Wednesday, September 12, 2012

OpenMOLE Crazy Coconut

‘He’s a nut! He’s crazy as a coconut!’

What is definitely crazy is the number of unused computers, left lying around by the march of progress, but with few simple ways to harness their power. And power means prizes, or in the world of science, papers. And possibly patents (if you’re lucky).

The opening quote, by the way (a sample featured in the the Avalanches’ Frontier Psychiatrist), is a reference to the new version of OpenMOLE, called Crazy Coconut. OpenMOLE – Open MOdeL Experiment – is  a generic workflow engine for experimenting on simulation models; in their own words, a solution to “use spare computers for model exploration”. OpenMOLE makes no distinction between a federal grid, such as EGI in Europe, or a desktop grid – it just has to be able to connect to a computer running the workflow. 

As you might expect for a technical tool, it gets quite technical, but in their own lingo a Mole is a workflow containing a succession of tasks connected by transitions. Essentially, it allows a number of variables to be explored in simulations in a wide number of disciplines.

In developmental biology, for example, OpenMOLE is being used to explore how 3D organisation of genetic material affects its transcription to make proteins, so that different genes are active in cells at different times. This kind of computation “cannot be realized on single computers because the space to be explored is too large,” says Ivan Junier, Researcher at the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona. OpenMOLE is also being used for Neuronal computation, for modelling the Paris Public Transport System, to modelling the emergence of hierarchical structured populations centres in Neolithic societies and those from antiquity.

The new release has support for PBS and SSH, has an improved GUI and an inbuilt builder for distributed genetic algorithms. You can find OpenMOLE (distributed under AGPLv3) here.

...why not take a look and put those unused computers to good use? Much better than burying them in the ground, where they'll just give real moles a headache!

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