UCI Lightpath: a High-Speed Network for Research

lightpathOIT has built a dedicated high-performance network infrastructure that can help meet the needs of researchers requiring the transfer of a large quantity of data within and beyond campus. This network is called UCI Lightpath which is funded by a Grant from National Science Foundation Campus Cyberinfrastructure – Network Infrastructure Engineering Program (NSF CC-NIE)

UCI Lightpath is composed of a Science DMZ with a 10 Gbps connection to the science and research community on the Internet, and a dedicated 10 Gbps network infrastructure on campus.  A science DMZ is a portion of the network that is designed so that the equipment, configuration, and security policies are optimized for high-performance scientific applications rather than for general-purpose business systems or “enterprise” computing.

The initial infrastructure covers eight campus locations including the OIT Data Center where computing clusters, such as HPC and Greenplanet reside.  The UCI Lightpath network infrastructure is separate from the existing campus network (UCINet.)  The diagram shows the current status of the UCI Lightpath.

For more information of UCI Lightpath and its access policy, please refer to OIT website http://www.oit.uci.edu/network/lightpath/


UCI’s Internet Connections Upgraded

connectivityOIT recently improved UCI’s connection to the Internet, increasing bandwidth from 6 Gbps (billion bits per second) to 20 Gbps. This upgrade enhances connections from the main campus, UCI Medical Center, and the residential network. The upgrade provides faster network access both to the research Internet and the general commodity Internet.

UCI connects to the Internet via CENIC, a regional network service provider providing Internet connections to California research and education organizations. CENIC provides two connections for the campus: CalREN-HPR and CalREN. CalREN-HPR supplies researchers with high-speed connectivity to other research networks, such as Internet2 and the Energy Science Network (ESnet). CalREN provides general Internet commodity services.

Last July, when OIT began work on the UCI Lightpath project, our CalREN-HPR network connection was upgraded from 1Gbps to 10Gbps with a 1Gbps diversified backup link. (Lightpath is a dedicated science network funded by the National Science Foundation). This February, our CalREN general Internet connection was upgraded from five 1Gbps connections to a 10Gbps connection.

OIT is also working with CENIC to establish additional fiber infrastructure between UCI and UCLA which will enable us to upgrade our diversified backup paths from 1Gbps to higher bandwidth. Our goal is to upgrade both backup links of CalREN-HPR and CalREN to 10Gbps in the near future.

PSearch: NACS and ICS Collaborate


Faculty and staff now have a powerful new tool for finding contacts through UCI’s online phone directory.  PSearch melds the directory data NACS maintains with state-of-the-art database research from the lab of ICS Professor Chen Li.

PSearch allows users to enter whatever information they may happen to have (first name, last name, department, phone number, etc.) and PSearch will offer any entries in the campus phone directory which match.  PSearch is error tolerant (you can find people with only an approximation of the spelling of a name) and real time (results are displayed and refined as you enter information.)

PSearch represents a collaboration between NACS and ICS.  Professor Li’s team offered the intelligent database search technology, and NACS offered the data and our user-interface experience.  Key contributors on Professor Li’s team include PhD student Rares Vernica at UCI and Guoliang Li, a visiting researcher from Tsinghua University, China.

PSearch is only one potential use of Dr. Li’s “type-ahead search” technology featured on his TASTIER project web page.  Future uses may involve other campus-wide or even UC-wide data sets.  This new technology makes it possible to simultaneously support full-text (google), quick-link, and directory searches in a single query as exhibited by the search box on the ICS home page.

New Computing Cluster

Computer Cluster

Computer Cluster

Last year, Broadcom graciously donated over 400 compute servers to UC Irvine. While the majority of the servers were distributed to campus researchers, NACS and the Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences have collaborated to bring a new general-purpose campus computing solution to researchers and graduate students at no charge.

Initially, the Broadcom Distributed Unified Cluster (BDUC) is comprised of 80 nodes: 40 nodes with 32-bit Intel processors and 40 nodes with 64-bit AMD processors. Broadcom is expected to donate newer servers over time, allowing nodes to be upgraded.  NACS and ICS plan to further expand the cluster as well, subject to available staff and Data Center resources.

BDUC includes standard open-source compilers, debuggers, and libraries; in addition, the MATLAB Distributed Computing Engine (DCE) will soon be available.  In the near future, BDUC will offer priority queues for research groups that provide financial support or hardware to the cluster.

BDUC is now available to all faculty, staff, and graduate using your UCInetID and password. To request an account, send an e-mail to bduc-request@uci.edu.  A new user how-to guide is available on the NACS website http://www.nacs.uci.edu/computing/bduc/newuser.html.

Moving Bulk Data

Bulk Data

Moving Bulk Data

Data transfer is a routine activity for most faculty, whether it’s sharing research data with colleagues, downloading research databases, or backing up vital data.  When the volume of data you’re transferring is in the tens or hundreds of megabytes, any tool can get the job done.  When you have gigabytes, or tens of gigabytes of data to move, more strategy is called for.

The tool and strategy you should use depends on the kind of data you have, the size of the data, whether you need to do the transfer once or repeatedly, and the computer and tools you’re most comfortable with.  Some ideas are outlined below, but NACS’s Research Computing Support maintains a detailed discussion with links to sites from which you can get data transfer tools.

Two basic strategies exist which can reduce the actual volume of data you need to transfer: compression and synchronization.  Unless your data is already in a compressed form (say, MP3 files), compression can save a great deal of time and network capacity.  Many transfer tools can even do on-the-fly compression.  If your files contain sensitive information, you may wish to consider encrypting the data you’re transferring, although this imposes a small time penalty.

The second strategy, particularly when you’re regularly moving the same data, is to use a synchronization tool that recognizes that only part of your data is new and needs to be transferred.  This can be particularly convenient if you have an entire directory tree you wish to send over the network.

A final technique which might apply in some cases is to make the best possible use of the network, either by setting up multiple parallel data-transfer streams, or even creating a special-purpose GridFTP node.  RCS staff can help you analyze your data transfer needs, choose a method, and set up your system.

RCS staff will also coordinate with NACS Network Engineers to ensure they are aware of research data transfer needs in various campus locations.  This will help inform future network upgrade plans.  In addition, in a few cases, it may be possible to upgrade network connections to higher speed to support critical research requirements.