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Benefits for Rice University

It is very clear that the environment for higher education is rapidly changing. Today, Rice University's network infrastructure is not sufficient to meet current academic, research, and operational demands. This system that used to enhance education, facilitate research, and support operations has now begun to be a significant obstacle to Rice's utilization of cyberinfrastructure. The Rice community has hundreds of applications, systems (e.g., e-mail, Banner, student registration, financial management, admissions, recruitment, human resources, Fondren Library Digital Library, etc.), and research projects that demand far more that what the current network is capable of.

Researcher's Ability to Compete for Research Grants Departments Use of IT Research and Services Educational Technology Fondren Library
Language Resource Center Research Infrastructure Research Initiatives Research Projects - Expanding Needs

The current network has served the Rice community well since 1989. Throughout the years, a few of the network switches were replaced as part of maintenance or as new network needs arise; however, a large number of the "old" network switches are still functioning. Some of these network switches have passed their useful age and now beginning show signs of stress. With the demands and the continuous operation, it is only a matter of time before the next switch fails.

The new Rice Network will not only increase reliability, but benefit the research and educational goals at the university.

Competitiveness: Researcher's Ability to Compete for Research Grants

Rice University researchers are starting to express concerns over their ability to continue competing for research grants without a network that can support high speed computation. Their concern centered on the inadequate bandwidth between their labs and the campus computing resources as well as the collaborative network such as Internet2. The lack of hardware and software that can provide the required networking features, security, and bandwidth throughout the central resources could make them less competitive for grants requiring high performance computing and/or networking.

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Departments Use of IT Research Support and Services

The list of departments that use the network for support and services encompasses the entire campus. Each department uses the network in different ways and these uses are starting to take on a lot of sophistication in terms of technologies such as multicast traffic, video streaming, wireless devices, pervasive devices such as PDAs, PC tablets, collaborative teaching, etc.

These departments include:

  • School of Architecture
  • School of Continuing Studies
  • George R. Brown School of Engineering
    • Bioengineering
    • Chemical Engineeringo
    • Civil and Environmental Engineering
    • Computational and Applied Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Electrical and Computer Engineering
    • Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
    • Statistics
  • School of Humanities
    • Art History
    • Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations
    • Asian Studies
    • Center for the Study of Languages
    • Classical Studieso English
    • French Studies
    • German and Slavic Studies
    • History
    • Hispanic Studies
    • Italian
    • Kinesiology
    • Linguistics
    • Medieval Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Study of Women and Gender
    • Visual Arts
  • Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management
    o Rice Executive Education
  • Shepherd School of Music
  • Wiess School of Natural Sciences
    • Biochemistry and Cell Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
    • Earth Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics and Astronomy
  • School of Social Sciences
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Managerial Studies
    • Political Science
    • Policy Studies
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
  • Interdisciplinary and other academic programs
    • Applied Physics Program
    • Cognitive Sciences
    • Education Certification
    • Environmental Programs
    • Leadership Rice
    • Military Science
    • Naval Science
    • Professional Masters Programs
    • Rice Theatre Program
    • and many other departments and groups
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Educational Technology

The services Rice Information Technology (IT) provides in support of the teaching mission of the University fall into four general categories:

1. Owlnet Computing Labs – Owlnet labs provide student access to computing resources, University-licensed software, and specialized hardware for course-related work. The 35 labs provide access to a total of 377 seats on three computing platforms.

2. Classroom Technology – A total of 87 of the 112 Registrar-booked classrooms on campus have been equipped with varying levels classroom technology over the last seven years. More than half of those rooms have a full compliment of video and audio capabilities. Most of the rooms have network connectivity needs.

3. Educational Computing Infrastructure – In order to support the educational computing needs of Rice IT maintains 29 servers (17 UNIX, 8 PC, and 4 Mac) providing a variety of central services. Additionally, Owlnet provides centralized, network based storage for all students' course work and educational material.

