LEARN's History & Network Maps

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LEARN develops IRU Methodology. Rather than lease circuits from traditional providers, LEARN planned to own the underlying fiber optic infrastructure. The dark fiber is “owned” for 20 years – the useful life of the fiber. The purpose of this is to prepare for future capacity. LEARN is led by Executive Director Jim Williams and governed by 33 Member Organizations. LEARN's first strategic plan was created. The guiding principles of LEARN are: Collaboration, citing our support of and cooperation with other communication service providers in the state; Knowledge, increased knowledge base for higher education and Technology, next generation network accessibility. Governed by 33 Member Organizations. 3 Full-time employees + 1 part-time employee LEARN becomes the regional connector for internet2. Providing the gateway to this research and education network serving all institutions in our state. As Internet2 rolled out its new network in 2007, LEARN and its Internet2 members joined together to provide an expanded level of service. Upon seeing the success of this effort, LEARN begins to encourage Members to aggregate and save on costs, instead of connecting to Internet2 independently. LEARN receives TASSCC Higher Education Excellence Award for Innovative Use of Technology for providing a cost-effective way to supply essentially unlimited bandwidth for higher education institutions in Texas. Governed by 33 Member Organizations LEARN enters new partnerships and projects. LEARN enters into a new partnership with a group of independent Texas telephone companies, to enable next generation network services for Member institutions in West Texas, as well as help keep those same communications companies on the cutting edge of technology. LEARN participates in the National Science Foundation’s GENI project as the next generation of network architecture evolves. LEARN participates in SuperComputing ’08 for the first time (the international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis, was held in Austin); LEARN is responsible for providing the network connections to the outside world for the international conference

LEARN requests a review by leaders from mature peer organizations around the United States, including New York (NYSERNet), California (Cenic), and Missouri (MOREnet). The effort was facilitated by The Quilt. Governed by 33 Member Organizations LEARN's network doubles in size. LEARN is the connection point for Texas to the National LambdaRail and Internet2 national research and education networks. LEARN is an integral part of the success of the TIGRE project by providing high capacity bandwidth connections for researchers The Texas Internet Grid for Research and Education (TIGRE) is a collaborative project that brought researchers from a number of institutions together to develop a statewide grid computing infrastructure. LEARN backbone remains up during and after Hurricane Ike hit Texas: LEARN’s network enables the students, faculty and staff of Texas A&M University at Galveston to remain connected and continue classes via distance education video conferencing. The North Texas GigaPoP (NTG), a consortium of institutions in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex that share high speed network resources, agrees to merge into LEARN. A new Executive Director, Mike Phillips, is hired. Governed by 35 Member Organizations LEARN gains national partners and support. The National Weather Service becomes a LEARN Member; this partnership is important to providing critical weather forecasts and warnings that foster a safe, healthy and weather-wise society. LEARN hosts the Internet2 Fall Member Meeting in San Antonio. New partnerships with other regional optical networks are developed to align services that support the mutual needs in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) administered the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant program, which gives millions of dollars to support broadband in Texas and the US. President Barack Obama joins President George H. W. Bush, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the stage of Rudder Auditorium at Texas A&M University to help recognize the hundreds of volunteers honored as part of President Bush’s 1,000 Points of Light initiative. Texas A&M University System’s Trans-Texas Videoconferencing Network (TTVN) was able to carry the event live via video streaming to more than 900 locations via the LEARN network. The National Science Foundation funded the Americas Lightpaths (AmLight) project to leverage the existing and future research networks in the Western Hemisphere. LEARN will provide the connection to provision the AmLight Central corridor to connect the research and education network of Mexico. Governed by 36 Member Organizations LEARN helps form regional collaborations. LEARN and several of its Members formed a regional collaboration to deploy software defined network nodes in Houston and Dallas to deploy this innovative capability on their campuses for researchers with data intensive requirements. This initiative was supported by several grant awards from a National Science Foundation project and was cited as an exemplary national model. Using the LEARN network and its relationship with Internet2 over 32,000 students in 700 classrooms across Texas participated in this live interactive educational event conducted via high-quality video conferencing through Discovery Education. The University of Texas at Austin, in association with the University of Texas System, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, the National Science Foundation and several technology partners, deployed the Lonestar 4 supercomputer, as a part of the advanced computing arsenal for the science community in the state of Texas and the nation. Governed by 38 Member Organizations LEARN develops research, healthcare, and public service relations. LEARN develops new relationships with the National Science Foundation, Internet2, and other regional research and education networks to support the education, research, healthcare and public service missions of LEARN and our members. Angelo State University (ASU) plays an integral part in the National Science Foundation’s “Collections in Support of Biological Research” program to digitize and mobilize the scientific information associated with biological specimens held in U.S. research collections. Images and other digitized data from these collections will be available to researchers and students from around the world via research and education networks like LEARN. The Texas Education Telecommunications Network (TETN) uses the LEARN network to connect the K-12 community across Texas to improve student performance and to increase the efficiency of public school educational programs via an integrated statewide network. Governed by 38 Member Organizations LEARN plans for long-term relevance. This growth enabled the Board of Directors to make critical investments in strategic priorities and gives us the financial strength to ensure our long-term relevance in the ever changing world that Texas must compete in. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are studying impact dynamics to find solutions to space debris impacts using the LEARN network and the Stampede supercomputing cluster at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. According to NASA, there are tens of thousands of pieces of space debris in orbit! The Digital Project Group at Baylor University regularly pushes multiple terabytes of data to Texas Digital Library over the LEARN network so that, if a catastrophe occurs with its preservation servers, a full, recent backup is readily accessible. Governed by 39 Member Organizations LEARN provisions 100 Gigabit connections for regional and national networks. LEARN provisions 100 Gigabit connections in Dallas and in Houston to Internet2, the national research and education network for the U.S. LEARN’s Board of Directors meetings are the largest meetings of information technology professionals from organizations focused on education and research in Texas. Distance education became increasingly popular at our Member Organizations: As a result of the partnership between LEARN and Texas Tech University (TTU), students in today’s mobile society do not have to live in Lubbock to pursue their education goals. TTU offers over 50 degrees, certifications, and certification preparation programs available entirely online. Two teams of engineering students from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) won first place in team challenges at the 2014 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Hong Kong. The IRCA, the premier academic robotics conference in the world, was attended by over 2,000 people from around the globe. Using LEARN and other advanced networks, the students remotely used a robot in Portugal to compete in the challenges. 

