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Golf Course Annex Gets High-Speed Boost

Article By: MCSN John Fischer

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

For such a cool, sunny day, not a single set of golf clubs gleamed on the greens at the Monterey Pines Golf Course. True, there may have been golfers aplenty at the clubhouse that day, but all were present for a more ceremonious purpose than putting. Besides, the golf course is still closed for renovation.

The gathering of leadership, faculty, students and staff was in response to the Gigabit Light Speed and Beyond ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 16, celebrating one of the milestones of the Information Technology and Communications Services (ITACS) at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).

Monterey Pines is actually home to remote research facilities for a Rocket Propulsion Lab, Free Electron Laser Lab, Turbopropulsion Lab, X-RAY Lab and Machine Shop, collectively known as the Golf Course Annex Labs, which were previously essentially inaccessible via the NPS network. The labs represent work done by numerous departments at NPS: Mechanical and Astronautical Engineering (MAE), Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Physics and Oceanography at the Annex Labs.

"This project, which adds the high speed connectivity between our station out here and mother ship NPS, is not only helping our computational abilities but also our experimental capabilities," said Knox Millsaps, both a Professor and the Department Chair for MAE. "What this really did was connect our experimental capabilities, which already link to the computational capabilities [at the Annex Labs], to the computational resources a couple miles away at the NPS main campus."

"We have a lot of milestone events; most of them belie the amount of work that goes into them," said NPS President Daniel T. Oliver during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "These things don't happen by accident. I know this took an awful lot of planning, diligence and teamwork."

"Up until about four years ago, I felt like I was at the end of the world out here," said Chris Brophy, Associate Professor of MAE and the Director of the Rocket Propulsion Laboratory. "When I arrived in 1997, three labs had one 28.8 [Kbps] dial up connection to share in order to connect to campus."

Download time has decreased considerably with recent network updates. "We can now transfer about one fourth of a gigabyte in 30 seconds," explained Garth Hobson, Professor of MAE and Director of the Turbopropulsion Lab. "It used to take about half an hour. We can finally visualize data in real-time instead of downloading every day and waiting to review it."

"Now at the end of the day we end up with three to four gigabits of data we need to transfer to other schools we combine our research efforts with," Brophy explained. "We can use FTP [File Transfer Protocol] now, but before this capability existed we were copying everything to CDs or DVDs and mailing them out – which tremendously slowed down our progress."

The change-over was led by Doug Weismann, the Collaborative Networking Program Manager for ITACS. He brought to the forefront the fact that the challenging task was accomplished thanks to incredible assistance and cooperation between ITACS, the Annex Lab Research Faculty, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), who runs the golf course. Through the combined efforts of these NPS forces, every stage of the new network project was laid down almost seamlessly.

"The future of this network has applications such as Voice Over Internet Protocol – the new age in telephony," Weismann said. Weismann described how upgrades will propel future NPS research. "Other technological landmarks such as virtualization and new server paradigms; highly efficient, available, adaptable and secure new clusters; Federations, which is research collaboration with our most trusted partners will occur worldwide in new trusted domains; and other advanced protocols and technologies will be affected."

"We anticipate making very good use of this," proclaimed Bill Colson, Distinguished Professor of Physics. "There will be about 40 experts from around the country reviewing our [Free Electron Laser] Program, and the Free Electron Laser Program nationally, and this upgrade could not have come at a better time."

"This is just the beginning," said Weismann. "Welcome to the world of light speed."

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