Background and History

The Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development (GLORIAD) represents the outcome of a 10+ year international collaboration that began with a chance meeting via the Internet between two people – one from the US, one from Russia – and the January 1994 launch of a web-based collaboration, “Friends & Partners”, designed to encourage scientists, educators and others in the US and Russia to – using the Internet – learn more about and from each other. This hobby project provided an early glimpse into the power of harnessing the Internet for cross-cultural exchange and within two years, had several thousand subscribers, over a million visitors and various honors and distinctions– published in one book as one of the “20 must see” sites on the Internet. The collaboration between the two grew to a wide range of projects – and the realization that in order to support US-Russia cooperation via the Internet, they had to address local Internet infrastructure. With financial assistance from of a financial assistance from NATO, US State Department, Ford Foundation, Eurasia Foundation, RELARN, International Science Foundation, Sun Microsystems and others, they began to build improved local and regional Internets – in the US (East Tennessee) and in seven communities across Russia. Early success here pointed out the weakness in the international links – and thus the project known in its various phases as MIRnet, FASTnet, NaukaNet and later “Little GLORIAD” was born with the sponsorship of the US NSF and the Russian Ministry of Science. The desire to share, communicate, collaborate and learn from one another continues to grow from that early experience and is reflected in this proposal for the expansion of GLORIAD. The two people who had that chance meeting in early 1993 on the Internet are the two principal investigators of this project.

Gloriad Growth
The current-day project began in 1998 as the smallest (and probably riskiest) of the NSF HPIIS awards (about 1/3 funding of the larger awards) – at the University of Tennessee with a 6 Mbps ATM service that began operating during the spring of 1999. The program (and PI) moved to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in 2001. It reached its five-year goal of 155 Mbps at the beginning of the fifth year of activity (2003) and extended the project, with an STM-1 (155 Mbps) circuit, to the People’s Republic of China (peering with the S&E; network, CSTnet, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences) in the sixth (extension) year with no increase in funding. By almost any measure, the project has surpassed its initial goals and expectations. Current traffic trends indicate accelerated demand in traffic well into the future due to the dramatic domestic network improvements being made in Russia and China. These improvements further enhance the ability of US scientists and educators to work with their Russian (and now Chinese) counterparts.

Such international projects are not simple to manage. Soon after it began in 1998, a situation developed with a Russian institution intent on controlling the network’s Moscow operations that led to a difficult situation in which only a very few institutions inside Moscow (and even fewer outside) were allowed access (thus, depriving the US science community of access to scientists and educators). After two years of difficult effort and quiet diplomacy, the project returned to its home under the Kurchatov Institute umbrella (where the Russian Internet had begun years earlier and where the entire S&E; network was managed) – but with one difference; this time it had attracted the attention and support, and was now led by, the Kurchatov President, Dr. Evgeny Velikhov. As the figure at right shows, use of the network by science institutions across the whole of Russia exploded the very day the network was transferred back to the Kurchatov Institute (December 2001). An important “real-world” lesson was learned about network politics (they matter).

The project has grown in usefulness not only at US universities (to and from which 70% of its traffic flows), but to DOE National Laboratories, NASA, NOAA, USGS, NIH – and other federal agencies.

The GLORIAD program and its predecessor, NaukaNet, are given prominent and positive mention at senior US-Russia government meetings such as during this December 2002 meeting of the U.S.-Russian Joint Committee for Science and Technology in which the Science Advisor to the U.S. President signed, with his Russian counterpart, a statement commending the project.

Success with this US-Russia effort does not necessarily translate into automatic success with the more complicated relationships involved in what is now a three-nation effort. But the US-Russia working experience has taught the investigators many lessons about: (1) how to work in a politically challenging and rapidly changing international environment; (2) the importance of leading by service; (3) the value of patience in understanding partners’ unique concerns (often influenced by an environment quite different from our own); and (4) the vital importance of building strong human networks of trust to achieve technical networking goals.