Challenges In Syber Infrastructure (Spring 2013)

Instructor: Prof. James Myers
TA: none
Meeting times: Monday-Thursday 2:00 PM - 3:20 PM
Office Hours: Before class, Rm CII 3129
TA Office Hours:
Class Listing: CSCI 4973, 6973
Class Location: JONSSN 3207



CCiCI is a course where you can learn about the latest technology trends and how those technologies are changing scientific research, business, and society. It is also a place where you can learn how to take your ideas and formulate a practical project that will move them forward. In addition to a technology survey, the course includes guidance on how to propose and build cyberinfrastructure - IT systems that enable innovative practice - and gives you the opportunity, over the course of the semester to develop a proposal/plan for a project. No pre-requisites, no software development, no funding.

This course will explore the breadth of what is meant by cyberinfrastructure and examine the state of the art and open challenges. In addition to discussion of high-performance computing; data, analysis, and visualization; and virtual organizations, the course will touch on the nature of infrastructure, the revolutionary potential of cyberinfrastructure to enable research, education, and societal application, the concept of socio-technical solutions, and designs to provide end-to-end support of the scientific lifecycle. Intended to complement CS 6961 and CS 6962, the course will none-the-less have topics in common with them.

Over the course of the semester, your job will be to develop an idea for a ~$1M project that would use cyberinfrastructure to improve the world. Assignments over the semester include developing short planning documents and presentations that will be integrated into a final 10-15 page 'proposal' document. Students are expected to use the class reading assignments and independent reading to define their project topic and, through class discussion, use of office hours, etc. identify appropriate technologies and scope the effort required to design, develop, and deploy cyberinfrastructure to realize their vision. Each student will be required to develop their own project, but peer review, group coordination on proposal development, and coordination of proposals are are highly encouraged. In-depth technical knowledge of specific technologies may be helpful, but is not required, and the course is limited to planning - no software development involved.

Past proposals have targeted support for community participation in urban planning decisions, comparison of student academic performance internationally, inter-agency coordination in disaster response, participation of student teachers in remote classrooms, smart grid combined-cyber-and-physical security research, interoperable heath records, visualization of high-dimensional data, improved response time and reliability for cloud-based services, and improved management of computing-at-home-style projects.


  • Introduction to Cyberinfrastructure
    • CI Definitions
  • CI as Infrastrucuture
  • CI as a socio-technical capability
  • CI Survey
    • Computing, Network, Data Resources
    • Community HPC Codes and Libraries
    • Distributed computing infrastructure: Grids, Clouds, and Webs
    • Data Management Infrastructure
    • Visualization
    • Workflow/Provenance
    • Virtual Organizations and Collaboration infrastructure
    • Cybersecurity
    • Digital Humanities
    • Cyberphysical Infrastructure
    • Active Decision Support Infrastructure
  • Competitiveness through CI
  • CI Deployment and Business Models / Sustainability
  • (Inter-)National, Domain, and Local Infrastructure
  • CI vs. CS Challenges

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the meaning of the term Cyberinfrastructure and the current state of the art and open challenges
  • Understand the potential for Cyberinfrastructure as a a research and competitiveness tool and how software architecture and project management can decide success
  • Understand cyberinfrastructure development and deployment best-practices and 'lessons-learned'
  • As a future Cyberinfrastructure Developer, User, or Stakeholder, be able to construct and evaluate Cyberinfrastructure R&D, Deployment, and Maintenance arguments.

Draft Class Topics, Readings, and Assignments

Note: Dates are approximate and may change!

Jan. 24 - Class 1 Class Intro Slides.
Reading Assignment: The origins of Cyberinfrastructure: Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure: Report of the National Science Foundation Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure (focus on Sections 1 and 2).

Jan. 28 - Class 2 CI Definitions and Examples.
Reading Assignment: Understanding Infrastructure: Understanding Infrastructure: Dynamics, Tensions, and Design.

Jan 31 - Class 3 "Grokking" CI as a Stakeholder, Provider, and User.
Assignment Due: Report on an existing CI project
Reading Assignment: CI Technology Trends Compute and Data Related Growth Rate Charts, and, for fun: Kurzweil's "Singularity"

Feb. 4 - Class 4 - Discussion of CI Project Topics: Class Brainstorming/Coordination

Feb 7 - Class 5
CI - A Story of Dueling Exponentials
Reading Assignment: Explore the DOE SciDAC projects

Feb. 11 - Class 6 Realizing HPC Performance
Assignment Due: Semester project Topic and Outline
Reading Assignment: NEES 2007 IT Vision

Feb. 14 - Class 7 Community Planning Example: Earthquake Engineering
Reading Assignment Anatomy of the Grid, Physiology of the Grid

Feb. 18 - No Class (Holiday) - moved to Tuesday Feb 19th.

