g i r f t y

Women in IT Networking at SC Awarded the 2017 Innovations in Networking Award for Experimental Applications


In recognition of work to expand the diversity of the SCinet volunteer staff and to provide professional development opportunities to highly qualified women in the field of networking, the Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS) program has been selected by CENIC as a recipient of the 2017 Innovations in Networking Award for Experimental Applications. Project members being recognized include Wendy Huntoon (KINBER), Marla Meehl (UCAR), and Kate Petersen Mace, Lauren Rotman, and Jason Zurawski (ESnet).

This powerful collaboration fosters gender diversity in the field of technology, a critical need. By funding women IT professionals to participate in SCinet and to attend the Supercomputing Conference, the program allows the next generation of technology leaders to gain critical skills.

“Until you roll your sleeves up and dig into building and operating SCinet, which is an amazingly robust, high-bandwidth network that exists for just two weeks, it’s hard to imagine just how tough it is — and how rewarding it is,” said Inder Monga, Director of ESnet, the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network. “Many of our ESnet engineers have been members of the SCinet team over the years, bringing back valuable skills in network operations, project management, teamwork, and on-the-spot problem-solving. Our support of WINS is one way of contributing back to the conference and the community’s growth and success.”

In 2016, eight women were selected to be part of the WINS program; three were funded to return to SC16 after participating in the 2015 WINS cohort. Sana Bellamine, a CENIC Core Engineer, was a 2015 WINS award winner and was invited to participate again in SC16. As a part of her work on SCinet, she used high-end, state-of-the-art equipment to test 100 Gbps circuits, setting up the environment to test these circuits, and documenting the procedure for doing so. In addition to developing technical expertise, Sana formed lasting relationships with other members of the 2015 WINS cohort. They regularly exchange knowledge, code, and advice using a slack channel (a form of instant messaging), which helps inform their ongoing work within their respective organizations.

As Sana reflects on this experience and its continuing benefits, she notes, “I am thankful to CENIC and to the WINS program for the opportunity to be part of the SCinet team. As one of the SCinet wide-area network team members in 2016, I worked in close collaboration with another awardee on the development of procedures for testing 100GE circuits at line rate. These procedures were used to validate 7x100GE circuits into the SuperComputing show floor. CENIC associates were able to achieve the desired throughput for their planned demos over these 100GE links. The SCinet network is a mature, multi-vendor environment with a rich set of the tools. Having direct exposure to the SCinet network enables me to explore new approaches in my daily work at CENIC.”

Kate Petersen Mace, one of the project leaders from ESnet and the SC14 SCinet Chair, notes that "The WINS program has been an overwhelming success for SCinet as a whole. As a long-time SCinet member, I understand through experience the amazing challenges and opportunities that volunteering for SCinet present. The dedication and diverse set of skills the WINS awardees have brought has been invaluable, and has strengthened the SCinet team. The WINS Management team is thrilled to see CENIC help lead the way in celebrating the value of a diverse workforce through its continued support of unique training and professional development opportunities—such as SCinet—for its employees."

Participants grow immeasurably through their involvement with this high-capacity network that supports revolutionary HPC applications and experiments. By joining volunteers from academia, government, and industry working together to design and deliver SCinet, they acquire skills and experiences they can use in their daily work at their home institutions.

WINS is funded jointly through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and direct funding from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) ESnet. WINS awardees are selected from a competitive application process which includes review by an external committee of leaders in the research and education networking community.

Funds from NSF and DOE provide WINS awardees travel support to participate in SCinet staging and set-up, which take place in the weeks leading up to the conference. The awardees continue their work during the entire week of the Supercomputing conference, when SCinet goes live for attendees to use for any networking need—from wireless Internet access to multi-gigabit demonstrations. At the conclusion of the conference, awardees then help tear down the entire infrastructure in approximately 48 hours.

After their hands-on experience at the SC conference, participants receive support to attend community conferences like the Quilt semi-annual member meeting, and regional network meetings such as the CENIC annual meeting, the Internet2 Global Summit, and the National Lab Information Technology (NLIT) meeting, among others. At these events, the WINS awardees participate in panel discussions to share their experiences and continue building their professional networks. This participation has resulted in increased awareness of and dialogue about the diversity gap that continues to persist in the IT community.

“WINS is a creative approach to the problem of increasing the number of talented network engineers, by developing the capabilities and vision of underrepresented female engineers through deep engagement in SCinet,” notes Kevin Thompson, program manager in the NSF's Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, which provides WINS funding. “The project attacks a visible challenge in the production R&E networking community: gender diversity in the leadership and workforce. This effort will, at a minimum, significantly impact the careers of 15 women, and it has tremendous potential to do much more in the years ahead, especially if its sustainability approach succeeds.”

Innovations in Networking Awards are presented each year by CENIC to highlight the exemplary innovations that leverage ultra-high bandwidth networking, particularly where those innovations have the potential to transform the ways in which instruction and research are conducted or where they further the deployment of broadband in underserved areas.

About ESnet • www.es.net
The Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) is a high-performance, unclassified network built to support scientific research. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science (SC) and managed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, ESnet provides services to more than 40 DOE research sites, including the entire National Laboratory system, its supercomputing facilities, and its major scientific instruments. ESnet also connects to 140 research and commercial networks, permitting DOE-funded scientists to productively collaborate with partners around the world.

About WINS •  www.women-in-networking.net
The Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS) program, introduced in November 2015 at the SC15 conference in Austin, Texas, was developed as a means for addressing the prevalent gender gap that exists in Information Technology (IT), particularly in the fields of network engineering and high-performance computing (HPC). The 2015 program* enabled five talented early to mid-career women from diverse regions of the U.S. research and education community IT field to participate in the ground-up construction of SCinet, one of the fastest and most advanced computer networks in the world. WINS is a joint effort between the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER), and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). 

About UCAR • www2.ucar.edu
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is a nonprofit consortium of more than 100 North American member colleges and universities focused on research and training in the atmospheric and related earth-system sciences. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research with sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Through its community programs, UCAR supports and extends the capabilities of its academic consortium.

About KINBER • www.kinber.org
The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) is a membership organization devoted to fostering collaboration through technology for education, research, healthcare, libraries, public media, workforce development, government, and economic development. KINBER offers connectivity, technology infrastructure solutions and training, and professional development opportunities tailored to support the needs of its members, ranging from libraries and health systems to large university settings. KINBER built and manages the 1,800-mile Pennsylvania Research and Education Network, known as PennREN, which provides advanced data networking to non-profit organizations and fosters collaboration between Pennsylvania-based organizations for value-added services such as Internet2 connectivity, realistic high-definition video, real-time video conferencing, and data sharing. PennREN access points are now in 51 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, with initial connections in more than 70 locations over the 1,800-mile network.