Four Award-Winning Applications

  • Applications
  • Internet2
ANN ARBOR, MI -- The super-fast research network Internet2, which serves as a testbed for the broadband applications of the future, gives awards every year to the most innovative of those applications. The 2010 awards went to four applications: EchoDamp, which supports live musical collaboration; the Research and Education Data Depot network (REDDnet) Data Logistics Toolkit and model for supporting data-intensive collaboration; Worldview, which enables real-time 3-D network monitoring and visualization; and Shibboleth, a network security management system.

"This year's winning applications have two things in common," says Tom Knab, CIO of the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and chair of the award judging committee. "All have applied advanced networking technology to enable transformational progress in research, teaching and learning, and all promise to increase the impact of next-generation networks around the world. The winning submissions were selected from an exceptionally strong nominations pool and represent a cross-section of the wide-ranging innovation that is occurring within the Internet2 member community."

Each application was nominated by a member of the Internet2 community and judged by a member–based committee on innovation in advanced network applications for research, teaching, learning and collaboration, the depth of each project's positive impact on primary users, its technical merit, and its likelihood to be broadly adopted by its community of potential users.

The Winners Are ...
EchoDamp, created by Brian Shepard, Assistant Professor of Pedagogical Technology, University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, is a software multichannel audio mixer and echo controller designed for the high-performance network, musical videoconferencing environment. It features intuitive, easy-to-use controls and supports numerous hardware audio interfaces on both Macintosh and Windows computers. A perennial "show-stopper" for live-performance videoconferencing is audio feedback -- where sound from the remote site feeds back into the originating site's microphones, creating an annoying loop -- which can make effective communication nearly impossible. Unlike currently available echo-canceling microphones, which cancel out too many important frequencies to be acceptable for musicians, EchoDamp listens for the directionality of a sound's source, using that information to prevent echo from entering the audio chain in the first place. If echo does enter the signal, it is gracefully damped in an unobtrusive and musical manner. EchoDamp allows users to fully participate in high-bandwidth, live-streaming, bidirectional content without the constant annoyance and distraction of echo.

"Since getting involved with Internet2 more than a decade ago, my goal has been to make sure our 'global village' has a great concert hall and conservatory. A critical element in reaching that goal is controlling the echo that is inherent in high-bandwidth, musical videoconferences. The concepts in EchoDamp started as just my own personal solution to echo control, and I'm delighted that their evolution has become so useful for others. After seeing this year's other IDEA Award recipients, I am both thrilled and humbled for EchoDamp to be counted among them," says Shepard.

The Research and Education Data Depot network (REDDnet) is an NSF-funded infrastructure project that provides a large distributed storage facility for data-intensive collaboration among the nation's researchers and educators in areas such as high-energy physics. The underlying software distribution, called the Data Logistics Toolkit (DLT), provides a powerful platform for campuses looking to create bridges for data-intensive collaboration with national or regional infrastructure.

The REDDnet model provides "working storage" to help manage the logistical factors in moving and staging large amounts of data across the wide area network -- not just fast transport, but enormous data volumes, globally distributed data, asynchronous data access and data preprocessing. To solve these problems, REDDnet integrates high-performance networking with a unique form of storage technology specifically designed for both deployment scalability and fast data transfer within wide area networks. Users include collaborating researchers who are trying to move data from one collaborator (person or institution) to another, or researchers who want share large data sets for limited periods of time (ranging from a few hours to a few months) while they work on it. Technology creators believe it will provide a powerful platform for campuses to create bridges with national or regional infrastructure for data-intensive collaboration.

"Network storage resources are critical to big science projects like the Large Hadron Collider, which require the ability for scientists to house both raw and processed data. This data also needs to be available at well-connected end sites so that it can be accessed easily or stored for backup purposes," says Paul Sheldon, professor of Physics and director of the Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education at Vanderbilt University and REDDnet Principal Investigator. "REDDnet provides a streamlined solution tailored to researchers to facilitate the scientific output across a wide range of disciplines."

Worldview was developed by Indiana University's Global Research Network Operations Center (GlobalNOC). GlobalNOC engineers sought an improved way to make sense of the more than 3,300 interconnects between 1,700 routing/switching devices supported by GlobalNOC across the globe, and to communicate network information to nonexpert audiences. Their solution was Worldview, a highly sophisticated, hands-on network visualization system that lets users search for real-time or historical network information using an intuitive, multitouch interface where they can zoom, pan and tilt with simple hand gestures. The system can create visualizations of any geographic scope -- from the entire globe to a small campus network segment.

Worldview not only helps network engineers monitor the end-to-end paths traveled by research data, but is also becoming a much-sought-after tool for educating the public about advanced networking. Users have already imagined numerous ideas for other applications and additional data layers. For instance, Worldview can be used to track the impact of the nation's broadband stimulus projects, overlaying collected census block data to show unserved and underserved areas and how those areas change over time as broadband becomes more pervasive.

"Network visualization can be difficult even for experts," says IU Vice President for Information Technology and CIO Brad Wheeler. "With Worldview even the most nontechnical people can immediately grasp what's going on in a network by using common maps, colors, real-time data feeds, and touch-based navigation to explore and see results. The future for this kind of mashup-based tool is extremely bright."

Also honored this year is Shibboleth Federated Single Sign-On Software, developed and supported by a growing international community. Shibboleth is a standards-based, open-source solution for Web-based single sign-on across and within organizational boundaries. Implementing widely used federated identity standards, Shibboleth simplifies the management of identity and permissions by allowing sites to make informed authorization decisions for individual access of protected online resources in a privacy-preserving manner.

As more universities, companies, government agencies and national labs collaborate and offer services online, users struggle to manage a ballooning set of user IDs and passwords and organizations struggle to close security holes and manage service change requests. Shibboleth was created to address these and other issues related to sharing information securely within and among organizations. The Shibboleth infrastructure, together with related policies, processes, standards and tools, has had significant impacts, and is deployed in thousands of sites spanning academia, research, government and industry.

"Shibboleth has evolved to become a community source project that's supported worldwide," said Steven Carmody, Shibboleth Project Lead and IT Architect at Brown University. "In the beginning, our goal was to develop software that supported higher-ed's complex and varied use-cases. Along the way, we influenced identified standards to make sure they supported the community's needs and provided built-in inter-operability with commercial products. We came out the other side with not only the Shibboleth code, but also a solution for a national federated identity infrastructure that's being adopted worldwide."


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