Courtesy of Dr. Gwen Jacobs, Director of Academic Computing

Montana State University (MSU) Cyber-Infrastructure (CI) includes the core components of CI necessary to support the research misson across the university.  These components are in place and being continually upgraded, expanded, and adapted to new requirements of MSU researchers. CI can be broken down into five core components: Security, Information, Computation, Network, and Data. Each of these components includes a set of services that when taken together provide a robust CI. 
Security services include authentication, authorization, and federation capabilities. MSU has deployed a four-campus identity management service that provides authentication services for all faculty, staff, and students at the Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, and Havre campuses. Work is currently under way to enable authorization services using Internet2 Middleware including Shibboleth and Grouper. The initial target of the federation is for the MSU campuses to become members of the InCommon federation. The implementation of security services has been done leveraging the Internet2 National Middleware Initiative's software, documentation, and training.
Information services are brought online as new resources are brought online; these information services provide information on the performance, reliability, and usage of other resources such as the computational, network, and data services provided as part of the campus CI. Initial services providing information on the existing network have been in place. More recently as the computational infrastructure has been built, the information services have been augmented with data about the new resources. This information is available to any authenticated user of the MSU CI, which not only provides near real-time feedback for end users, but also provides very transparent systems information so that end users know how much computational, network, and data capacity there is across campus and how much impact their research has on those resources.
Computational services are provided by a campus grid that is composed of various departmental resources that have been brought together to create a single uniform computational environment. The two parts of the computational resources centrally managed at MSU are the web application that is used by users to start and monitor jobs and retrieve results and one centrally funded computational resources -- a condor cluster that runs on the student computer labs across campus. All the other computational resources are researcher or department resources that have been integrated into the campus grid to provide maximal utilization of all resources while minimizing human resource cost to support the hardware, software, and maintenance of the various systems. The campus grid is being constructed by leveraging lessons learned from the UCLA Grid pioneered by Bill Labate and adopted as a Globus incubator project.
Montana State University connects to the commodity Internet via a fiber-based OC 48 circuit provided by the Pacific Northwest GigaPOP. MSU has a 300 Mbps connection to the commodity embedded in the OC 48 with the remaining bandwidth dedicated for Internet2 use. The circuit runs from Bozeman, Montana to the Pacific Northwest GigaPOP in Seattle, Washington. The circuit is heavily used by researchers in computational biology, solar physics, and many other disciplines. 

MSU has a 1 Gbps, external, fiber-based Ethernet connection to Summinet II, the State of Montana network. Connectivity through this network supports voice, video, and data communications with state government and three additional MSU campuses located in Billings, Havre, and Great Falls. The state network also affords connections to the four campuses of the University of Montana system and state government agencies throughout Montana.

MSU is participating in the Lariat project. This project is funded by the National Institutes of Health with a goal of providing selected universities with high-bandwidth connectivity to Internet II. During the summer of 2006 MSU deployed equipment that has allowed us to connect to the Pacific Northwest GigaPOP via the high-speed wide area network circuit. The circuit carries an aggregate bandwidth of 2.5 Gbps, 300 Mbps is dedicated for commodity Internet services, and about 2 Gbps will be for Internet2 and other research-related services. Additionally, gigabit-to-the-desktop connections have been established for four research locations on campus and the interconnection of MSU’s core network switches will be upgraded to 10 Gbps.

MSU is currently participating in the Northern Tier Network Consortium. This higher education based network consortium is in the process of deploying OC 192 capability between Seattle and Minneapolis on dark fiber provided under a right to use agreement with the Pacific Northwest GigaPOP. The network will be brought on line late in the summer of 2009.

Data services are the final component being brought online at Montana State University. The infrastructure already exists to rapidly expand the capacity of MSU's data services to provide a robust complete data solution for researchers on and off campus. Currently a small virtual data center has been built that houses the necessary infrastructure including servers and security and information services integration, which means this data center can scale by the addition or removal of raw storage devices. Future plans include having data housed in the data center backed up into commercial Cloud Services which will provide faster scaling of resources, disaster recovery, and significant cost savings over implementing dual redundant geographically isolated data centers.
In addition to these core services, Montana State University provides research support for common system administration tasks including hardware installation, configuration, operating system installation and maintenance, security configuration and monitoring, and related supporting services. These services are provided on a cost recovery basis through contracted services to grants, centers, and large scale projects, and provide not only uniform quality of service to the end users, but also efficiency through scale -- which means funded research projects of all sizes get the same level of support.

Montana State University provides application development support for researchers on campus so they can adapt prototype code to available computing systems on or off campus. This enables researchers to focus on their research inquiry by leveraging institutional knowledge of parallel application development, distributed computing, and grid based tools for scheduling, data management, and resource availability. These resources are also provided on a cost recovery basis as a contracted service to research projects that require them.

For more information, please contact Gwen Jacobs at or go to the Academic Computing web page.