Strudel making visualisation of data more accessible

MASSIVE’s Strudel tool is gaining traction in national research institutions and making a difference to how research involving high-powered computing and visualisation is undertaken.

Strudel, originally called the ScienTific DEsktop Launcher, makes it easy for scientists to click through a few dialog boxes and gain access on their office computer to a remote desktop running in a high powered computing environment or cloud.

Dr Will Ryder, NIF Facility Fellow at the University of Sydney/ANSTO node of the National Imaging Facility located at the Brain and Mind Centre, has been involved in a pilot of Strudel for University of Sydney medical imaging researchers.

Medical imaging modalities, such as MRI, PET and CT, generate huge amounts of data. Computer-based visualisation of such data involves high-powered computing, which is very technical and often beyond the expertise of newcomer researchers, including graduate students.

But Strudel is already making visualisation of data more accessible to such ‘inexpert’ users. MASSIVE assisted the Brain and Mind Centre to set up a test cluster at the University of Sydney that has enabled students to collaborate across the campus. For example, thanks to the capability provided by Strudel an Honours student was remotely trained in the use of software for visualisation of CT scans acquired at the Sydney Node of the Australian Microscopy & Microanalysis Research Facility.

“It would have been virtually impossible to share software in this way without this software, let alone to do it efficiently,” says Ryder.

“Strudel opens the door to students and researchers who are less technical in the area of high-powered computing to allow access to state-of-the-art tools for image processing,” he said.

The roll-out of Strudel is making similar changes to the accessibility of visualisation technology at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Western Australia. Jonathan Knispel, a member of Pawsey's visualisation team, has been working with MASSIVE to make it easier for researchers to access remote visualisation.

Like Ryder, he works in large data sets that have to be processed into 3-D images to allow researchers to interact with and make sense of them.

Researchers familiar with command-line access to Pawsey's supercomputing facilities are already using Strudel for a more convenient start to their remote visualisation sessions.

Pawsey's team also supports non-supercomputing researchers from a diverse range of disciplines, including humanities, the life sciences and business. Those users typically bring their data to a Pawsey partner facility where they can use powerful, 3D workstations to visualise them.

“Strudel’s new ability to reserve remote sessions in advance will help researchers with no supercomputing experience access visualisation facilities from the convenience of their own office," Knispel says.

MASSIVE and Pawsey have worked together to extend STRUDEL to support the way Pawsey allocates and manages visualisation sessions. The new capability allows scientists to book visualisation computing nodes so that they can use the capabilities at a pre-arranged, convenient time.

Strudel was developed by the MASSIVE team as part of the NeCTAR Characterisation Virtual Laboratory to access remote scientific desktops. It is now being extended to foster re-use at other HPC and cloud facilities.

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