November 2005
E-Infrastructure: Europe Meets the e-Science Challenge
Mike Boniface and Colin Upstill, University of Southampton IT Innovation Centre


In the context of this project, a Grid is defined to be a software system that provides uniform and location independent access to geographically and organizationally dispersed, heterogeneous resources that are persistent and supported. Typically, these shared assets are under different ownership or control. The SIMDAT project1 is developing generic Grid technology for the solution of complex application problems and demonstrating this technology in several representative industry sectors. Special attention is being paid to security, e.g. where third-party suppliers have need-to-know access to data, and correlation and inference may provide insight into confidential processes. The objective is to accelerate the uptake of Grid technologies in industry and services, provide standardised solutions for capability currently missing, and validate the effectiveness of a Grid in simplifying processes used for the solution of complex, data-centric problems.

The SIMDAT consortium is comprised of leading software and process system developers–IBM, IDESTYLE Technologies, InforSense, Intel, Lion Bioscience, LMS International, MSC Software, NEC, Ontoprise and Oracle; Grid technology specialists–Fraunhofer Institute AIS, Frauenhofer Institute SCAI, IT Innovation, Universitat Karlsruhe, Universite libre de Bruxelles and the University of Southampton; and representatives from strategic industry and service sectors–Audi, BAESystems, DWD, EADS, ESI, EUMETSAT, ECMWF, GlaxoSmithKline, MeteoFrance, Renault, and the UK Met Office. IT Innovation is leading the basic Grid infrastructure level architecture work in SIMDAT and this article will therefore be focused on this aspect of the project rather than the applications.

Grids for complex problem solving in industry

Development of industrial and large-scale products and services poses complex problems. The processes used to develop these products and services typically involve a large number of independent organisational entities at different locations grouped in partnerships and supply chains. Grid is connectivity plus interoperability and is a major contributor to improved collaboration and an enabler of virtual organisations. It has the potential to substantially reduce the complexity of the development process, thereby improving the ability to deal with product complexity.

The heart of the issue is data. Applications and their associated computing power are central to the product development process. Grid technology is needed to connect diverse data sources, to enable flexible, secure and sophisticated levels of collaboration and to make possible the use of powerful knowledge discovery techniques.

Key to seamless data access is the federation of problem-solving environments using grid technology. The federated problem solving-environments will be the major result of SIMDAT.

Seven key technology layers have been identified as important to achieving the SIMDAT objectives:

  • an integrated grid infrastructure, offering basic services to applications and higher-level layers
  • transparent access to data repositories on remote Grid sites
  • management of Virtual Organizations
  • workflow
  • ontologies
  • integration of analysis services
  • knowledge services.

The strategic objectives of SIMDAT are to:

  • test and enhance data grid technology for product development and production process design
  • develop federated versions of problem-solving environments by leveraging enhanced grid services
  • exploit data grids as a basis for distributed knowledge discovery
  • promote de facto standards for these enhanced grid technologies across a range of disciplines and sectors
  • raise awareness of the advantages of data grids in important industry sectors.

SIMDAT focuses on four exemplar application areas: product design in the automotive, aerospace and pharma industries; and service provision in meteorology. For each of these application areas a challenging problem has been identified that will be solved using Grid technology, e.g. distributed knowledge discovery to enable better understanding of the different Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) behaviour of different designs of cars based on the same platform; Grid technology will allow seamless access to all relevant data for all engineers of the development centers of large multinational car manufacturers.

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Reference this article
Boniface, M., Upstill, C. "SIMDAT," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 4, November 2005. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2005/11/simdat/

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