Merit Professional Development

Merit Joint Technical Staff (MJTS) Fall 2011 Meeting Overview

Caitlin Judge 2011 News, News, News - Events

On September 27, Merit Network held its semiannual meeting of MJTS (Merit Joint Technical Staff) at Michigan State University in East Lansing and via two-way interactive video-conference at Bay College in Escanaba and at the University Center in Gaylord. MJTS is an open forum for representatives from Merit Network’s Member organizations to discuss issues related to networking and information technology. The forum featured timely presentations on advanced technologies, Member projects, and Merit Network happenings.

Mike Milliken, Merit Network’s director of network engineering, started the event with an update on Merit’s REACH-3MC stimulus project. The update included information about specific fiber runs, the hardware being used to build the routes, and the connectivity options at points along the network.
MJTS photo 1
Don Welch, president and CEO of Merit Network, spoke about the potential for Ludington’s pumped storage power plant to become the ideal location for data centers in Michigan. According to his presentation, there are no similar sites like it anywhere else in the United States in terms of natural power and cooling capabilities. The presentation included aerial shots of the plant that conveyed its proximity to the Ludington Reservoir. The reservoir’s structure would prove to be an unparalleled source for the power and cooling for a large-scale data center.

Allen Kluender of Cisco Systems, a Merit Community Supporter, discussed methods to enable a web presence for IPv6 access. He included a brief overview of translation techniques, as well as DNS and options for directly enabling IPv6 on web servers. The presentation included useful diagrams for different solutions and types of network architecture, among several other helpful examples.

Philippe Laurens from Michigan State University presented his team’s work on the international ATLAS Experiment, which is a particle physics project with the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. He explained how the project relies on passing massive data sets between institutions and what networking and tools are involved in that process, particularly the use of perfSONAR to detect and diagnose networking problems. As one of the largest efforts in physical sciences to date, the ATLAS collaboration project includes participants from 38 countries, roughly 170 institutions and universities, about 3,000 physicists and 1,000 students. The presentation included several diagrams, photos, and examples of how this large-scale technology is being used and studied to detect network issues.
MJTS photo 2
During lunch, the Services team from Merit Network held an optional discussion to gain feedback from Members about current and prospective Merit services. The open table discussion included Members from both large and small institutions around Michigan. The major topic of discussion was about virtual data centers and how to make them cost efficient for organizations of varying sizes. Thanks to the collaborative nature of the discussion, Merit’s services and engineering staff were able to get some insight into the issues our Members are dealing with and how Merit can work to remedy those problems.

After lunch, the Director of Member Relations at Merit Network, Jason Russell, discussed Merit’s recent transition to a new regional Member Relations outreach model. The new model increases staff and expands Merit’s presence throughout Michigan, placing Member Relations Managers in six different geographic regions across the state. The new model will help managers build better relationships with Members and be more readily available to help them leverage their connection to Merit and the Merit Community. The regional structure will also facilitate outreach activities and allow Member Relations Managers to become better advocates for their Members.

Northern Michigan University’s (NMU) director of technical services John Marra and its senior programmer and analyst Chris Lewis presented the findings of their Power Saving Initiative Program. In 2009 the NMU IT staff was asked to come up with ideas for saving money without reducing service or staff. After collecting two years of data they found that powering down equipment, raising the thermostat in the summer, replacing outdated HVAC equipment, and replacing licensed Learning Management Systems (LMS) software in favor of open source Moodle were effective ways of reducing the cost and power in a data center.

Next, Randy Jobski of Lansing Community College (LCC) gave an introduction to Higher Education Application Tracker (HEAT), LCC’s new application that helps higher education institutions collaborate on technology projects. He explained how HEAT is able to track applications and services that institutions have installed or plan to install. Participants in the program can use HEAT to find collaborators and assistance with their own projects. After explaining the crux of the application, Jobski used screen shots to show the Members at MJTS what HEAT looks like and how it is used. While HEAT is sponsored by LCC, it is entirely free to other institutions.

Derek Harkness, manager of service infrastructure at Merit Network, gave the final presentation of the day about the tools and techniques that are important for building a virtual data center (VDC). He discussed storage tiers and how they can be used effectively, as well as how to find and manage a toolset that works for your data center. He also discussed cost control and what that means in terms of VDC use for different types of institutions.

Overall, the forum was a great opportunity for Merit Members to learn from their peers by sharing their experiences and insights. Members were able to make new contacts with other institutions and talk to Merit staff about how they can better leverage their organization within the Merit Community.