Governed by 39 Member Organizations 
 LEARN helps form regional collaborations. In 2015 our community returns to the SMU campus to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “first light” at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Celebrating it’s 25th year, LEARN hosts and plays a leadership role in the success of SuperComputing15 held in Austin; Akbar Kara chaired the WAN Team. Deployment of six 100G wavelengths on LEARN’s network was a critical part of the overall design and performance of the network. LEARN hosts the first ever joint meeting of the Energy Science Network (ESnet), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and The Quilt Member Meeting, which was held in Austin. The Connect2Texas program uses LEARN’s advanced network to enable high quality interactive video and audio that brings a diverse portfolio of educational experiences from around the world into student classrooms that improves student learning and engagement. The University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio have teamed up with 36 other prestigious health centers across the United States to combat a life threatening lung disease called pulmonary fibrosis. As a part of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation’s Care Center Network (CCN), these three members of the LEARN community will use LEARN, and other interconnected networks, to collaborate with colleagues across the country and share access to critical resources needed by patients, caregivers, physicians and scientists. LEARN appoints Pankaj Shah as President and CEO

Governed by 39 Member Organizations LEARN Provides universities and ISDs with caching services
Member Campuses begin to implement Science DMZs as they are funded by NSF: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Arlington, Texas State University, University of Houston, Baylor College of Medicine, Stephen F. Austin State University, and Texas Woman’s University. School districts enjoy the benefits of the caching services provided through LEARN, with Microsoft and Google being the largest suppliers of cached content to schools. This enables school districts to continue classroom work without interruptions on the days when products from those companies have large software upgrades that can shut down a network. Southern Methodist University (SMU) receives an award from the Department of Defense of a large cluster with 8,800 cores and names the powerful machine “ManeFrame”, reflecting SMU’s Mustang mascot and pony heritage. A key to the future success of the new HPC is the infrastructure needed to house it, and SMU was fortunate at having constructed a new state-of-the-art data center as well as having upgraded its networking with fiber optics connecting all 100 buildings and installing redundant high-speed fiber connections to LEARN. Governed by 39 Member Organizations LEARN completes a comprehensive statefic plan with staff and board membersL. EARN’s Guiding Principles are: Connectivity & Services for R&E, healthcare, and public service entities; Efficient & cost effective solutions from the perspective of total cost of ownership through aggregation, economies of scale and value creation; Collaboration among all of its members, acting as an advocate, thought leader, and trusted partner; focus on meeting the needs of its members through excellent customer service; a stable high-performance and highly available network while also offering innovation; providing access to national regional networks and initiatives Texas Tech University System (TTUS) volunteered as a study case to expand FrameNet MPLS to West Texas and test a new “all you-can-eat” business model where a flat fee is charged regardless of bandwidth usage, within the capacity provisioned by the customer. The pilot program began in 2017, starting with TTU, TTU Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), TTUHSC El Paso and Angelo State University. K-12 districts, including Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD), take advantage of LEARN’s Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS); which provide RRISD with the ability to protect students and systems from malicious malware and DDoS attacks. It’s a little-known fact that schools are frequent targets of cyberattacks. Gary Gunnerson (Sr. IT Architect for TEGNA, a media company that operates 47 television stations including KHOU) was looking for circuits after Hurricane Harvey. Gunnerson talked to Charles Chambers at the University of Houston and Chambers led Gunnerson to LEARN, where he was introduced to Akbar Kara, Chief