Feb 19 - Class 8 Designing Cyberinfrastructure for Communities: Finding the Neck of the Hourglass
Assignment Due: Semester project Reference List
Reading Assignments: NIST Definition of Cloud Computing v15, MapReduce: A Major Step Backwards

Feb. 21 - Class 9 Clouds 101
Optional Reading Assignments: Cloud Computing and Grid Computing 360-Degree Compared, Magellan Report on Cloud Computing for Science

Feb. 25 - Class 10 The Answer is 42 - Data 101
Reading Assignment: The Fourth Paradigm - Jim Gray article and one other - be prepared to comment on the article in class

Feb. 28th - Class 11 Presentations - 10 minutes each - motivation for your semester project.
Assignment Due: Project Presentation (10 minutes: Issue, Concept, Approach, Outcome)
Reading Assignment: The Office of Science Data Management Challenge - focus on the Science Drivers of part 1 and the review of challenges in part 2, skim discussion of funding and 2004 state of the art...

March 4 - Class 12 Presentations and Data 102
Reading Assignment: The Fourth Paradigm - Jim Gray article and one other - be prepared to comment on the article in class

March 7 - Class 13 What are Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact? and continuing discussion of Data:
Data 103
Reading Assignment: Towards Electronic Persistence Using ARK Identifiers, J. Kunze, Proceedings of the 3rd ECDL Workshop on Web Archives, August 2003, and, optionally [ Actional Resource Tags for Virtual Organizations]

March 11-15: RPI Spring Break

March 18 - 'Guest Lecture' - Kelly Gaither, TACC, SC'11 Presentation on Youtube in classroom or on your own. Video will be discussed as part of following visualization lecture ~March 25th.

March 21 - Class 14 Data 103 - Data Distribution, Curation, and Preservation
Assignment Due: Project Motivation and Background (~3 pages)
Reading: Cyberinfrastructure Vision for 21rst Century Discovery

March 25 - Class 15 Visualization
Reading: NEXT-GENERATION Visualization Technologies: Enabling Discoveries at EXTREME Scale

March 28 - Class 16 Viz wrap-up and Project Management Interlude
Reading: Workshop on the Challenges of Scientific Workflow
I Think Therefore I Am Someone Else:...

April 1 - Class 17 Workflow and Provenance

April 4 - Class 18 Provenance and Workflow (same presentation)

April 8 - Class 19 Cybersecurity Challenges (based on 2012 guest by Von Welch, Deputy Director, Indiana University Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research), Additional class Cybersecurity Challenges Discussion Material
Assignment Due: Project Description 3-5 pages

April 11 - Class 20 Digital Humanities and Virtual Organizations and Collaboration
Reading: Explore Digital_Humanities, Peter Lunenfeld, Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Todd Presner and Jeffrey Schnapp

April 15 - Class 21 Presentations of Project Scope and Activities
Assignment Due: Deliverables and Metrics ~ 2 pages

April 18 - Class 22 Cyberphysical Systems

April 22 - Guest Lecture, Professor Jim Hendler
April 25 - Class 24 Active Decision Support Systems
Assignment Due: Formal Plans (Management Plan, WBS, Risk Plan) ~2 pages

April 29 - Class 25 The CI Ecosystem

May 2 - Class 26 WBS, Management, Risk presentations and discussion
Assignment Due: Formal Plan presentations

May 6 - Class 27 Competitive Advantage through CI, The Innovation Ecosystem + Review and final thoughts

May 6th: Assignment Due: Final proposal

Reference Material/Readings

Assessment Criteria

Class participation, oral presentations, and written assignments. Assignments during the semester are intended to spark discussion and contribute to the final proposal document. A specific percentage of grade allocation provided with each assignment with class participation and the final proposal providing opportunities to raise the final grade.

Late submission policy: first time with valid reason – no penalty, otherwise 20% of score deducted each late day

Academic Integrity

Student-teacher relationships are built on trust. For example, students must trust that teachers have made appropriate decisions about the structure and content of the courses they teach, and teachers must trust that the assignments that students turn in are their own. Acts, which violate this trust, undermine the educational process. The Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities defines various forms of Academic Dishonesty and you should make yourself familiar with these. In this class, all assignments that are turned in for a grade must represent the student’s own work. In cases where help was received, or teamwork was allowed, a notation on the assignment should indicate your collaboration. Submission of any assignment that is in violation of this policy will result in a penalty. If found in violation of the academic dishonesty policy, students may be subject to two types of penalties. The instructor administers an academic (grade) penalty, and the student may also enter the Institute judicial process and be subject to such additional sanctions as: warning, probation, suspension, expulsion, and alternative actions as defined in the current Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities. If you have any question concerning this policy before submitting an assignment, please ask for clarification.

Draft Class Topics, Readings, and Assignments

See 2012 syllabus :

Course: Current Challenges in Cyberinfrastructure

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