4. Educational Software – IT licenses approximately 200 commercial software applications and several hundred non-commercial applications to support course-related work on Owlnet PC, Mac and UNIX workstations and compute servers. Applications vary widely in their complexity, intended use, and licensing costs.

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Fondren Library

The Fondren Library was founded in 1913 with a beginning collection of fewer than 200 volumes. Today, Fondren Library is a modern research library with over 2 million volumes, 2.9 million microforms, and 33,200 current serials and periodicals. The scope of Fondren Library's collection is broad with excellent coverage in art, architecture, history, literature, music, philosophy, languages, economics, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.

The library is also a selective depository for U.S. and Texas government publications and for U.S. patents and trademarks. The Fondren Library is also home to the GIS/Data Center, which provides library users with access to GIS software and supporting hardware, to data resources, and to print and digital map resources. The Electronic Resources Center houses equipment that supports the creation and use of digital resources for teaching, learning, and research by providing students, faculty, and staff access to electronic texts and scholarly databases, web development tools, and expert consultation. The Fondren Library will soon be requiring a substantial amount of bandwidth and reliability to accommodate the Rice academic community as well as world-wide academic arena.

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Language Resource Center

The Language Resource Center (LRC) is a state of the art facility created to support the needs of foreign language study. It provides resources for classroom instruction and independent study. Information and training for use of equipment and software. Support for technology-enhanced curriculum development includes:

Services Provided for Language Faculty

  • Space reservations for orientations to teach students how to use software programs required for their courses.
  • The LRC's own Learning Management System, ExTemplate, which enables faculty to develop web based multimedia exercises with complete record keeping in all languages offered at Rice.
  • Workshops in integrating technology into the foreign language curriculum.
  • Digitizing and streaming of frequently used videotapes and audio recordings for more widespread use.
  • Videotaping of classes and instructors.
  • Server space for faculty web pages, audio and video files.

Services Provided for Language Students

  • Internet access to all digital audio and video material required for foreign language classes.
  • Forty computers for the use of foreign language software programs only available in the LRC.
  • Technical support for input and browsing of non-Western languages and all the software programs required for language courses.

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Research Infrastructure

The recent report by the National Science Foundation Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure states:

"Advances in computational technology continue to transform scientific and engineering research, practice, and allied education. Recently, multiple accelerating trends are converging and crossing thresholds in ways that show extraordinary promise for an even more profound and rapid transformation - indeed a further revolution - in how we create, disseminate, and preserve scientific and engineering knowledge. We now have the opportunity and responsibility to integrate and extend the products of the digital revolution to serve the next generation of science and engineering research and education.

Digital computation, data, information, and networks are now being used to replace and extend traditional efforts in science and engineering research, indeed to create new disciplines. The classic two approaches to scientific research, theoretical/analytical and experimental/observational, have been extended to in silicon simulation to explore a larger number of possibilities at new levels of temporal and spatial fidelity."

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Research Initiatives

Rice University's research activities in areas such as bioinformatics, computational sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and humanities as well as stronger ties to the Texas Medical Center all require a stable, reliable, and high performance research infrastructure. In particular, initiatives such as the National Lambda Rail project (NLR), the LoneStar Education and Research Network (LEARN), High Performance Computing Across Texas (HiPCAT) will transform educational networking services.

LEARN Network is a consortium of research universities that is creating an $80-million fiber-optic computer network. The system, called the National LambdaRail, initially will operate four separate national computer networks, each with a capacity equal to the most powerful national research network now in operation, the Abilene network operated by the Internet2 organization. LambdaRail will accomplish that feat by transmitting data over four different wavelengths of light. Each wavelength will be able to carry as much data as Abilene, and the fiber-optic network eventually could offer 40 such wavelengths. The consortium of research universities owns the LambaRail network and Rice is one of the members of this consortium. Rice University stands to become a major contributor to this new network

Rice University recently became the newest member institution of the Texas Medical Center (TMC), creating a stronger tie for the large number joint research between Rice and the TMC.

