U-M receives grant to develop secure, high-capacity research network

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(Rachael Wojciechowski, ITS Communications)

Several University of Michigan units have received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure for a project that will enhance the university’s network security and assist the needs of its research community.

NetBASILISK — short for Network Border At Scale Integrating and Leveraging Individual Security Components — is a collaborative effort that brings together prominent U-M faculty and technology experts to develop a secure, data-intensive network solution to effectively transport extremely high volumes of research network traffic.

Participating units include Information and Technology Services, College of Engineering, Life Science Institute and LSA.

Leading the effort are J. Alex Halderman, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, CoE; Michael Cianfrocco, research assistant professor, Life Sciences Institute, and assistant professor of biological chemistry, Medical School; Shawn McKee, research scientist in physics, LSA; and Principal Investigator Eric Boyd, director of networks, ITS.

Halderman’s team is planning to use NetBASILISK for its network security research ZMap project, and to potentially expand its anti-censorship refraction networking work.

Cianfrocco and his team will transport high-volume data flows from the University Cryogenic Electromagnetic Microscope to the storage and processing centers around the globe through NetBASILISK infrastructure.

McKee and his researchers will, through NetBASILISK, receive high volumes of data from the CERN Large Hadron Collider to be processed by U-M ATLAS Great Lakes Tier 2 computational cluster.

“Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) is a powerful technique that helps scientists at U-M determine the 3-D structure of nanoscale machines that work within our cells,” Cianfrocco said. “In order to use this technique, researchers collect terabytes of data each day on each instrument in order to collect enough data to obtain atomic-level detail of nanomachines.

“Given these large datasets, moving this data within and outside of U-M requires reliable, fast networking infrastructure. This means that we were excited to partner with Eric Boyd and the ITS team to be a part of his exciting NetBASILISK project in order to provide us with increased IT security while maintaining fast data transfers.

“The grant comes at a particularly exciting time for cryo-EM at U-M due to the expansion of cryo-EM across campus as a part of the Biosciences Initiative. As a part of NetBASILISK, cryo-EM will continue to grow and to serve researchers across the campus.”

Boyd said that, with NetBASILISK, U-M seeks to “have its cake and eat it, too.”

“With this project we hope to determine how to build a network border security solution that defends the university at scale, while facilitating data intensive science,” he said.

“We will attempt to prove that whether you are moving massive amounts of data on campus or off campus, or whether you seek to do innovative network research, the university’s security solution meets the research needs of faculty and students.”

ITS is setting up the NetBASILISK network based on a combination of the open source solutions, commercial products and open source network metrics tools. The findings and solution will be widely shared with educational and research institutions around the world.

The project kicked off in early October 2019 and will last two years.