Technology Officer. The two began to discuss alternative solutions. LEARN’s network had survived the storm and had plenty of capacity so they determined they could connect to Dallas from the University of Houston campus, but they couldn’t get the last mile to WFAA. Fortunately, LEARN’s partner, InnerCity FiberNet, was able to provide TEGNA a piece of fiber to connect WFAA to LEARN with a point-to-point gigabit Ethernet. Working together, LEARN, Southeast Texas Gigapop (SETG) and the University of Houston, were able to offer a very easy solution to get the traffic up to Dallas in a very short period of time, which helped KHOU keep critical news on air. Governed by 41 Member Organizations LEARN enables 100's of Gigs of Research backbones. LEARN enables 300G of Research backbones – 100G to Energy Science Network, and 200G to the Pacific Wave Network – a project funded by the National Science Foundation to promote research between Texas and the Asia-Pacific Region. As the local leaders of the SCinet effort, LEARN’s staff had a critical role to play at SuperComputing18. Participants witnessed a feat of network engineering as SCinet delivered a record-breaking 4.02 Terabits per second of network bandwidth to attendees, presenters and exhibitors. LEARN receives the inaugural SCinet Spirit of Innovation Award for exhibiting a spirit of collaboration and cooperation to make the conference a success. LEARN Engineers began a significant backbone upgrade in 2018, using lifecycle replacement funds Governed by 41 Member Organizations LEARN awarded NSF grant. The LEARN team successfully wrote and were awarded their first NSF grant as a lead organization. This two-year $800,000 award titled CC* Regional: Accelerating Research and Education at Small Colleges in Texas via an Advanced Networking Ecosystem Using a Virtual LEARN Science DMZ (Award Number: 19-25553) enables us to expand LEARN’s role in Texas as a statewide Research and Education Network. Additionally, a regional collaboration with the Research and Education Networks in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma was formed. This consortium, called Midsouth U.S. Internet Exchange or MUS-IX, is working together to promote, improve, and sustain advanced networking services in support of research, education, and their respective missions. LEARN Engineers worked diligently on replacing the aging Nortel Common Photonic Layer (CPL) optical backbone with the latest generation of Ciena coherent optical and Waveserver technologies. This 18-month project was completed in August 2019 by 8 Engineers and spanned 1,800 route miles and touched 27 facilities across Texas. In addition to being the largest gathering of higher education Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in Texas, once again, LEARN brought the state’s Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) to Waco for a well-received day of collaboration and learning. LEARN hosted the Internet2 CAP Fall Retreat in Dallas with attendees from UMASS (Massachusetts), Texas Education Telecommunications Network (Texas), Edge (New Jersey), CENIC (California), KINBER (Pennsylvania), I-LIGHT (Indiana), Nevada System of Higher Education (Nevada), NETnet/UT Health Science Center at Tyler (Texas), Link Oregon (Oregon), and OARnet (Ohio). Governed by 41 Member Organizations LEARN Today and our growth. Today LEARN is still growing.  We currently have 43 member organizations in our consortium.  Our membership has grown beyond higher education to also include K-12, the National Weather Service and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.  LEARN also connects over 300 other affiliate organizations providing connectivity to cities/county governments, libraries, museums, healthcare, transit authorities, NOAA and the State of Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR).

Earlier you read about the expertise that was available at the inception of LEARN, but what was lacking was unity.  LEARN is that connector, connecting people to the resources they need in the most efficient and effective way. LEARN works to aggregate services to make things more affordable for our members’ ever tightening budgets.  Not only does LEARN provide the services to support our members’ missions, but we come together as a community in a time of crisis, as shown throughout our history. LEARN remains a convener for the community, bringing together varying ideas and experiences to broaden views and help facilitate successful projects. LEARN’s commitment to provide value to its members and its community remains a priority to this day.