The Virtual Laboratory research project has been developed in Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Center since the beginning of the year 2002. Now we are a part of EXPReS and RINGrid projects.

You can see detailed VL system architecture in the Virtual laboratory architecture chapter.


Project website

Over the last decade, enormous progress has been made in the area of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT). Like many other research communities, radio astronomy have greatly benefited from the ready availability of cheap, large-capacity storage media; affordable high-performance desktop computers and local multi-processor PC clusters. Radio astronomers have also proven themselves to be adept at taking advantage of the emergence of high-speed, optical-fibre based communication networks. Such networks are of prime interest to radio astronomers as the sensitivity of a radio telescope array is roughly proportional to the square-root of the radio telescope data output rate (i.e. the digitally sampled observing bandwidth). Motivated by this fact, and the possibility of creating a distributed real-time Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) radio telescope array, an international consortium that includes the leading radio astronomy institutes in Europe, together with DANTE (operators of the pan-European Research Network, GÉANT), and the major National Research Networks (NRENs) in Europe, have come together over the last two years and successfully demonstrated the feasibility of conducting real-time, VLBI observations, now known as electronic VLBI or e-VLBI.

The principal objectives of EXPReS project are:
  • To develop an operational, production-grade e-VLBI network that is capable of simultaneously transferring data at aggregate data rates of up to 16 Gbps, from telescopes located across the globe, through to the central data processor at JIVE via public networks operated by the NRENs & DANTE (GÉANT2),
  • To expand the number of e-VLBI capable telescopes in Europe by either supporting the provision of additional last-mile (local-loop) connections or upgrading existing fibre connections to Gigabit Ethernet standard. In total, at least 12 European telescopes will be part of the e-VLBI network offered to astronomers,
  • To transparently include the UK e-MERLIN telescope array within the e-VLBI facility.
  • To support the connection of radio telescopes located outside of Europe, recognising that VLBI is very much a global pursuit, requiring network provision to telescopes in the US, Asia, South Africa, Australia & South America. By including telescopes across the globe, we aim to offer a 16 telescope e-VLBI array to astronomers,
  • To reliably service and robustly process in real time, e-VLBI data streams of up to 16 Gbps (net) at the EVN data processor at JIVE.
  • To ensure that this state-of-the-art, real-time e-VLBI network is able to conduct "Target of Opportunity" and "Rapid Response" science, reacting reliably and flexibly to unexpected astronomical events, such as supernovae explosions, giant magnetar & x-ray binary flare stars, (orphan) radio gamma-ray bursts and other transient phenomena,
  • To assess the suitability of advanced networking and computing technology to support the creation of a next-generation e-VLBI network in which the aggregate data flows will be many hundred of Gbps with a data processing environment possibly based on distributed Grid-based computing resources,
  • To investigate how the new radio astronomy facilities now under development (e.g. e-MERLIN in the UK, and LOFAR in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden), can further expand using e-VLBI as a model for their own use of public communication networks,
  • To promote and demonstrate the way in which communication research networks can be used to create enhanced, large-scale distributed scientific facilities and strengthen the links between radio astronomers, engineers, network operators and Grid computing experts via a comprehensive programme of networking activities.
Virtual Laboratory collaborates in Joint Research Activitie 1, FABRIC: FUTURE ARRAYS OF BROADBAND RADIO-TELESCOPE ON INTERNET COMPUTING

FABRIC Key Objective: Develop a prototype for high data rate e-VLBI using distributed correlation. The following components constitute the vital areas of development:
  • Data acquisition platform and formatting for future e-VLBI: Develop optimal buffering between the digital output of the radio telescope and transport protocol. The new data acquisition platform should allow for local quality control, calibration operations and recording of hard copies. Establish (or identify) a transportation protocol that optimises transport characteristics, including copies for different routes (multicast). Push data transfer to rates well beyond 1Gbps, develop a hardware interface capable of sustaining these rates between public and dedicated networks in order to integrate existing facilities.
  • Software Data processor: Develop code that will run on standard workstations using open source compilers, deployable on Grid nodes. Conduct a programme of research designed to improve data processor algorithms, allowing a variety of geometric models and enabling zooming functionality for spacecraft navigation and spectral line applications. Format output data such that it can be transparently merged into central archive, available for real-time access and automatic pipelining (calibration and imaging).


Project website

There are numerous areas of science, industry and commerce that require broad international cooperation for their success. A number of problems may be addressed by using sophisticated equipment and top-level expertise, which is often locally unavailable. Therefore, the development and dissemination of techniques and technologies that allow virtualized, remote and shared access to industrial or scientific instruments is essential for the progress of society. The possibility of using scientific or industrial equipment independent of their physical location helps in the equality of opportunity for and unification of communities and subsequently opens new opportunities for industry, science and business. Furthermore, it has a very important political and strategic impact, as we head towards a more unified Europe. The systematic identification of instruments and corresponding user communities, the definition of their requirements as well as careful analysis of the remote instrumentation synergy with next-generation high-speed communications networks and grid infrastructure will be the basis for the definition of recommendations for designing next-generation Remote Instrumentation Services. Project results will be disseminated to scientific, industrial and business groups of users to increase awareness of the benefits of using next-generation Remote Instrumentation Systems, which are essential for promoting egalitarian access to the European e-Infrastructure opportunities. All the objectives of this project will be achieved through close collaboration of EU member states and third countries to ensure Europe's strong participation in research initiatives conducted at the international level.

Project objectives:
  • Identification of instruments and user communities, definition of requirements
  • Synergy between remote instrumentation and next-generation high-speed communications networks and grid infrastructures
  • Trend analysis and recommendations for designing next-generation remote instrumentation services
  • Promoting egalitarian access to european e-Infrastructure opportunities
  • Dissemination of project results to scientific and business groups of users


VLAB was a part of the "HIGH PERFORMANCE COMPUTATIONS AND VISUALISATION FOR VIRTUAL LABORATORY PURPOSES WITH THE USAGE OF SGI CLUSTER" project which is based on the State Committee for Scientific Research decision (decision number 03282/C.T11-6/2002 of December 9th 2002) on participation in the funding of the research, development and implementation, according to an agreement between SCSR and AGH - ACK Cyfronet .

The SGI corporation also participated in the project funding in the scope of the research, implementation and investments, according to an agreement between SGI and ACK Cyfronet. More information concerning formal terms of this project is available on its official website.
The scope of this research (project) coverd a pilot project of a Virtual NMR Laboratory. This laboratory relied on the resources of the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, PAS (Bruker 600MHz and Varian 300 spectrometers). The methods of high resolution homo- and heteronuclear NMR spectroscopy, which are used in the Laboratory of Structural Chemistry of Nucleic Acids, allow to determine the 3-dimensional structure of biomolecules in a solution. The concept of the Virtual Laboratory has been elaborated to facilitate the research in this domain, which is important to the biopolymers chemistry, molecular biology, biomedicine, and biotechnology.

Furthermore, a research grant was launched by the Ministry of Scientific Research and Information Technology. In this context, the scope of the Virtual Laboratory project was more oriented towards the research approach. It means that the main goal was to develop a universal system architecture capable of handling a wide variety of different laboratory equipment. Additionally, an attempt where made to generalize the concept of the task and the resource in the Grid environment, where laboratory equipment can be seen as a resource, while research experiments can be considered as system tasks.

In the scope of the NMR libraries and security of data management system Virtual Laboratory project was supported by the Computing Center of Technical University in Łódź
It was also planned to develop a prototype installation incorporating a radio telescope (provided by NCU, Toruń), which will be used to test some of the already implemented VLab architecture elements.