting for a company like Google to buy them for billions. So from the beginning YouTube was not built as a video warehouse for education. However with their overwhelming exposure and free access it has become a very popular resource. Test Michael’s video and your school’s filter at the same time:

1. The URL for his video is:
2. Copy/Paste this link into your browser.
3. Does your school district block access to this video?
4. Does the video play immediately?
5. Does the video take a long time to play?

Filtering options
School districts have implemented filtering solutions from vendors including 8e6, Barracuda, Fortinet and others.  WiscNet, the educational and research StateNet in Wisconsin partnered with 8e6 Technologies to provide Wisconsin school districts and libraries with two options addressing filtering:

1. Offsite filtering: Central

Central hosting permits schools and libraries to connect via proxy servers to WiscNet’s centralized filtering server.  Each district’s technology coordinator(s) work with WiscNet to configure DNS and also configure all web browsers used by students, teachers and staff to redirect every requested URL to the central filter for analysis.  The district’s technology coordinator is authorized to log into their district profile and add or block additional pages on demand.

2. Onsite filtering: Local
The second option places a filtering server onsite inside a district’s server room.  There are advantages to installing a local content filtering box.  In addition to the features in the central server, a local filter has the ability (if it matches the district’s technology policy) to block IM traffic and even streaming media.  Local filtering can also leverage a district’s LDAP server and link filtering rules to the district’s network directories (students, faculty, staff and administrators) thereby syncing the filtering solutions to user groups at elementary, middle and high school facilities including any administrative buildings connected to the districts’ network.  This has also been extended to laptops used at schools and libraries.

Reporting Tools
8e6’s servers have reporting tools that permit logging URLs requested by a single laptop or an entire classroom of computers. If a teacher feels a student may be veering away from online class assignments a realtime tool can be configured to probe and log all requested URLs from a student’s computer for specific periods of time.  The results can be analyzed to determine the stated course of action outlined in the District’s technology policy:

CIPA and K12 Web filtering
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Warning and Timed Quotas
8e6 provides options to place a customized URL warnings regarding access by groups: students, teachers, staff/admin and event parents or guests.  For example a district may recommend teachers, staff and administrators not visit eBay during the school day. The software permits a technology coordinator to attach a custom message to any web browser used by teachers, staff and administrators that requests any eBay URL. The message will remind the user that eBay is not approved under district policy, but does permit the browser to access eBay.
Consider this a gentle hint hint – wink wink – nudge nudge reminder.

A feature added recently by 8e6 is “Timed Quotas” which permits a district to implement time limits for a website.  District policy (again eBay for example) can dictate access to eBay not to exceed three hours a day.

CIPA and K12 Web filtering

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After a predetermined time limit or quota has been reached regarding eBay the site becomes blocked for the rest of the day. The quota resets at midnight.

Tech Support’s cool factor:
Filter vendors and StateNet support teams who work in partnership with districts can login directly to a district’s filter (central or local) to address questions.  The software permits tech support teams to configure their own browser (via proxy) to point to the school’s IP filtering address, permitting them to “drop” their browser inside a district LAN. This allows tech support to access any URL in question (deny or pass) just as any computer connected to the district’s network.  Reporting tools can generate Excel formatted spreadsheets or send an email providing excellent data to troubleshoot URLs that are not “playing well” by the filter configurations.

A word about big video websites
Heavily trafficked websites including YouTube have multiple servers to handle large numbers of visitors.  When you need to block a popular site today you must use a filter’s ability to search for all addresses that answer to “” because Google has established additional servers to handle heavy requests.  If those are not included the videos will continue to be accessible:

YouTube ip addresses

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How does a school district keep up-to-date with all the new content uploaded to the internet outlined by CIPA?  Vendors work with Mudcrawlers. What a job title eh? Mudcrawlers identify, locate and verify new content and proxy hacks in conflict with CIPA guidelines and upload those new URLs daily to vendors who then push updates daily to their machines at schools and libraries.

Achilles Heel:  Bandwidth
There are very important bandwidth considerations for accessing rich media content on the internet including YouTube from a classroom, teacher’s laptop or even “high-tech” teaching labs.  This all revolves around bandwidth.

