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Retired ESnet Network Special Projects Group Lead, Michael Scott Collins, has Passed Away

February 20, 2019

Contact: Carol Pott, [email protected], 510-486-7514

Michael Scott Collins, who led ESnet’s Special Projects Group, passed away on January 27, 2019 surrounded by his siblings in Davis, California. Michael retired in 2011 after 32 years with ESnet and its predecessors.

Michael, who originally studied biochemistry, became fascinated with programming while a student at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. He took a programming class that gave him a basis in the same programming model used at the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center (NMFECC) at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, where he began his career in programming. The NMFECC was later renamed NERSC and the networking activity evolved into ESnet.

Michael was a part of the team that combined MFEnet at NERSC with HEPnet in the mid-1980s to create ESnet and provided seamless networking to support DOE and its research missions. As part of this effort, Michael’s group was renamed Special Projects (and later renamed the Network Engineering Group) and created a detailed routing plan for the new network as their first project. Each time ESnet upgraded its infrastructure, Michael was often the first person to bring up the new router or other piece of technology, and he programmed many generations of ESnet equipment tasked with moving data at speeds from 56 Kbps to over 10 Gbps. He did so until ESnet deployed the Bay Area Metropolitan Network in 2005, providing redundant 10 Gbps lines connecting all DOE research sites in the Bay Area.

“Michael was instrumental in migrating ESnet from an in-house based hardware and software point-to-point solution into a cutting-edge standards-based global network,” said Joe Burrescia, who worked closely with Michael at ESnet for many years and retired in 2012. “He was also one of the first ESnet experts involved with the Internet Engineering Task Force, the organization charged with creating standards of the modern Internet.”  

After retiring to the home that he and his wife, Sandra Reece, built in Davis, California, Michael continued as an active member of the community and enjoyed walking his dog, an activity he saw as an opportunity to interact with his neighbors and friends. He also enjoyed traveling about in his camper van and often invited friends on trips to attend Riverdance shows and events. Michael was also an avid naturalist who loved Yosemite and spent many years, dating back to his childhood, camping and enjoying the rugged beauty in the valley. Donations can be made in Michael’s name to the Yosemite Conservancy.

A celebration of Michael’s life will be held Sunday, March 3, 2019, 1 p.m. at the Smith Funeral Home, 116 D. Street, Davis, Calif. Michael's family is encouraging people to share memories and tributes to him on his remembrance page.