Ben He honored by ORAU with 2004 Powe Award

While companies, universities and government agencies become increasingly dependent on fast-growing, data-intensive computer networks, Tennessee Tech University’s Xubin He is conducting award-winning research on how large amounts of data can be stored and transferred more securely, quickly and reliably.

As one of the nation’s most promising junior faculty members, He, a TTU assistant electrical and computer engineering professor, has brought recognition and grant money to Tennessee Tech by being named a 2004 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award winner by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

At TTU, He created the Storage Technology and Architecture Research Laboratory, or STAR Lab, to promote research in data storage. In the past decade, faster processors and increased network bandwidth have allowed a cluster, which is a collection of computers, to perform as well as a dedicated computer but at lower cost. Meanwhile, a bottleneck occurs because of the slow transfer rate between the computers and storage devices.

At the STAR Lab, He introduced a three-level hierarchy of storage that reduces the botteneck and increases the speed, reliability and security of the data transfer process. Working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he has introduced this “multi-layer, distributed shared IP storage system” that features a small storage level for retrieval of frequently accessed data, an intermediate larger level for cache and an even larger storage area for backup data.

“Think of trying to find your keys in a small house as opposed to a large house,” said He. “The smaller the area you have to search, the more quickly you will find what you are looking for. The same concept works in the hierarchy of data storage. We place data in different storage levels depending on how frequently the data is needed and how secure it needs to be.”

Deploying data over a network with networked storage brings economy and convenience, but it also raises performance and reliability issues which are addressed in He’s research.

“Security will be the most pressing issue in data storage in the long run,” said He. “As technology improves, other elements such as speed, storage capacity and network bandwidth can increase, but security issues on a network are harder to solve as the volume of data increases and hardware and software challenges arise.”

The continued collaboration with ORNL will allow He access to network clusters made up of dozens, even hundreds, of computers so that he and his graduate students can work on improving network security.

He earned his doctorate in electrical engineering in 2002 at the University of Rhode Island, after receiving his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in the People's Republic of China. Specializing in network and database security, he ranked first in his undergraduate and graduate class.

In the past 3 years, He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen refereed articles for professional journals and conference proceedings and filed two joint U.S patents. During his university career, he received several national and worldwide scholarships including a Siemens International Student Scholarship and Computer World Scholarship.

Ralph E. Powe Awards provide seed money to allow faculty members in their first two years of tenure track to enhance their research. He received a $5,000 unrestricted research award that will be matched by TTU. This year, 24 winners were chosen from almost 100 applicants.

Oak Ridge Associated Universities, one of the nation’s most respected university consortiums to advance science and education, has awarded more than 230 grants totaling more than $1 million in the last 14 years. The 88 major research institutions join national laboratories, government agencies and private industry to advance science and education.

Titus Albu, a TTU assistant chemistry professor, received a Powe award last year for his fuel cell research.
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