5. The revival of remote computing
[Chapter 5 of the lecture CAD to SFT.
Click here for the start of the start of the lecture]
5.1 The three deterrents to the wider use of SFT
So far, this review has drawn attention to three promising
However these developments will have only limited impact on
engineering practice until three deterrents to the wider use of
computer-simulation techniques, especially by small and medium
enterprises, can be significantly diminished.
These deterrents are:
- the building of a smooth CAD-to-CFD highway;
- the absorption of CFD and CASA into SFT; and
- the creation of physical models of improved economy and realism.
- the cost of the software;
- the cost of hardware of sufficient power to run many fine-grid
- the scarcity and expense of personnel capable of using them.
(a) Objective and nature
MICA is an EC-funded project designed to show how a "remote-
computing" service can diminish the above-mentioned deterrents.
MICA is an acronym for Model for Industrial CFD Applications. It has
been conducted by a consortium of companies and universities from
nine European countries, namely:
INRIA (France); U Paderborn and U Erlangen (Germany); NTU Athens
(Greece); IST-Lisbon (Portugal); Hoogovens and Stork-Comprimo
(Holland); CMR (Norway); U Zaragoza (Spain); Vattenfall and SMHI
(Sweden); CHAM, BRE and WAT&G (UK).
The general idea is that:-
- users use low-cost virtual-reality customised software on PCs;
- these are linked via Internet to remote parallel-computer centres,
so that users pay only for computer time, according to use;
- advisory cennntes supply human expertise when it is needed.
Ten application sectors were selected for attention, namely:
- Oil-platform explosions
- Smoke movement and fire spread in buildings
- Heating and ventilating of buildings
- Air and pollutant flow around assemblies of buildings
- Flow around marine structures
- Coal-fired industrial furnaces
- Glass-melting and refining furnaces
- Annealing furnaces
- Industrial ovens
- Steam condensers for power stations
The partners in the project were divided into creators, validators,
and end-users; and the aim was to demonstrate that the remote-
computing concept could be used cost-effectively and comfortably.
Validation was therefore of several kinds, the questions to be
It is the first four questions, of course, which relate to the
remote-computing service. The last is about CFD, regardless of how
it is provided; and the author's views on it have appeared above.
- is this mode of making CFD simulations practicable at all?
- is it convenient?
- is it cheap?
- is the advice helpful?
- are the simulations reliable?
(d) Current status
The two-year MICA project, due for completion at the end of 1997,
will over-run by four months; and, since validation is an infinitely
extensible activity, its end will inevitably leave some questions
It is however safe to assert already:
The advisory aspect is the least-well developed; and its
satisfactoriness will in any case take longer to be assessed.
- that the remote-computing mode IS practicable;
- that it IS convenient;
- and that it IS cheap.
Overall, participants in and observers of MICA regard the project as
successful, and have concluded that remote computing, which rose to
prominence in the sixties, then (almost) disappeared in the
seventies, will soon become prominent again, and will remain so.
So strongly do some of them believe in the above conclusion that
they are preparing to launch a world-wide service, of which the
current (but not yet final) name is SIMUSERVE.
This will follow the MICA model, and especially the ingredients of:
"On-tap" is an appropriate phrase; for SIMUSERVE has been described
as providing, for the CAE-using world, the equivalent of "piped
water", in distinction from the "bucket-and-well" technology to
which the current own-software-own-hardware practices correspond.
SIMUSERVE is due to be launched in the second half of 1998.
- customized virtual-reality user interfaces;
- parallel-computing at remote sites;
- communication via Internet;
- provision of "on-tap" advice and quality assurance.
It will provide the whole range of services which form CHAM's
, except for the two traditional extremes, namely consultancy at the one end
and stand-alone-software sales at the other.
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