To the power
Securing ten times the network capacity until 2022
Janet6, the next generation of the UK’s national research and education infrastructure, is
essential in supporting both scientists and academics to manage large amounts of data.
Their needs have now been secured through the investment from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the higher and further education funding councils.
Professor Martyn Harrow, Jisc chief executive, explains:
“Jisc first started funding the Janet network in 1984 with 60 universities and the
UK Research Councils. It now has over 18 million users across the UK and
underpins the digital resources and activities across education and research. As
an ex-director of information services and libraries I know how much colleges and
universities depend on a robust and reliable network. Janet6 will provide network
capacity from a starting point of two terabits per second and increasing over the
next five years up to a staggering eight terabits per second or even more –
placing the UK in an unrivalled position.”
Professor Martyn Harrow
Jisc chief executive
“I started my career as an experimental chemist, at a time when computers were first being used in simulations and other techniques that, today, are such powerful tools. To me, the ELIXIR initiative, which brings together Europe’s leading life science organisations to manage and safeguard the huge volumes of data being generated through publicly-funded research, is an excellent example of where this is being taken next. I’m really proud that, through this latest set of investments, Janet will be able to support ELIXIR as it addresses some of humankind’s greatest challenges.”
Chief Technology Officer, Janet
Janet6 will enable universities to stay competitive on both a national and international level and support the £60bn contribution that HE brings to the UK economy. The new infrastructure will allow universities to exploit the benefits of new technologies in order to work smarter and meet their business needs, in this challenging time.
Janet’s chief technology officer Bob Day explains what this will bring to research and education now, and what the network might do next.
How does the Janet network compare with those in other countries?
Over the past 25 years we have kept Janet evolving so it is always ready for what happens next, and I think it’s fair to say that it has consistently been among the best.
We have done much of the latest development work to build Janet6 in collaboration with developers of similar networks overseas because, increasingly, their concerns and ours are similar in terms of the requirement for enhanced power, speed, flexibility and connectivity.
The impetus for the latest upgrade comes particularly from the need to continue Janet’s support for the UK’s research community as its members compete and collaborate on the world stage, so it’s entirely right that we work with partners around the world to develop sound strategies and systems that work for all of us.
Have the ways in which people use the network changed over time?
Yes, definitely, but not as much as I think they are about to.
The trends in education and research that we can see emerging now will gather pace over the next five to ten years, and the latest developments in Janet will help to support these.
In education, universities and colleges are developing their internationalisation strategies and working more with overseas students, whether by opening campuses overseas, or by increasing their distance learning offer. At the same time, they are responding to financial pressure at home by outsourcing crucial services such as email and data storage to commercial service providers. Both of these developments will demand more from the Janet network.
Janet6 provides network capacity currently starting at around 3 Terabit/s, and that is set to increase over the next five years to 8 Terabit/s or even more and, by moving to a long-term fibre contract, we have made sure we can provide maximum agility and scaleability, even when unpredictable demands are placed on the network.
For researchers, the key trend is the drive to make research more and more robust and data-intensive, as high speed computing provides the number-crunching power needed to extract information from vast data sets. While high performance computing consortia – such as HECToR in the UK and Prace in Europe – are being created at regional, national and international levels, the capability to support collaborations and transfer vast volumes of data will have to be provided by networks such as Janet.
We’re confident that the latest developments will support that, and that the new Janet also has the flexibility to cope with unforeseen spikes in demand created by particularly data-driven research efforts in fields such as biomedical sciences, climate science and genomics.
And right across the spectrum of academic disciplines, the urgency that is being given to the accessibility and openness agenda is driving the growth of repositories and data mining, which will place higher demands on the Janet network.
Do you see any urgent challenges facing researchers as they come to rely on high speed computing?
There are a couple. One relates to the software that drives high speed computing – there is a lack of it and, more concerningly, there are too few people qualified to write it. The second is a lack of awareness of, and ability to exploit, emerging technologies. This doesn’t just mean high performance computing itself, but also all the rest of the infrastructure that supports it, including high performance networks such as Janet.
The solution to both issues lies in training and awareness raising activities, and an encouraging lead on this is being taken by the E-infrastructure Leadership Council, which was set up earlier this year by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). It is bringing together academics, industry, charities and the public sector to find a practical and effective way forward.
What do you think the next steps are likely to be for the network?
As collaborations become more common – locally and globally, as well as with commerce and the third sector – e-infrastructure will be called upon to support them.
So our challenge for the future is to help people to experience a seamless connection across networks, wherever they are, whatever device they are using, so they have full and easy access to all the exciting resources that should be available to them, regardless of where they are stored.