Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Remote Visualisation: A Guide and Example

The need to explore and visualise large data sets is an important capability for many areas of research including computational solar physics. Since many of the data sets are stored on remote servers and not local workstations  it is necessary to use a remote visualisation technique delivering visual output from the data set and delivering a rendered imagery to the users desktop. Remote Visualisation is undertaken using thin clients accessing remote high quality visualisation hardware. Remote visualisation removes the need to transfer data and allows researchers to visualise data sets on remote visualisation servers attached to the high performance computer and its storage facility.


Just as OpenGL is the standard used for 3D graphical visualisation, VirtualGL is the standard used fro remote visualisation. VirtualGL is an open source package which gives any UNIX or Linux remote display software the ability to run 3D applications with full hardware accelerations. VirtualGL can also be used in conjunction with remote display software such as VNC to provide 3D hardware accelerated rendering for OpenGL applications. VirtualGL is very useful in providing remote display to thin clients which lack the 3D hardware acceleration.
Protocols used to communicate graphical information over a network.


A VirtualGL Client Runs on the User Workstation Which is Served with Graphics from a High Quality High Performance Rendering Device Such as an NVIDIA Graphics Card e.g. the Fermi M2070Q 
To use the NVIDIA Fermi M2070Q Graphical Processing Unit on the iceberg High Perfromance Computer at The University of Sheffield a number of options are available for starting a virtualGL client. With Iceberg we make use of, TigerVNC and the  Sheffield application portal, Sun Global Desktop (SGD). To use this capability it is necessary for users to join the gpu visualisation group (gpu-vis ) by emailing hpchub@sheffield.ac.uk.

To initiate a remote visualisation session the following steps should be followed:
Star a browser and goto


–login to Sun Global Desktop (as shown below)

•Under Iceberg Applications start the Remote visualisation session

•This opens a shell providing a port number (XXXX) and instructions to either open a web

browser or to start the tigerVNC client.


           –Open a browser and enter the address

http://iceberg-gateway.shef.ac.uk:XXXX



Start Tiger VNCViewer on your desktop

Use the address iceberg-gateway.shef.ac.uk:XXXX

XXXX is a port address provided on the iceberg terminal

When requested use your usual iceberg user credentials

From a Microsoft windows work station, the SSH client Putty and Tiger VNC can be used as follows.

Login in to iceberg using putty

•At the prompt type qsh-vis

•This opens a shell with instructions to either

Open a browser and enter the address


Start Tiger VNCViewer on your desktop

  • Use the address iceberg.shef.ac.uk:XXXX
  • XXXX is a port address provided on the iceberg terminal
  • When requested use your usual iceberg user credentials
Putty Session Starting the VirtualGL Server (note the instructions provided)

Starting Tiger VNC
Typical VirtualGL Remote Visualisation Session
Instead of using the qsh-vis command an alternative is to start the vncjob with the following SGE command e.g. if there is a different memory requirement
qrsh -l gfx=1 -l mem=16G -P gpu-vis -q gpu-vis.q /usr/local/bin/startvncjob




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