NEXPReS is an example of a use-case focused project where NORDUnet has engaged with the scientific community to assist the community in exploiting advanced network technologies to enhance the scientific process, and to jointly push the boundaries of new techologies in explorative efforts. Such projects are important to NORDUnet both in order to understand how to best service our communities and to focus the development of our technology.
The objective of NEXPReS was to offer enhanced scientific performance for all users of the European VLBI Network (EVN) and its partners by allowing the introduction of an e-VLBI component to every experiment. Building on previous efforts, the project sought to raise the standard of e-VLBI by enhancing robustness, flexibility and sensitivity. Doing so boosts the scientific capability of this distributed facility and offers better data quality and deeper images of the radio sky to a larger number of astronomers.
e-VLBI was successfully introduced in recent years for real-time, high-resolution radio astronomy. Limitations in processing capacity, connectivity, and bandwidth have prevented this enhanced mode from being offered to all astronomers, in spite of its obvious advantages. By providing transparent buffering mechanisms at the telescopes and correlator, NEXPReS addressed bottlenecks in e-VLBI, overcoming limited connectivity to essential stations or network failures eliminating the need for physical transport of magnetic media. Such a scheme is far more efficient, and ultimately greener, than the current model, in which complex logistics and a large over-capacity of disks are needed to accommodate global observations. Additionally, NEXPReS developed high-speed recording hardware, and software systems to manage the process.
The project also explored real-time grid computing and dynamic bandwidth on demand networking as technologies for future e-VLBI deployment to improve the continuous usage of the network and prepare the EVN for the higher bandwidths which will ensure it will remain the most sensitive VLBI array in the world.
NORDUnet participated in NEXPReS primarily as a provider of network resources in support of SUNET and the Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden. In addition, NORDUnet contributed software development and experimental network resources to the exploration of bandwidth-on-demand and dynamic circuit services for e-VLBI in the project. As part of this work, the e-VBLI community has become one of the first scientific communities to embed dynamic circuit provisioning directly at the application level.
NORDUnet successfully participated in a number of trials of e-VLBI runs over dynamically provisioned, international network resources, including actual scientific observations.
NEXPReS was a collaboration of 14 partners, both scientific institutions and research networks. The project ran from 1 July 2010 to 1 January 2013, and was supported by the European Commission under the FP7 programme (Grant Agreement Number 261525). The project delivered a range of technical improvements for e-VLBI, and published a series of scientific papers.
At completion, NEXPReS project was awarded an "excellent" score, the highest possible score in an EC review.
For more about the project please visit the NEXPReS project page