The video’s file size does not matter since a teacher’s goal is to play the video online and not to download it. The video’s data rate (data transferred over the internet/per second) is very important for consistent playback. Depending upon the amount of bandwidth the school district has available “choppy” playback may occur due to bandwidth constraints.

Please remember a district’s total bandwidth can be divided between elementary, middle school, high school and district administrative offices.  If a district has a 5 megabit bandwidth connection between buildings listed above, that means each building basically receives a single (1) megabit connection if configured by the technology coordinator or network administrator.  Here is the data rate of Michael’s video: 466.9 Kbits/second – just under 470K of bandwidth per second.

video datarate
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If a school district has a total bandwidth of just 3 Megabits/second it means that just six different computers (at the same time) begin watching Micheal’s video — the entire bandwidth for the school reaches saturation.  In other words the network crawls.

Test Michael’s video and maybe your technology coordinator’s nerves:
1. Learn how much bandwidth your school has established across the entire district: how much for each building linked to the school’s LAN.
2. The URL for his video is:
3. Copy/Paste this link into your browser.
4. If the video plays, does the rest of the district’s network slow to a crawl?
5. What happens in a classroom with 20 computers on a 10MB/second requirement?

Attention Technology Coordinators: Get your geek on
Wesch’s video is not a RTSP stream but rather a static clip that gets pushed over TCP/IP. In a low bandwidth situation TCP will automatically rebroadcast dropped packets. YouTube is going to be flooding your pipe re-broadcasting those dropped packets and causing your network to slow down.

Low Bandwidth = High Shapers
Clearly school districts have insufficient bandwidth to view YouTube content on a large scale.  Againbandwidth can be saturated quickly by the demands of rich media.  For example – Grab NASA’s video stream of a live shuttle launch.  The raw feed could require 8Mb/second connection which would kill a district’s entire bandwidth to the internet.

Short term solution?
A option would be for a K12 district or Library to install a packetshaper if the bandwidth is under 10Mb/second.  Packetshapers permit a district technology coordinator to limit the amount of bandwidth specific protocols can access.  For example a science teacher wants to permit students to watch the shuttle launch and listen to NASA commentary.  A Tech Coodinator can limit RTSP (the protocol passing the live video) to just 100K/second for every computer on the network – district wide.  However this packetshaping configuration will kill the video in two ways: first the limit on bandwidth would result in a stop-start-stop-wait-start-stop effect, second it would take a very long time to download the video to a students computer to watch the launch.

Long term solution
Get more bandwidth.  If your K12 District resides in Wisconsin contact WiscNet, Wisconsin’s StateNetwork.  WiscNet helped a K12 District increase their bandwidth from 3MB/sec to 100MB/sec for just $75.00 more a year via GrowSmart.  Check out this article.

HD video lectures from Museums and Colleges have been available to K12s on the Research Channel and Internet2 via your respective StateNet across the country. Love the fact Missouri K12s have been video conferencing with Museums in London for four years! Powerful content awaits both teachers and students.

Real World challenges: We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan
Regardless of filtering solution, frequent “fire drills” revolve around allowing blocked sites to be unblocked for a teacher’s request, class assignment or guest speaker.  Yet due to the workloads of almost every high school technology coordinator, requests arrive less than 10 minutes before class (or a guest speaker) is scheduled.  Fire drills often frustrates everyone in the process.

Q & A:
Q: I’m frustrated when YouTube’s webpage is still not showing the video.
You and me both.  There are multiple answers:

Answer #1:
Google pushes many URL resources into a single YouTube page.
Those embedded URLs may be blocked by CIPA categories. If just one of those pushed URLs from Google is blocked, the entire page AND the video will not play:

CIPA and K12 Web filtering
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The interesting and troublesome issue is that most YouTube pages do not carry the same embedded links and URLs — so trying to write a generic allow (or bypass) rule will be very difficult.

Answer #2:
Copyright infringement.
The video is pulled by YouTube due to a threat of legal action. No technology workaround is going to show a copyright video if the copyright holder contacts Google.  Google statement regarding copyright killing video here.

