Reception to Celebrate 20th Anniversary of the IU International Networks Program

Cyberinfrastructure Building Atrium
Bloomington, Indiana

Friday, August 17, 2018

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie speaks at the 20th anniversary celebration for the International Networks Program.  Photo by Emily Sterneman

Thank you, Brad (Wheeler).

And thank you all for coming this afternoon to help celebrate this important milestone for Indiana University.

I am very pleased that so many people who have been instrumental to the growth and development of the IU International Networks Program are with us today.

I am especially pleased to welcome a number of distinguished national and international partners of the International Networks Program who are with us today. I will ask them to acknowledge themselves as I introduce them. With us are:

  • Kevin Thompson, the long-time program director of the National Science Foundation’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, which oversees the International Research Networks Connections program;
  • Mr. Kazunori Konishi, the director of the network operations center for APAN, the Asia Pacific Advanced Network;
  • Cathrin Stöver, Chief Collaboration Officer with GÉANT, which provides support to the European research and education network, and which is a key international partner of IU;
  • and Inder Monga, executive director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), another of IU’s highly-valued, long-term partners.

Would you join me in welcoming these distinguished guests?

The IU International Networks Program

As you heard from Brad, for 20 years, Indiana University has been a world-leader in the management and operation of high-speed international research and education networks. Research and education networks managed and operated in Indiana reach 91 percent of the countries around the world.

Such networks are, of course, absolutely critical to 21st century scientific research. As you know, scientific research today is an activity that spans the globe. Scholarship and research in just about every discipline is truly international. High-speed R&E networks play an essential part in binding disciplines together and making international collaboration possible.

And, as Brad noted, the IU International Networks Program has attracted nearly $50 million in federal government funding, as well as funding from other U.S. and international sources to support its activities. This is testament to the program’s quality— and the program’s continued growth and success is further confirmation of IU’s position as a world leader in the uses and applications of information technology and in computer networking, in particular.

TransPAC (the research and education network that connects researchers in the U.S. with their counterparts in Asia), ACE (the America Connects to Europe Project, which connects scientists in the U.S. and Europe), and NEAAR (the Networks for European, American, and African Research) have contributed enormously to the research and education missions of the nation, allowing researchers to share massive data sets quickly and easily. They have furthered important discoveries in a range of fields from astronomy and bioinformatics to climate science and medicine. And they have, in turn contributed to the research and education missions of Indiana University.

The international networks that IU manages have also helped to advance IU’s international engagement. TransPAC, in particular, has played a major role in the development of IU’s institutional relationships in the Asia Pacific.

Growth of the IU International Networks Program

All of this began relatively modestly in 1998, when I was IU’s vice president for information technology, and when we established the Network Operations Center.

Soon after, IU was awarded the contract to manage and operate the Internet2 research and education network—then called Abilene.

Around the same time, the National Science Foundation was preparing to establish the High Performance International Internet Services Program, or HPIIS.

Fortuitously, I had been involved in national and international networking while I was at the Australian National University. In 1996, I was invited to give a paper at a conference in Tsukuba, Japan, in this area. In it, I advocated expanding the model of intercontinental connectivity that we were then trying to bring about between Australia and Japan, to the broader Asia Pacific regions.

Though we had never met, nor did we know each other, Professor Kilnam Chon, then at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, gave a paper at the same meeting advocating essentially the same thing—namely a high-performance Asia Pacific network.

This led to a meeting in the hotel lobby of a small group—including myself, Professor Chon, Konishi-san, and a number of others. During this meeting, we agreed to try to establish such a network.

But, just as APAN was being formally established, I moved to IU. I expected my involvement with APAN would come to an end. But in the spring of 1997, the NSF released its HPIIS solicitation. I met again with Professor Chon, Konishi-san, and others in Tokyo in June 1997, and we agreed to partner on a joint proposal to the NSF HPIIS program to establish TransPAC, and this proposal was submitted soon after.

