[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 24-Jan-2013
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Contact: Noel Schulz
noels@k-state.edu
785-532-5844
Kansas State University

Gift helps Kansas State University's Smart Grid Lab amp up research in software-defined networking

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- A donation from Overland Park-based FishNet Security will enable researchers in Kansas State University's Smart Grid Laboratory to study ways to improve electrical systems.

FishNet Security, North America's largest information security provider, will donate, integrate and manage software-defined networking equipment at the university's Burns & McDonnell Smart Grid Laboratory. As a result of the gift, the laboratory will be one of the first facilities to test the ways that emerging software-defined networking technology can be used to more efficiently manage, distribute, use and secure electrical power.

"Kansas State University looks forward to working with FishNet Security and our other laboratory partners to see the role that software-defined networking can play in improving our country's electrical grid," said Noel Schulz, the College of Engineering's associate dean for research and the director of the Burns & McDonnell Smart Grid Laboratory. "Another benefit is that our students will get to see firsthand how software-defined networking might be used to deliver power in a more economical, secure and environmentally friendly way."

The laboratory, which was dedicated in October 2012, includes power grid and network communication equipment and is part of the university's department of electrical and computer engineering. Located in Rathbone Hall, the laboratory supports undergraduate and graduate student projects and will boost internship and future employment opportunities for students.

"FishNet Security is proud to be uniting with Kansas State University and several of our leading technology partners to learn how software-defined networking technology can benefit electrical power grids," said Gary Fish, founder and CEO at FishNet Security. "Software-defined networking shows great promise in its ability to improve the control and security of electrical grids. We look forward to joining the university in researching ways to improve electrical systems in its new laboratory and eventually in real-world environments."

The increase in intelligent devices on power grids has increased communications traffic on electrical smart grids. This increase can create delays, security vulnerabilities and breaches, data losses, dropped packets, network overloads, equipment failures and subsequent power losses. Software-defined networking shows promise in countering these problems because of its ability to control traffic outside the typical switch fabric commonly used today.

Software-defined networking uses software to control where switches send packets of information. Traditionally, firmware within switches has been used in this role. But with software-defined networking, traffic can be routed with software in a controller separate from the network equipment. This decoupling in software-defined networking technology is particularly advantageous to cloud computing because a network administrator can use a control console and routing tables to remotely direct traffic loads across multi-vendor networks, platforms, circuits and hardware.

The Burns & McDonnell Smart Grid Laboratory and latest donation from FishNet Security amp up already strong academic and research programs in electrical power and communications at the university and help provide a surge in the university's -- and state of Kansas' -- goal of educating more engineers. The laboratory and donation also will help the university meet its goal of becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025.

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