PACS Online Training Courses Contribute to Efforts to Strengthen National Security

Columbus, OH -- September 13, 2006 -- Partners for Advanced Computational Services (PACS) training materials will now be used to help reduce vulnerability in our nation’s information system.

Recently, The Ohio State University (OSU) was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAEIAE) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As part of OSU’s designation, OSC will provide NSA-certified training and participate as a member of OSU’s Consortium for IAE. Part of this training will include a significant amount of the courses developed by PACs and supported by Engaging People in Cyberinfrastructure (EPIC).

The National CAEIAE program is an outreach program designed and operated initially by the NSA in the spirit of the Presidential Decision Directive 63, National Policy on Critical Infrastructure Protection, May 1998. The program’s goal is to reduce vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by promoting higher education in IAE and increasing the number of professionals with IAE expertise in various disciplines.
It is now jointly sponsored by the NSA and DHS in support of the President’s National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, February 2003.

OSU recommended OSC as a candidate for its Consortium for IAE. OSC was appointed to the consortium after rigorous evaluation and measurement using stringent NSA criteria.  OSC’s experience in distance education, delivering IAE courses, and shared curriculum and faculty all demonstrated its commitment to academic excellence in IAE education. The CAEIAE program was specifically interested in candidates’ experience with distance education technology and techniques for delivering IAE courses. OSC’s involvement with the EPIC and PACs online training materials was key to its selection.

For instance, success of the PACS asynchronous tutorial, “Introduction to Message Passing Interface (MPI),” is unprecedented. The tutorial has consistently gained worldwide attention, attracting more than 14,000 participants across the globe.  Its success has led to a follow-on intermediate tutorial, attracting another 1,000 students, as well as other high quality online courses. In total, an impressive 22,000 participants have used the eight tutorials developed by the PACS training group -- with hundreds more taking the courses each month. 

Other online courses include: Intermediate MPI, Introduction to OpenMP, Multilevel Parallel Programming, Performance Tuning for Clusters, Debugging Serial and Parallel Codes, and Parallel Numerical Libraries.  They are offered online at no charge via the National Center for Supercomputing Application’s (NCSA) Web-based course server, WebCT-HPC, and can be accessed at http://webct.ncsa.uiuc.edu:8900/.

“Since the beginning, this course has been a great success.  From early to current feedback, comments tell us that we have accomplished what we set out to do back in 2000,” said Leslie Southern, former PACS Alliance training group lead, current EPIC training group lead, and OSC High Performance Computing Director.  “We wanted to develop a high quality tutorial that was a concise how-to guide for researchers and others interested in getting a basic yet fundamental understanding of the Message Passing Interface. We were able to create that and more.”

Leveraging the training materials for use by CAEIAE supports EPIC’s project goals. The training group has several tasks -- one of which is updating and enhancing the MPI course developed by PACS in 2000. These efforts contribute to the expansion of HPC education to other audiences and communities. The EPIC training group consists of representatives from the University of Boston, University of Kentucky, NCSA, and OSC.  As a follow-on to the EOT-PACI project, the EPIC project was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“We are proud of the 20,000 plus log-ins and the incredible response that we have had to these courses,” added Southern.  “It has been gratifying to see that our materials are being used in college teaching, especially outside of the continental U.S.  Knowing that they are now going to be used to help improve in our nation’s information system is exciting.”

Other university areas selected by the CAE program to provide NSA-certified courses include several College of Engineering departments (including Computer Science and Engineering), the Moritz College of Law, Fisher College of Business, Program for International and Homeland Security, Security Office of the CIO, OSU Libraries, and Geographic Information Science (GIS).  In all, NSA certified 54 OSU courses.

The OSU CAEIAE will play an important role to lead and support the IAE and research throughout the university. Various colleges and organizations work closely together for the partnerships in IAE with minority colleges and two-year community colleges and technical schools. It encourages and supports IAE and research as a multidisciplinary science through collaboration with other academic institutions. 

Designated CAEIAE Institutions are located throughout the country -- many within driving distance of major Department of Defense (DoD) installations, federal research centers, and other federal agencies. Selected schools serve as regional centers of IAE expertise and have already begun to provide more programs aimed at retooling and retaining current federal and state information technology personnel.

In addition to the formal recognition by the U.S. government, as well as opportunities for prestige and publicity, CAEIAEs are eligible for various government funding for their role in securing our nation’s information systems. Students attending CAEIAE schools are eligible to apply for scholarships and grants through the Department of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program and the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program.

For more information, contact Elaine Landwehr at 614-292-0890 or landwehr@osc.edu.