We were successful, and, in 1998, we received the original $10 million award from the NSF which allowed us to establish TransPAC, the first high-speed dedicated research and education network connection between the United States and the Asia Pacific. I was the principal investigator for that award. And I would like to recognize the other original IU investigators, some of whom are here this afternoon. Those colleagues were: Doug Pearson, Steve Wallace, Jim Williams, Rick McMullen, Dennis Gannon, and Karen Adams, who now serves as chief of staff in my office.

And there were also a number of international investigators, including Konishi-san, who was one of the Japanese investigators.

Would you join me in recognizing the original TransPAC investigators who are with us today?

I think it is fair to say that the NSF HPIIS award gave a great deal of credibility to the whole idea of international connectivity. The NSF deserves great credit for this program.

Everything we learned in those early TransPAC days enabled us to get better and better—and to develop an international reputation for excellence in network engineering and operations of which IU is immensely proud.

Special Thanks

This kind of success would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of many, many people—and many of you are here today.

I especially want to acknowledge the outstanding leaders who helped bring the IU International Networks Program into existence, and who have helped it to grow and thrive:

  • Jim Williams, whom I appointed as director of the IU International Networks Program in 2000. He served in the role until his retirement in in 2013. Jim also replaced me as PI on TransPAC when TransPAC2 began in 2005 and I had taken on additional responsibilities at IU as vice president for research. Jim helped IU to forge partnerships with many other research and education networks around the world;
  • Dave Jent, Associate Vice President of Networks for Indiana University, who has overseen the spectacular growth of the IU International Networks Program, as well, of course, of IU’s engagement with around 20 national high-speed networks;
  • and Jennifer Schopf, who joined the IU networking team in 2013, and who is now doing a superb job as director of the IU International Networks Program. She is already taking IU international networking to still greater heights. She has been responsible for more than $17 million in NSF funding since taking the helm, and she is the first (and only) woman to be principal investigator on an NSF International Research Networks Connections award.

I also want to recognize Vice President Brad Wheeler, for his outstanding leadership of IU’s Information Technology efforts since 2007.

And, let me extend congratulations to the many dedicated staff members who have contributed so much to building IU’s International Networks Program and who are responsible for IU’s continued success in the field.

Presentation of Thomas Hart Benton Medallion to Kazunori Konishi

The celebration of the 20th anniversary of IU's International Networks Program is a fitting occasion to honor one of our longstanding international partners—a man who has not only been a friend and colleague to many of us over this whole period, but also a great friend to Indiana University:  Kazunori Konishi.

After graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1969, Konishi-san joined the research and development lab of KDD, Japan's international telecommunications carrier. He eventually became KDD’s principal research engineer. There, he played a major role in the development of the Japan University NETwork, known as JUNET. A network established by three Japanese universities, JUNET was comparable to Usenet in the United States, and it was vitally important to the development of the Internet in Japan.

Konisi-san was also heavily involved in the establishment of—and has served as a trustee of—the Japan Network Information Center. The JPNIC is the national internet registry in Japan that manages a number of aspects of Internet operations, including the allocation of IP addresses and AS numbers. 

And, as I have mentioned, he was heavily involved in the establishment of both APAN and TransPAC. He has subsequently served as director of APAN’s network operations center for more than 20 years, and he served as secretary general of APAN.

It is my distinct pleasure to honor him today.

Konishi-san, would you please join me at the podium?

Konishi-san, you have achieved great distinction in your career. Your expertise and your willingness to collaborate have helped to connect researchers around the world—and your partnership has made an important contribution to Indiana University's success in international networking.

To recognize distinction such as yours, Indiana University established the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion. First given in 1986, the bronze medal features the Benton Mural, which is located in the IU Auditorium. The reverse side has the Seal of the University.

It symbolizes the aspirations and ideals that are the foundation of the search for knowledge.

And so, by the authority vested in me by the Trustees of Indiana University, and in acknowledgement of all that you have done and continue to do for international networking and for Indiana University, I present to you, Mr. Kazunori Konishi, the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion.