CosmoGrid and Remote Collaborative Visualization
Enabling UK cosmologists to make world class contributions from
observation of the cosmic microwave sky.
This project employs Grid technology to allow users of the COSMOS supercomputer
to remotely and collaboratively visualize large data sets.
Dr Paul Shellard (PI) - Faculty member of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and Director, COSMOS supercomputer.
Dr Stuart Rankin - Systems administrator, COSMOS supercomputer, and Administrator, Relativity and Gravitation group, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.
Andrew Usher - Cambridge eScience visualization programmer for COSMOS and CosmoGrid (and also for EMGrid).
The COSMOS consortium, led by Professor Stephen Hawking, employs
large-scale supercomputer resources to advance our knowledge
of the origin and structure of our universe, through:
modelling theories of the very early universe,
simulating the primordial perturbations which led to galaxy formation, and
analysing large data sets from cosmic microwave background experiments
COSMOS, the National Cosmology Supercomputer, is an SGI Altix 3800 (128 IA64 cpus, 128Gb memory, 10Tb storage) housed in Cambridge. Advanced visualization is essential for the analysis and
interpretation of these complex nonlinear simulations, and includes an
SGI Onyx2 Infinite Reality console to which the next-generation SGI Onyx4 UltimateVision console is shortly to be added.
The COSMOS supercomputer
Map of CosmoGrid Centres
Consortium members from around the UK regularly access the COSMOS
supercomputer from Imperial College, Sussex and Portsmouth Universities,
as well as off-site in Cambridge at the Cavendish Laboratory and the
Institute of Astronomy. The concept of cosmogrid was developed to enhance the
functionality of this central facility by allowing users to to visualize their data remotely and collaboratively. We are actively pursuing two key paradigms
to achieve this, visual serving and
Virtual Director session
Taking advantage of SGI's Visual Area Networking
software - Vizserver - visualization applications are being developed
that run on the COSMOS Onyx2 console. These can be viewed remotely using
centrally based data, thus removing a key data transfer bottleneck.
In addition, these sessions can be used for collaborative interactions,
with users at several remote sites, each viewing and manipulating the same data
sets. Successful demonstrations of this have been achieved in collaborative
sessions with cosmologists at the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex
and trials are underway as far afield as France and Portugal.
Proof-of-concept software to visualize the cosmic microwave sky is under
development to seamlessly create remote and collaborative Vizserver sessions
on COSMOS. This software - CSKY - accesses the advanced visualization
capabilities of the supercomputer console, while allowing the data sets to be
viewed remotely and collaboratively. Such capabilities are important
for international collaborations like the ESA Planck Surveyor satellite,
an ambitious CMB experiment in which COSMOS users are playing an important
Vizserver in use
New Linux CSKY version
For extremely intensive visualization applications or
where network links are poor, we are also exploring methods by which to
remotely share control of visualization applications running on mirrored
data sets at different sites.
This work, in partnership with NCSA, has been demonstrated successfully using the Virtual Director suite in real-time collaborative sessions from Cambridge
to iGrid 2002 in Amsterdam and also to Supercomputing 2001 at Denver.
We are examining open source alternatives to enable similar functionality in
our own visualization applications.
Industrial support for this project is kindly provided by Silicon Graphics
Computer Systems Inc, an ongoing collaborative synergy which dates back
to the launch of the first COSMOS supercomputer in 1997.