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Exploring models with Crazy Coconut

The historical association between coconuts and craziness is unclear, and a quick online search throws little light upon the issue. Yet craziness abounds: consider, for example, the number of unused computers cast aside by the march of progress, with few simple ways to harness their power. In the world of science, that power could equal papers, patents (if you’re lucky), and increased prowess.

The reason for all this talk of coconuts is the new version of OpenMOLE, itself called ‘Crazy Coconut’. OpenMOLE – Open MOdeL Experiment – is a generic workflow engine for experimenting on simulation models; in the project team’s own words, a solution to “use spare computers for model exploration”. OpenMOLE makes no distinction between federal grids, such as EGI in Europe or Open Science Grid in the US, and desktop grids run on local networks using their own custom daemon – it just has to be able to connect to a computer running the workflow.

That workflow – called a mole – contains a succession of tasks connected by transitions. It allows a number of variables to be explored in simulations in a wide number of disciplines. Crucially, OpenMole makes it easy to develop and share workflows through a clean and simple graphical user interface. “This makes it possible for non-experts to use our system,” said Mathieu Leclaire of the Institute for Complex Systems in Paris, France, who leads the project.

OpenMOLE targets a wide range of users, including those from disciplines in which systems have traditionally been considered too complex to attempt modeling. OpenMOLE is already being used to explore how 3D organization of genetic material affects cellular processes, as well as simulating the Parisian public transport network. Its use is also enabling novel work on modeling social physics and the impact of economic policy on populations.

Currently on a fast release cycle (a new version is released roughly every two months), the full 1.0 release should be ready by Spring, according to Romain Reuillon, a researcher working alongside Leclaire on the software.

You can find OpenMOLE: Crazy Coconut (distributed under AGPLv3) here. A screencast demonstrating the software is also available.

- Stefan Janusz

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