With the support of I-Light, Indiana’s high-speed fiber optic network for the research and education community, Indiana University’s regional campuses and three other Indiana institutions of higher learning have been awarded funding from the Campus Cyberinfrastructure (CC*) grants through the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Grants from the Campus Cyberinfrastructure (CC*) program are intended for improvements to campus networks, with a specific focus on science applications and distributed research.

While Indiana’s larger universities have access to sizable networks, researchers on smaller campuses often face roadblocks when working with large volumes of data. I-Light helps connect its members to each other as well as to state, national, and international research and education networks, but according to Marianne Chitwood, director of I-Light, the changing nature of technology and education makes it tough for campus cyberinfrastructure to keep up.

“Our members need a 1Gpbs (Gigabit per second) connection, or a 10Gpbs connection, with some large institutions even connecting with a 100Gpbs connection,” she explained. “They need all students, faculty, and staff to be able to send and receive information, so not only for campus-based research, but also for the delivery of education, these kinds of connections are critical.”

The path to receiving grant funding can be bumpy as well, which is why I-Light works to support institutions through the process. The team’s assistance can be as simple as making institutions aware of the grant opportunities, or as involved as consulting on the school’s proposed network design.

According to Chitwood, I-Light has fostered relationships across the state and national R&E community that result in the letters of collaboration the schools need to show support for their campus initiatives.

“With every applicant, we request letters from IU, I-Light, The Quilt and Internet2 saying, ‘We will collaborate to help this grant applicant accomplish their goals,'” she said. “We’re showing through those letters that there’s a robust community supporting the applicant.”

DePauw University is the state’s most recent recipient of a CC* grant, which will be used to improve the school’s cyberinfrastructure and network connectivity in three ways: increasing the campus connection to I-Light from 1Gpbs to 10Gbps; creating a secondary fiber optic link to I-Light; and prioritizing science data flows with high performance data transfer.

In 2016, IU’s regional campuses were awarded a CC* grant for network infrastructure to support and increase their connections to the core campuses in Bloomington and Indianapolis. By improving the connection speed and data transfer rates, the campuses plan to address immediate research needs and pave the way for future, collaborative regional projects.

Earlham College and Wabash College both received CC* grants for network infrastructure upgrades in 2014. Earlham used the funding to improve network connections for the school’s Science Complex and add a dedicated network for science research traffic. That upgrade, along with added high-speed access to Internet2, made it possible for students and faculty to more easily conduct computational research and data transfer.

At Wabash, the funding increased the school’s network connections by tenfold and created redundant network paths to campus science buildings. The grant also enabled the creation of a 10Gbps-capable Science DMZ, a configuration that improves security by segregating computers on either side of a firewall. Wabash’s DMZ allows for high-performance data transfer across regional and national research networks.

For I-Light, the opportunity to support smaller institutions through the grant process is at the heart of its mission-each campus’s achievements strengthen the overall network. “They’re our members, they’re why we’re in existence,” Chitwood said. “The grants are good for each recipient, our state, our network, and our research community.”