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New Network Equipment Grant Program from Intel Reduces Cost of University Networking Research

Dec 8, 2021
Vladimir Gurevich, Intel
Vladimir Gurevich, Intel About the author

Networking research is often an expensive, resource-intensive undertaking, especially when the researchers need to prove that their solution is both viable and effective in solving problems facing modern networks that operate at terabits and petabits per second.

Not every P4 program can operate at these high speeds and thus in order to prove that a certain algorithm is viable, a researcher needs to make sure it can be implemented on a modern, high-speed P4 programmable Ethernet switching ASIC, such as the Intel® Tofino™ Intelligent Fabric Processor. That’s precisely what the Intel® Connectivity Research Program (ICRP) was set up to do – to give networking researchers access to this powerful target.

New Grant Program: The Fast Forward Initiative
The Fast Forward Initiative that I would like to tell you about is a special grant program which will help academic researchers who already use Tofino to expand the number of devices in their labs, sometimes significantly. Why is this important?

While all ICRP organizations have at least one Tofino-based system at their disposal, it is often not enough.  First, when one researcher is using a device, others cannot do that and have to wait for their turn.  Obviously, it would be beneficial for many of the research groups to have more switches.

Second, to prove that a certain algorithm can solve a network-wide problem, a researcher needs to build a whole network consisting of many devices. These systems are not cheap – even a modest network consisting of a dozen devices is often out of reach for most universities.

Last, but not least, researchers often need to test their solutions by sending a lot of traffic and observing the results, and modern test equipment is extremely expensive. Fortunately, the flexibility of P4-programmable systems allows researchers to convert them into very sophisticated, high-performance traffic generators that can rival systems costing many times as much.

More Intel® Tofino™ Series Hardware for Research
We at Intel believe that putting more hardware in the hands of researchers will be a real game changer and so we decided to act. First, the company made a decision to allocate funds that can be used to purchase systems for the research teams working on the most promising projects.

Then, we went one step further and involved several prominent system vendors that build and sell Intel Tofino-based systems who enthusiastically agreed to help. While these vendors already have generous academic discount programs in place, we had one more idea: Intel decided to donate a certain number of chips, so that these systems could be built even cheaper with all the savings being passed to the researchers!

With all the pieces in place, we are now collecting grant proposals, in which the researchers can tell us about their projects and their needs through a simple online application form. The form also has a list of systems to choose from. The applications will then be quickly reviewed by a committee that will award the grants.  The program is open to all academic and research organizations worldwide that are members of Intel Connectivity Research Program.

Important dates and other information
Grant applications must be submitted by December 31, 2021 to be considered and the selected parties will be notified by January 14, 2021.  Please, do not hesitate to reach out to fast.forward@intel.com if you have any questions.

If you have a great idea for solving a network problem, we look forward to partnering with you.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Vladimir Gurevich, Intel
Vladimir Gurevich, IntelIntel Principal Engineer