High Performance Computing Across Texas (HiPCAT) is a consortium of Texas institutions that use advanced computational technologies to enhance research, development, and educational activities. Again, Rice has a great opportunity to participate in an initiative that will improve collaboration between researchers of peer institutions.

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Research Projects - Expanding Needs

This small sampling of Rice projects indicates the expansion in technology requirements that is necessary to attain current and future research objectives.

• Connexions Project: "Connexions is a revolutionary approach to education that seeks to provide a place where everyone in the world can share knowledge for free. Based on concepts pioneered in open-source computing, Connexions provides equal access to all, via tools that let everyone from university professors to school children — post and update knowledge in one place, the Content Commons. The project provides free, Web-based tools that make it easy for anyone to access materials in the Content Commons, modify them to meet their specific needs, collaborate with others, and to explore the links between concepts, courses, and disciplines.

• 100x100 Project: The 100x100 Project brings together economists, security and networking experts, network operators, and policy specialists to create blueprints for a network that goes beyond today's Internet. Drawing on technology trends and the experience of the past 30 years, these scientists are re-prioritizing the fundamental principles that underlie network design to craft networks that will be ubiquitous in scale, revolutionary in bandwidth, economically self-sustaining, resistant to attack, and tractable to manage.

• Rice Terascale Cluster (RTC)-2 512 Processor: Psychology is partnered with Computer and Information Technology Institute at Rice (CITI) on National Science Foundation (NSF) MRI proposal for "RTC-2" 512 processor AMD Opteron cluster. The Rice Terascale Cluster (RTC) is a 1 TeraFLOP Linux cluster based on IntelR ItaniumR 2 Processors. The RTC was acquired using a Major Research Infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation and a strong alliance between Rice, Hewlett Packard and Intel. The NSF MRI grant was obtained through a collaboration of more than 30 CITI-affiliated researchers from ten departments in the schools of engineering, natural sciences, and social sciences.

• RENÉ Project: (Rice Everywhere Network) is a mobile and wireless communication project that is set to develop a multi-tier hardware and software system that will provide seamless, ubiquitous, and high-quality wireless voice and data communications.

• Digital Library: At Rice University in Houston, Texas, (Rice) administrators and faculty are aggressively seeking to upgrade the quality of information services traditionally provided by the campus research library, Fondren Library, by coupling its relatively small but distinctive paper-based collection with a substantial investment in digital multimedia resources. A rich digital landscape exists at Rice, with electronic content growing at a rapid pace. The digital library project will integrate the many existing repositories of digital data, text, video, audio and images into a coherent and comprehensive architecture to allow digital information to be shared and enhanced to effectively support teaching and research at Rice.

• Art History: The Visual Resources Center of the Department of Art and Art History comprises approximately 275,000 35mm slides of the world's architecture, sculpture, painting, minor arts, and photography, as well as images of maps, city views, didactic material, historical figures, and events.
Although its primary mission is to serve the teaching needs of the Department of Art and Art History, the Visual Resources Collection is accessible to all Rice University departments. Non-department patrons, after checking in with a member of the VRC staff, may work in the collection during regular hours and have one-day (24 hours) borrowing privileges.

• Digital Media Services: are bandwidth intensive services provided by Information Technology that include:
Streaming Internet Video Archive- streaming event video out on the Internet or view on the campus network, cable modem, DSL (digital subscriber line) or POTS (plain old telephone service) modem.
Lecture and Event Recording- Special guest lectures, conferences, or other special events can be broadcast live to the campus cable system, digitally broadcast on the Internet, or passed through to satellite uplinks to national broadcast networks.

• Digital Video Editing - Using state-of-the-art computer-based non-linear editing (NLE) systems, raw footage is turned into a polished, completed video, ready for delivery on tape, disc, campus, or the Internet.
Videoconferencing- provides high-speed videoconferencing links to sites worldwide.

• For a complete listing of research departments, research groups, schools, and programs at Rice University, please refer to: http://www.students.rice.edu/students/Departments.asp

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Rice University
Network Infrastructure Project 2005-2007
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