Today, modern economies are based on critical infrastructure comprised of high-speed computer networks that transport digital information worldwide. To ensure ongoing advancements of this infrastructure, research communities worldwide are undertaking empirical investigations to address key challenges that emerge as new applications, services, and demand for network bandwidth increase exponentially. While innovations that emerge as conceptual insights are initially explored in experiments and research laboratory simulations, the most promising require further experimentation on large-scale testbeds, including international testbeds. These testbeds, which are major instruments for advanced experimental investigations, enable research communities to collaborate and resolve difficult challenges in next-generation networks and communication services before they are deployed in production environments.

The Global Research Platform (GRP) is an international scientific collaboration led by the International Center for Advanced Internet Research (iCAIR) at Northwestern University, the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Qualcomm Institute–Calit2 at UC San Diego, and its partners worldwide. GRP was established to create a worldwide Science DMZ, a distributed environment for data-intensive research, particularly advanced networking capabilities for large-scale data transfers that builds on a variety of testbed activities being developed by global science partners. Innovative concepts for advanced architectures, services, and technologies, when proven through experiments, trials, and demonstrations on research testbeds, at scale, are migrated to production environments.

The GRP is being built on existing Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF) fabric, donated by its participants. And, because international partners provide access to their locally funded testbed facilities, a wider diversity of resources is accessible to research communities. iCAIR, EVL and Calit2 are founding members of the international organization that created GLIF and now GRP. This virtual organization consists of research and education network professionals, National Research & Education Network managers and engineers, computer scientists, and computational scientists who are developing new computing paradigms and cyberinfrastructure, based on programmable network services and resources, to enable international multidisciplinary teams to collaborate and communicate. Instead of requiring each science community to recreate common services, the GRP is focused on developing building blocks that are required by all testbeds.

The GRP provides an ecosystem for empirical research by providing both testbed resources and a gateway to a nexus of multiple existing, emerging and anticipated national and international testbeds. Lessons learned by GRP developers and users are communicated worldwide through scholarly publications and presentations and demonstrations at major conferences and workshops, including GRP workshops. Many GRP advancements in architectures, services, and technologies will be widely disseminated and put into operational practice within National Research & Education Networks, Open Exchanges and network testbeds around the world for the benefit of the broader research and education communities.