From anywhere

Run simulations from anywhere, your classroom on campus, your home or any other location. This user-friendly web platform is an interface to existing simulation codes used in daily research activity.

The online simulator accessible via internet eliminates the need to sign up for a specific time slot or find an available computer terminal and allows each student to proceed at his own pace. Download of software is not required, preventing any issues with intellectual property, any compatibility trouble, any overhead associated with building the executable file in one’s personal computing environment; consequently the website and the simulation project can be accessed with from any computer. Only an HTML browser is required.

Carry out your own studies within a research simulation environment

This user-friendly web platform is not aimed at simulating a technological environment immersing you in a singular room, such as a control command associated with a large facility where a specific environment with realistic  sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence, is reproduced (the so-called virtual reality).

This platform allows any authorized user to run codes designed by researchers for his or her own simulation project. Such codes can be modified for teaching purpose but there is no need for a researcher to prepare dedicated software to be plugged into a larger platform. With this online platform, any student can run simulations, the number depending on the task assigned: typically a few to a few tens. Each run will typically take a few seconds to one hour, depending on the problem to be addressed.

With the only information got from his teacher/mentor on the project name he has to manage, any student/user is invited to log onto the web site. The user can identify on the web server the code to be used, the project name, and the data input file template. One has only to: (1) download the data file, (2) modify it on one’s own PC, and (3) upload it to the web server.  Upon completion of the last task, the web server remotely launches a run on another server, a computing server, where the executable code files are stored.  When the simulation has completed, the computing server will inform the web server and, through it, notify the student.  The user will then be able to download a single file comprising all output files to his or her own PC.

A few words about the history of this platform

The idea of this platform originated around 2005 from Dr Guy Bonnaud, plasma physicist and Professor at the National Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology (INSTN) at CEA/Saclay*, while training students in a Master’s level plasma physics class in the use of a plasma-laser interaction code.  Students were required to perform their simulations in a special multi-computer room at Saclay  during a time slot scheduled in their agenda many weeks before by the teacher.  A sequence of three afternoon sessions was typically required to complete a simulation.  The limited time available to compare runs executed and interpreted by the group of 20 students and to pursue resulting ideas for further simulations delving deeper into plasma physics resulted in frustration.

The idea of providing remote access to a computer server to run research codes emerged. This idea was initially proposed within the framework of the European network FUSENET dedicated to magnetic confinement fusion. Interaction with Dr Yves Peysson, plasma physicist at CEA/Cadarache and Professor at INSTN, helped to determine the boundaries of this initiative. Internships supported by INSTN were given to two students preparing a computer science degree, first Quentin Godeau and then Bastien Pereira, to clarify the concept and to provide specifications of a dual machine set: a web server where students would register and a computer server not directly accessed by students where simulations would run on request from the web server. Via these internships, the framework of this platform was defined and programming the various entities and their interfaces started with open software such as PhP and SQL. The implementation of this concept was achieved through a contract between INSTN, as the principal, and 6ème science Society in Paris, headed by Dr Pierre-Gérard David.  The web server to which students connect to manage their simulation work is located in France.  Once connected, and when ready, a student can request a simulation to start on the computer server.  That will initiate a request for a run on a computer server named Simrack located at CEA/Saclay on the premises of INSTN. This 24-core computer server has been installed and is administrated by Dr Franck Jedrzejewski from INSTN. The whole set software -hardware – human task force was funded and is currently supported by INSTN.

 * : CEA : Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies renouvelables : Commission for atomic energy and renewable energies