The Prism@UCSD project is building a research-defined, end-to-end cyberinfrastructure on the La Jolla campus capable of supporting bursts of data between facilities that might otherwise cripple the main campus network. With $500,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), researchers in the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) are building the network to support researchers in half a dozen data-intensive scientific areas, including genomic sequencing, climate science, electron microscopy, oceanography and physics. The Prism@UCSD team has identified a variety of big data users on the campus who need ten gigabit/s and faster bandwidth to deal with the avalanche of data coming from scientific instruments such as gene sequencers, digital electron microscopes and computing clusters. With the addition of Prism to Calit2’s research network infrastructure, the aggregate bandwidth in the Calit2 network will now top one terabit per second – one trillion bits per second.


In the past decade, Smarr and Papadopoulos have collaborated on multiple NSF-funded projects to enable cheaper, faster and more energy-efficient scientific computing, storage and visualization.

Their OptIPuter project developed a new computer networking paradigm, with optical networks – not computer processors – at the core. That led to Quartzite, an experimental network with reconfigurable optical fiber paths, and wavelength selective switching. The Quartzite core is now six years old, is at full capacity, consumes significant energy, and does not support software-defined networking (SDN) tools such as OpenFlow. Based on those realities and lessons learned in previous projects, Papadopoulos and Smarr were able to create a successful proposal to the National Science Foundation for a more robust, lower energy, faster, and easier to replicate design. Prism builds on top of Quartzite, using a next-generation Arista Networks 7405 switch-router, which boasts triple the energy efficiency and four times the capacity of Quartzite’s switch. Prism will also expand the existing Calit2-SDSC optical-fiber connection.


Philip Papadopoulos, PI, QI/CALIT2 and SDSC
Larry Smarr, co-PI, QI/CALIT2 and JSOE
Tad Reynales, Infrastructure Manager, QI/CALIT2
Tom Hutton, Network Engineer, SDSC
Brian Dunne, Network Architect, ACT, UCSD
Dheeraj Navani, Student, Software Defined
Networking, QI/CALIT2
Scott Blair, Webmaster, QI/CALIT2


Viewing Research Bandwidth Through a New Prism

After developing one of the most advanced research communications infrastructures on any university campus over the past decade, the University of California, San Diego is taking another leap forward in the name of enabling data-intensive science.

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