The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has brought about major changes in the research and education communities across the United States. Network access, computer centers, health care, climate change research… the list of funded initiatives is long, and the resulting improvements are long overdue! As a nation, we have been lagging in our expansion of infrastructure in this country, allowing our global partners to assume the leadership role the U.S. once enjoyed. All of us are affected in one way or another by these aggressive programs, not the least of which is MAGPI. Our ability to understand and use these funds effectively will be a major challenge for the next three to five years.
Although my crystal ball occasionally freezes and needs to be re-booted, I see that the next five years will consist of a rapidly changing environment that will embrace technology as the answer to new teaching and learning methodologies while we are still in the throes of a poor economy. Research applications will continue grow and develop, at least in the short term, demanding bandwidth that was unthinkable a short decade ago. We are in the midst of these developments at this very moment, and an organization like MAGPI will need to remain flexible and adaptive to the new demands of its members and use its resources wisely. With the creation of KINBER in Pennsylvania, and the existing NJEDge network in New Jersey, coupled with ARRA/BTOP funding of US UCAN, infrastructure takes a giant leap forward in our direct service area. The construction of PennREN, an all-optical network that covers 39 counties and over 1,500 miles with 48 strands of darkfiber, will remove a significant number of barriers to capacity and access within PA. MAGPI can use that resource to replace its direct connections and save the member organizations thousands of dollars in connection fees. If the universities, colleges, schools, healthcare facilities, and all other institutions can realize the economies of scale by continuing to use MAGPI as their Internet2 and global point of access, then it just makes sense that KINBER/PennREN be the transport mechanism. This will require us to change the fee structure from a bandwidth base, to a service/membership offering. We have already established a model that is effective for non-connected institutions in Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, New York, and Ohio, and are providing the original content events and professional development programs. Why not disassociate service fees from bandwidth fees and replicate that model in the tri-state region? We have a lot to offer, and there should be options based on the need instead of a “one size fits all” perspective. There! The crystal ball has finished loading its new software! For the heavy duty researchers in the region, I see our declining cost model for dark fiber directly to these sites playing a larger role in the development and deployment of new tools for bandwidth sharing. MAGPI has already incorporated the Internet2 ION service into our portfolio, (http://www.internet2.edu/ion/) , with Rutgers WinLab, (http://www.winlab.rutgers.edu/) and is working on plans for the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania. The next phase for us will be to seek the NSF grant for DYNES, (http://www.internet2.edu/ion/dynes.html) and deploy that in the region. Both of these initiatives will satisfy that growing hunger for bandwidth while keeping the costs affordable and sustainable.
Certainly a lot is happening, and these examples are literally the tip of the iceberg. MAGPI will continue to keep an eye on the technology crystal ball and adapt to this changing environment with new and upgraded services as the need, (and the budget), permits.
All the best,