Remote Visualisation Workshop 2018-05-22

There was a workshop on Remote Visualisation at the University of Birmingham on 22 May 2018 held on the University of Birmingham Conference Park in the Harborne Room in Lucas House. This was followed on the 23 May by the May SIG meeting.


The agenda was:

  • 10.00: Arrival and coffee
  • 10.30: Introduction and welcome – Paul Hatton, University of Birmingham
  • 10.45 – 12.15: A GPU-accelerated framework for user-accelerated interactive molecular dynamics in virtual reality (PDF, 2.6MB) – Mike O’Connor, University of Bristol This presentation describes a virtual reality framework that allows multiple people to simultaneously inhabit the same virtual reality, which is useful for scientific communication & education. In collaboration with the colleagues in the human-computer interaction group Mike’s group has undertaken a number of studies of this framework. It is currently running it on the Oracle cloud, but would like to port it to use the visualisation node of Bristol’s BlueCrystal cluster. Mike  has a portable demonstration of the kit which he will be bringing to the workshop – I am assured that it is ‘pretty cool’
  • 12.15 – 1.15: Lunch
  • 1.15 – 2.15: Interactive Visualisation and Data Analysis of Simulations using Jupyter Notebooks – Christopher Woods, Advanced Computing Research Centre, University of Bristol Notebooks, as typified by Jupyter (, provide a user-friendly, interactive user interface for running, visualising and analysing simulations. Notebooks combine documentation, computer resource acquisition, simulation configuration, visualisation and data analysis into a single document. This document is viewed and edited from any modern web browser, and provides a remote view of a simulation that is run, visualised and analysed on-demand. Once complete, the notebook provides a full record of the simulation and analysis. This can then be shared and published, enabling others to rerun or reproduce the results. In this talk Christopher will show how the BioSimSpace project ( is using Jupyter notebooks to perform molecular simulations hosted on the cloud. Christopher will demonstrate a notebook in action, and will present the advantages and disadvantages of their use. Finally, he will discuss the technical and policy challenges associated with running these notebooks on University batch HPC clusters, and will present possible solutions that are planned to be explored at Bristol.
  • 2.15 – 3.15: Real-world experience of supporting remote visualisation – Nathan Harper, CFMS CFMS is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which was formed in 2010, offering on demand access to a leading edge HPC cluster, delivering modelling and simulation consultancy and support to organisations of all sizes, bridging the gap between industry and academia. Nathan will give an informal talk about some of the approaches they have taken with remote visualisation, including ParaView, DCV, Nomachine, VirtualGL/TurboVNC, ExceedOnDemand and Citrix, all with varying degrees of success; so far they have not found a ‘one size fits all’, either for internal users, or for their industrial partners.
  • 3.15 – 3.30: Afternoon tea
  • 3.30 – 4.30: The visualisation pipeline – Joanna Leng and Mark Dixon, University of Leeds Jo and Mark will present the visualization pipeline and discuss how in theory it can be distributed over software and computers. They will then compare this to what in practice users of the local supercomputing service do and the software they use. Remote access to the latest local supercomputer is possible through X2GO which improves the rendering of remote graphics. They look at the Leeds roadmap which centres on X2GO that will improve the remote visualization which will lead into a discussion on how remote visualization on HPC services could change in the next 5 years
  • 4.30 – 5.00: Optional quick look at the Birmingham Visualisation Centre – Paul Hatton, University of Birmingham The University of Birmingham Visualisation Centre is based around a 4m by 2m back-projected Mechdyne PowerWall with active stereo and head tracking. Paul will offer a demonstration of some of the projects that make use of the Centre and discuss the challenges of supporting visualisation as part of a wider Research Computing service. The Centre is also conveniently located between the workshop venue and the campus staff bar, which (usually) offers a few real ales for those who are getting thirsty by now and prefer to head straight for the beer.

As always, the workshop was followed by refreshment and lively discussion in a local hostelry to which all were welcome.