Calit2, SDSC, Scripps and UIC/EVL Showcase Cyberinfrastructure Future at SC07

By Maureen C. Curran

EVL's Lambda Table
EVL's new Lambda Table, a 24-million-pixel horizontal tabletop display with camera-tracked user interface tools. (Click photo for larger image.)
[Photo by Greg Dawe]
SC07 Photo Gallery

San Diego, CA and Reno, NV, December 7, 2007 -- The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Scripps) - all at UC San Diego - joined with the University of Illinois at Chicago's Electronic Visualization Laboratory (UIC/EVL) to showcase their efforts in "Inventing the Future with Cyberinfrastructure" at SC07, held in Reno, NV, November 11-16.

SC07, the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis, presents the latest cutting-edge technologies from research and industry exhibitors, over 276 participated this year. Calit2, Scripps and EVL shared a booth with SDSC; the collaboration showcased their research and development teams and the tools being developed to support all areas of data-intensive scientific research.

"Overall, the booth was a major success with lots of activity," said Maxine Brown, UIC/EVL associate director. "There was a lot of interest," explained Jürgen Schulze, Calit2 project scientist, "and many questions about the applications, the software and the technologies."

Schulze and Optiportable SC07
Calit2's Jürgen Schulze (back to camera) discusses the OptIPortable with visitor. (Click photo for larger image.)
[Photo by Joe Keefe]

Presentations and demonstrations highlighted a wide range of cyberinfrastructure technologies and applications from many research projects and collaborations in the group.

Calit2 showcased CineGrid and a non-stereo C-Wall using a 4K digital projector loaned by JVC America and an NTT JPEG2000 Codec. Calit2 also brought its "OptIPortable" (portable tiled-display wall), a Mobile Interactive Imaging Multi-display Environment (MiniMe) system that uses Dell computers running Linux. Both the C-Wall and OptIPortable were used, simultaneously, for a variety of demonstrations reflecting multiple scientific disciplines.

The super-high-definition digital video content included scientific visualizations, computer renderings, digital scans of analog film and footage captured with 4K cameras. An interactive multispectral diagnostic imaging demo of Leonardo da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi painting was also shown on the C-wall in 4K. The OptIPortable was used to run COVISE (COllaborative VIsualization and Simulation Environment) interactive visualization demos including 3-D structures of proteins and high resolution stained brain slice images and an EVL demo, "Tellurion," among others. The interactive visualization software supports collaborative viewing of images from multiple sites on the internet.

The 4K Digital Cinema presentations attracted attention from both the HPC industry and cinema-goers alike. Members of the industry expressed interest in helping to move the 4K digital content faster using high performance hard drives and processors, while the average viewer was able to enjoy 4K resolution in a seamless display.

OptIPortable in Road case
Calit2's OptIPortable in road case. Inside the case, there is a mechanism to raise the monitors up. The wings are folded out and the road case becomes the base of the 5x3 monitors tiled-display wall (see image above, on the left). (Click photo for larger image.)
[Photo by Joe Keefe]

EVL featured its new Lambda Table, a 24-million-pixel horizontal tabletop display with camera-tracked user interface tools. SC07 attendees used flat plastic pucks to pan, zoom, translate and rotate 2-D and 3-D high-resolution scientific imagery such as a particle simulation of rainfall on a terrain map, astronomy imagery, and a volumetrically rendered Purkinje cell from a rat brain.

"We developed Lambda Table to support an altogether different collaborative experience than the vertical LCD-tiled format," said EVL director Jason Leigh. "Lambda Table users can view, manipulate, compare and discuss high-resolution scientific data in a way that is similar to how they would on a table covered with maps or any other tangible, movable media. Only this data is dynamic, high-resolution, and possibly being streamed from the other side of the globe."

The Lambda Table runs SAGE, a middleware that enables researchers to create real-time shared "cyber-mash-ups" of high-resolution content on scalable tiled displays over optical networks. EVL also demonstrated "SAGE Visualcasting," where images and HD teleconferencing were streamed to multiple sites. Visualcasting enables the application to dynamically stream to multiple sites, versus network-enabled multicasting, which requires connections to be set up in advance by network engineers.

Larry Smarr and Ginger Ambrust on Optiportal
Calit2's Larry Smarr (left) in Reno on the SC07 floor at the Research Channel booth and Professor Ginger Armbrust in Seattle, WA (right, on tiled display), have a live discussion on using the new OptIPortal at UW to study Puget Sound diatoms. (Click photo for larger image.)
[Photo by Maxine Brown]

"This was a great opportunity to showcase our collaborative efforts in cyberinfrastructure and, judging from the traffic in the booth, it worked," said Warren Froelich, SDSC's director of communications and public relations.

SDSC had a presentation theater where Larry Smarr, director of Calit2, presented on the OptIPlanet Collaboratory (see below for link), Calit2's Tom DeFanti talked about CineGrid and Jason Leigh of EVL discussed SAGE Visualcasting. From SDSC, Phil Papadopoulos gave a presentation about the CAMERA and Quartzite Projects, Reagan Moore talked about data grids for community-driven applications in addition to iRODS, while several others outlined recent grant awards focused on petascale applications. TeraGrid-related projects were also featured including presentations by Nancy Wilkins-Diehr on Science Gateways, and Kenneth Yoshimoto, who discussed disaster portals.

