The University of Texas at San Antonio is getting a $500,000 boost to its high-technology research internet network.

A National Science Foundation grant awarded to the university last week will help UTSA build a dedicated high-speed, internet network known as a science DMZ, a special network that allows for the movement of massive amounts of data.

UTSA’s researchers in cybersecurity, cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and real-time computing, among others, will have access to internet speeds five to 10 times faster than the current network.

U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio) announced the funding last week.

“Over the last decade, we’ve witnessed the effects of cyber operations on democracy and the critical need to build up our nation’s ability to respond and deter to such attacks,” said Castro in a news release.

The grant, he said, “will help our nation bolster our capabilities and defenses, and enhance research and development in advanced computing theories and technologies for faculty and students. In turn, this grant will contribute to our national infrastructure, making our nation and the world a better, safer place.”

The grant will allow the university to install 10-gigabit-per-second switches in research facilities on the UTSA campus. This would provide a network service 1,000 times faster than the minimum speed required to download a file, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband speed guide. As many as 1,000 network ports in select research labs will have access to the switches, according to a news release.

The university’s Office of Information Technology will lead the effort to upgrade the network and install the 10-gigabit switches. Bryan Wilson, interim vice provost for information technology, will support both learning and research at the university.

“The improvements will especially enhance access to our high-performance computing facility, high-speed data storage, and Advanced Visualization Laboratory,” Wilson said in an email. “It will also enhance classroom-to-career learning activities such as our annual CyberPatriot competition, undergraduate research opportunities in cloud and high-performance computing, and our graduate certificate program in cloud computing.”

Moving data is a challenge in many university research facilities, as ordinary networks are not designed to handle the large data sets faculty need to conduct research. Many campuses use the science DMZ model to strengthen their network architecture without firewall-capped internet speeds.

UTSA’s Office of Information Technology has applied previously to the National Science Foundation for a science DMZ-supporting grant but did not receive the award, according to the UTSA website.

The university said implementing the science DMZ will support UTSA’s goal of becoming a Tier One university, the highest ranking for research activity by higher education institutions.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.