5. The revival of remote computing

[Chapter 5 of the lecture CAD to SFT.
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5.1 The three deterrents to the wider use of SFT

So far, this review has drawn attention to three promising developments:-
  1. the building of a smooth CAD-to-CFD highway;
  2. the absorption of CFD and CASA into SFT; and
  3. the creation of physical models of improved economy and realism.
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:
  1. the cost of the software;
  2. the cost of hardware of sufficient power to run many fine-grid simulations; and
  3. the scarcity and expense of personnel capable of using them.

5.2 The MICA project

(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:-

(b) Customization

Ten application sectors were selected for attention, namely:
  1. Oil-platform explosions
  2. Smoke movement and fire spread in buildings
  3. Heating and ventilating of buildings
  4. Air and pollutant flow around assemblies of buildings
  5. Flow around marine structures
  6. Coal-fired industrial furnaces
  7. Glass-melting and refining furnaces
  8. Annealing furnaces
  9. Industrial ovens
  10. Steam condensers for power stations

(c) Validation

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 answered being:

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.

(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 still unanswered

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.

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.
It will provide the whole range of services which form CHAM's "solution spectrum" , except for the two traditional extremes, namely consultancy at the one end and stand-alone-software sales at the other.

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