CIPA and K12 Web filtering
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Answer #3:
Spinning cursor loading selected video never stops.  See Achilles Heel (above)

CIPA and K12 Web filtering
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Answer #4:
The user deleted the file.
There is no magic like having someone delete a video from their account after its been talked about.  Bummer.

Q: Is YouTube automatically blocked by CIPA ?
A: Yes and No.  YouTube has videos that definitely fall outside CIPA guidelines forcing filters to block access to YouTube.  Districts can permit access to areas of YouTube by adjusting the settings in their filters or allowing custom bypass rules:

CIPA and K12 Web filtering
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Q: What does a blocked page look like ?
A: For a filter than BLOCKS videos from YouTube based upon a CIPA category of R Rated, the filter pulls this report which spells out the category and URL upfront:

CIPA and K12 Web filteringClick thumbnail to view image

Q: Can YouTube flag videos for K12?
A: Today citizens around the world upload over 150,000 videos every day to YouTube.  Trying to hire someone to flag videos for K12 would be an overwhelming task.  Consider this: ABC Television has been broadcasting for 60 years. The first television broadcast was in April 1948 and if you added all the video ever broadcast since 1948 it would total over 500,000 hours. YouTube has produced more hours of content in just the past 5 months.

Q: Does all YouTube video playback at the same rate ?
A: No.  Depends upon how much the person who uploaded the video knows about video codecs (compression/decompression) that can help reduce the video’s file size.  So the data rate can be small or really big.

Ideas for Apple and Google:
1. Google: set up so filters can automatically pass educational videos to schools and libraries. This would take some work on the backend, but boy it sure would help out K12s.

2. Apple
: strengthen iTunesU‘s existing K12 category by opening compelling video content clips for K12s.
See K12s own category within iTunesU here

Although I have read a number of tweets regarding educational YouTube-like websites all of them fail to scale to the demands of having industrial strength servers and network bandwidth capacity compared to YouTube or iTunesU.

Read More About It content filtering review here
PC Magzaine: content filtering review here
TopTen: home filtering review here
CIPA information via the FCC here

So why did it take so long to register that a blog post could benefit others by stepping outside the 140 character limit of Twitter?  If you think this is a good knowledge sharing post, then please follow me here on Twitter.

Will be more than happy to answer additional questions.  Let me know your thoughts.

The internet is dead. Long live the internet!

The 2008 Fall Internet2 member meeting last week in New Orleans proved that Big Science is here and I’m not sure the world is prepared to handle LHC’s generated data.  The session included an HD video conference to the Large Hadron Collider.


Session Overview:
October 15, 2008, 8:45 AM – 10:00 AM | UTC/GMT -5 hours (CDT)

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) represents a major milestone along the path towards a new understanding of the fundamental nature of the physical universe. This is a major milestone for physics, and also an important milestone for the Internet2 advanced networking community in supporting research in the U.S.

The LHC will generate many petabytes during each year of operation, and will accumulate an exabyte of real and simulated data within the first decade of its estimated 20 years of operation. Internet2 and its regional partner networks, ESnet and USLHCNet will provide the critical national and transatlantic infrastructure linking U.S. LHC scientists to the data, and to their partners in Europe and Asia.

To celebrate and highlight our community’s work, Internet2 will present a live peek behind the scenes at the LHC using advanced iHDTV technology developed by the ResearchChannel and University of Washington to provide our community a first hand view of the biggest science device on the planet and discuss the importance the community’s investment in cyberinfrastructure to this work and in future research and discovery.

This session The Importance of Cyberinfrastructure for Higher Education was truly a peek at new demands for massive data transfers over the internet.  LHC project research will be expected to generate over 5 petabytes of data.  Over today’s advanced 100Gbit networks this data will take one week to transfer from LHC to the large science research centers in America.

One week over the most advanced networks available today?  Time for an upgrade.

Tags: Internet2, bandwidth, network, fiber, globalization, petabyte, large hadron collider, LHC, CERN, gigabit, trends