iSGTW Feature - EnVision: from data to discoveries

Feature - EnVision: from data to discoveries

EnVision makes it easier than ever before for scientists to visualize their data. This dynamic webpage shows a catalogue of visualization snapshots.
Images courtesy of TACC

Visualization allows scientists to transform massive amounts of raw data into a visual format, helping researchers to explore data and fuel discoveries.

And now, thanks to EnVision, a grid-enabled visualization tool released late in 2007, creating interactive visualizations has never been easier.

Developed by the team at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, EnVision is a web-based software tool that simplifies the tasks of data management, analysis and interpretation involved in visualization.

Visualize this

EnVision dramatically simplifies the visualization process by semi-automating data importation and providing powerful, easy-to-use tools.

"The goal of EnVision is to make the scientific visualization process so easy that a researcher can pick up the tool without ever having done visualization before," said Greg P. Johnson, TACC visualization specialist and EnVision project lead.

With EnVision, Johnson explained, a data import process that may have taken several hours and required custom-built tools can be achieved in a matter of minutes thanks to an intuitive online interview provided by the software. "They explain the format of their data, hit a button and get a picture," Johnson said.

Visualization of a forced isotropic turbulence simulation, created using the EnVision grid-enabled software.
Data courtesy of Bazilevs, Calo and Hughes, Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES).

Remote high-end visualization

"EnVision will enable TACC to provide high-end visualization resources to TeraGrid researchers across the country, while at the same time making visualization of large-scale data easier than ever before," said TACC Director, Jay Boisseau.

"This is remote visualization," said Johnson. "I could take a five-year-old laptop, access Envision, and interactively render huge datasets at good frame-rates even on older hardware."

TACC's Maverick system-a terascale remote visualization system with 128 processors, 512 gigabytes of shared memory and access to more than 15 terabytes of storage-is the first visualization resource in the TeraGrid to utilize EnVision. However, "EnVision was written to support multiple resources, and as time goes by, we hope to add more resources from TACC and from other sites in the TeraGrid," Johnson said.

This robust, scalable tool is in its first stage of development.

"I'd like to see us to get to the point where visualization is so simple that it enables a researcher to engage in casual inquiry-to ask questions they might not have otherwise asked due to the complexity of the tools," Johnson said.

Initially, users must have an account and allocation on Maverick in order to use EnVision.

- Aaron Dubrow, Texas Advanced Computing Center

This article appears with more detail at the TACC Web site.