ODE Architect in the Cloud

During Summer 2010, CIS supported three summer projects under a new faculty technology grant program, Teaching with Technology, which was a pilot run in conjunction with the Dean of Faculty’s Office.  In this article, we introduce one of the projects, ODE Architect in the Cloud, led by Dr. Robert Borrelli (PI, Mathematics Prof. Emer.) and Dr. Jeho Park (CIS, Scientific Computing Specialist). The project aimed to demonstrate the possibility of running ODE Architect in a remote virtual computing environment.

ODE Architect (ODEA) is a legacy software package that first appeared in 1998 under support of the Consortium of ODE Experiments (C*ODE*E) and the National Science Foundation.  Although it is a 12-year-old program, it’s known to provide a useful teaching environment for college level Differential Equations classes.  But, like most legacy software, it has serious incompatibility issues under modern Operating Systems.  As the ODEA package is bundled with the book, Differential Equations, which is being used in a couple of Differential Equations classes at HMC and Pomona College, the incompatibility issues are a current problem for HMC students and faculty who wish to try the software along with the text.

Prof. Borrelli, CIS , and Wiley & Sons, Inc. (the publisher of the book and the distributor of the software package) collaboratively worked to setup a virtual machine environment for the ODEA package.  CIS put the virtual machine in a cloud computing facility called CloudShare in order to provide an on-demand access to the virtual machine over the Internet.  The beauty of their service is that pre-configured virtual machines can be shared and accessed using a browser, and moreover it is free to try.  So, as a result of the project, the requirements for running the ODEA tool kit became a browser and the Internet, i.e., no more hair-pulling about incompatibility issues!

CloudShare generously offered HMC an extended number of invitations which can be used for our faculty and students during the fall semester.  Please use the form here to request an invitation from CIS to the ODE Architect in the Cloud environment.  For those who wish to try it, we encourage you to read the account setup instructions at http://tinyurl.com/odearch. (Their registration process is kind of tricky.)  Once you setup the CloudShare Pro trial account, you get access to the pre-configured remote virtual machine through your browser using a Java applet.  Currently the Java applet is compatible with most browsers in Windows, but only Firefox in OS X and Linux.

For all other ways to use the cloud computing environment, please refer to this QuickStart Guide and CloudShare.com website at http://cloudshare.com. They have an FAQ page at http://www.cloudshare.com/Products/CloudShare-Pro/FAQ.aspx, and community forum at http://community.cloudshare.com.  Again, to request an invitation to the ODE Architect in the Cloud environment, fill in the form at http://tinyurl.com/odearch-form.

Firefox browser showing ODE Architect Tool running on 32-bit Windows XP virtual machine in the Cloud.