SDSC, in partnership with IBM, Data Direct Networks Inc. and Brocade, also announced a new milestone at the meeting - the processing of one billion files at speeds never before seen in the industry. The demonstration was completed using a single instance of IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS) and DataDirect Networks' S2A9550 Storage System. In preparation for the demonstration, IBM assembled a GPFS cluster at SDSC using 17 eight-way cluster members.

"SDSC has long been a leader in data-intensive computing and storage, and the Center's experience with both GPFS and HPSS (SDSC's high performance storage system) made it the natural location for this groundbreaking achievement," said Patricia Kovatch, manager of the Allocated Systems Group with SDSC.

Fran Berman Lambda Table
SDSC's Fran Berman (middle) at EVL's Lambda Table. EVL's Venkatram Vishwanath (left) discusses table with visitors. (Click photo for larger image.)
[Photo by Maxine Brown]

Scripps and Calit2 have numerous on-going collaborations; Scripps is a partner in the OptIPuter and LOOKING projects. In addition, there was a poster on the new six-year Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) Cyberinfrastructure (CI) award, announced last spring, in which Calit2, Scripps and SDSC will work together to design and build the infrastructure.

Both the Lambda Table and the OptIPortable tiled-display wall with tracking garnered a lot of attention. EVL's Lambda Table was brand new technology and highly interactive, so it was often busy.

Calit2 and EVL collaborated with the University of Washington (UW) Research Channel for a demonstration of the power of iHDTV(tm), which is capable of streaming uncompressed 1080i high-definition video by integrating it into the OptIPortal display technology. Advanced high-capacity transport facilities at the Pacific Wave international peering exchange and Pacific Northwest Gigapop connected Calit2's Smarr in Reno on the SC07 floor at the Research Channel booth, with Professor Ginger Armbrust in Seattle, WA, to discuss the use of the new OptIPortal at UW to study Puget Sound diatoms. Armbrust serves as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Calit2 CAMERA marine microbial metagenomics project.

"One of the striking aspects of SC07 was the countless OptIPortal sightings," said Calit2 staffer Mike Toillion. He found over a dozen OptIPuter partners, including Microsoft, were showcasing their own Optiportal tiled-display walls. Calit2's Smarr is the principal investigator on the OptIPuter project which developed the OptIPortals.

Two factors made Calit2's OptIPortable stand out from the crowd: the portability and the tracking system for interacting with the display images and data.

Calit2 has taken an innovative approach to tracking objects on tiled-display walls. The standard set up for tracking is done from a remote station system. However, as Calit2 researcher Philip Weber explained, "We are not sitting at a terminal off to the side with a mouse controlling everything. Our tracking system is directly in front of the tiled wall. You can directly interact with what you see currently on the screen."

"There were a lot of questions about the tracking system," noted Calit2's Schulze, "and positive response to the fact that you can directly interact with the actual screen itself." People were also very interested in the portability aspect and the nuts and bolts of building a portable tiled-display wall. Many of the visitors to the booth were from other academic institutions and they were seeing ways their faculty could use the OptIPortable and with the Calit2 tracking system, have a simplified, intuitive interface for their lecturers to show highly detailed images.

SC07 booth; lambda table and optiportable
SC07 Booth, Lambda Table on the left and OptIPortable tiled-wall display on right. (Click photo for larger image.)
[Photo by Joe Keefe]

As a Calit2 undergraduate summer scholar in 2006, Weber worked with Schulze on developing the interactive visualization of the multispectral diagnostic images of the Adoration of the Magi. He continued working with Schulze and the Visualization Group during the academic year and become a staffer after graduating (computer science) in June.

"The highlights of SC07 were getting to see another Cave and meeting the EVL guys for the first time and working with them," asserted Weber. He and Schulze had the opportunity of visiting a Cave installation (immersive environment) that was in the Reno area, funded by the state of Nevada. The CAVE was originally developed by EVL in 1991, and was subsequently commercialized by the University of Illinois at Chicago. Calit2 recently developed the StarCAVE, a 360-degree super-high-definition multi-user total immersion environment with access to large database visualization servers.

The large collaborative delegation, nearly three dozen strong, was lead by Larry Smarr, director of Calit2, Fran Berman, director of SDSC and Jason Leigh, director of EVL.

Together with global scientific communities and industrial partners, these research organizations are creating multidisciplinary teams, tools, hardware, software, and human-interface models that underpin cyberinfrastructure for data-intensive research and collaboration. SC07 provided an excellent opportunity to showcase this.

Related Links
SC07 Photo Gallery

San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC)
Scripps Institution of Oceanography Visualization Center
University of Illinois at Chicago's Electronic Visualization Laboratory (UIC/EVL)
University of Washington Research Channel

Presentations by Larry Smarr at SC07:
Calit2 Booth: "Creating a Planetary Scale OptIPuter"    [HTML]       [PPT]
AIST Booth: "The OptIPlanet Collaboratory Supporting Microbial Metagenomics Researchers Worldwide"     [HTML]       [PPT]