Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Receives 2 NSF Grants Totaling $2.5 Million

Issue Date: 
September 20, 2010

The Three Rivers Optical Exchange (3ROX), the advanced network research group at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, has received two National Science Foundation (NSF) four-year grants totaling $2.5 million.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University with Westinghouse Electric Co.

The first grant is a four-year Academic Research Infrastructure award of $1.54 million to fund a major upgrade of the Southwestern Pennsylvania region’s research and education network environment, which 3ROX maintains and manages. That network currently permits many Pennsylvania and West Virginia universities and schools to connect to national high-performance network resources, such as Internet2 and National LambdaRail. Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Penn State University, West Virginia University, and the Pittsburgh Public Schools will benefit from the upgrade, which also will increase 3ROX’s fiber-based optical capability by boosting high-end transmission rates tenfold, from 10 gigabits per second to 100 gigabits, said Wendy Huntoon, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s director of networking.

In addition to networking upgrades, the Academic Research Infrastructure grant will make available a pool of circuits, called transponders, at no cost on an as-needed basis for data-intensive research. The transponders will free researchers from bandwidth limitations when they are researching and experimenting with various bandwidth sizes. Pittsburgh-based examples of such projects include detector development for the Geneva, Switzerland-based Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, and seismology and earthquake engineering.

The second NSF grant, a $980,000 Software Development for Cyberinfrastructure award, will fund the Web10Gig Project, which is developing network software to enable ordinary users to effectively use advanced computer networks.

“The potential broader impact of Web10Gig is huge,” Huntoon said. “It can make it easy for users from the broadest ranges of fields and technical abilities to use the network to its full capacity. Eliminating many common network problems will have a transformative effect for researchers in many disciplines.”