Team Opale

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Scientific Foundations
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Section: Scientific Foundations

Integration platforms

Developing grid computing for complex applications is one of the priorities of the IST chapter in the 6th Framework Program of the European Community. One of the challenges of the 21st century in the computer science area lies in the integration of various expertise in complex application areas such as simulation and optimisation in aeronautics, automotive and nuclear simulation. Indeed, the design of the reentry vehicle of a space shuttle calls for aerothermal, aerostructure and aerodynamics disciplines which all interact in hypersonic regime, together with electromagnetics. Further, efficient, reliable, and safe design of aircraft involve thermal flows analysis, consumption optimisation, noise reduction for environmental safety, using for example aeroacoustics expertise.

The integration of such various disciplines requires powerful computing infrastructures and particular software coupling techniques. Simultaneously, advances in computer technology militate in favour of the use of massively parallel PC-clusters including thousands of processors connected by high-speed gigabits/sec wide-area networks. This conjunction makes it possible for an unprecedented cross-fertilisation of computational methods and computer science. New approaches including evolutionary algorithms, parameterization, multi-hierarchical decomposition lend themselves seamlessly to parallel implementations in such computing infrastructures. This opportunity is being dealt with by the Opale project since its very beginning. A software integration platform has been designed by the Opale project for the definition, configuration and deployment of multidisciplinary applications on a distributed heterogeneous infrastructure [66] . Experiments conducted within European projects and industrial cooperations using CAST have led to significant performance results in complex aerodynamics optimisation test-cases involving multi-elements airfoils and evolutionary algorithms, i.e. coupling genetic and hierarchical algorithms involving game strategies. [68] .

The main difficulty still remains however in the deployment and control of complex distributed applications on grids by the end-users. Indeed, the deployement of the computing grid infrastructures and of the applications in such environments still requires specific expertise by computer science specialists. However, the users, which are experts in their particular application fields, e.g. aerodynamics, are not necessarily experts in distributed and grid computing. Being accustomed to Internet browsers, they want similar interfaces to interact with grid computing and problem-solving environments. A first approach to solve this problem is to define component-based infrastructures, e.g. the Corba Component Model, where the applications are considered as connection networks including various application codes. The advantage is here to implement a uniform approach for both the underlying infrastructure and the application modules. However, it still requires specific expertise not directly related to the application domains of each particular user. A second approach is to make use of grid services, defined as application and support procedures to standardise access and invocation to remote support and application codes. This is usually considered as an extension of Web services to grid infrastructures. A new approach, which is currently being explored by the Opale project, is the design of a virtual computing environment able to hide the underlying grid-computing infrastructures to the users. It is currently deployed within the Collaborative Working Environments Unit of the DG INFSO F4 of the European Commission. It is planned to include Chinese partners from the aeronautics sector in 2009 to set up a project for FP7.


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