libcosim 0.9.0
C++ library for distributed co-simulation

The libcosim API can roughly be divided into two parts, corresponding to the main phases of a co-simulation. These are:

  • The setup phase, which is everything that happens before you actually run a simulation, such as reading configuration files, loading FMUs, setting up the system for simulation, and so on.
  • The execution phase, where we run a simulation, solving the model equations, logging and/or displaying output, et cetera.

These phases are not distinguished in any particular way in the API. Most symbols simply live in the top-level #cosim namespace, and there is no specific naming convention to set them apart. Nor are they entirely distinct in functionality, as several classes and functions are used in both phases. Nevertheless, the distinction between "setup" and "execution" provides a good framework for learning and understanding the libcosim API.

Setting up a simulation

The central class in the setup phase is cosim::system_structure. This contains a representation of the modelled system, consisting of the entities (simulators and functions) in it and the connections between them. It requires a description of each simulator or function, which must be given in the form of a cosim::model or cosim::function_type object, respectively. At this stage, the entities themselves are not instantiated, so no simulator/function code is actually run.

You can build the system structure from scratch, starting with an empty cosim::system_structure object, or you can read it from a file. libcosim supports two file formats:

In both of these formats, the models used in the simulation are specified by URIs that point to FMUs. These URIs need to be converted into cosim::model objects that represent the FMUs in question. This is the job of a cosim::model_uri_resolver, and usually, you should start with the one created by cosim::default_model_uri_resolver(). You can customise it with support for additional URI schemes if necessary.

Executing a simulation

The central class in the execution phase is cosim::execution. It manages the entities involved in a single co-simulation run (i.e., an execution) and provides a high-level interface for driving the simulation process.

By far, the easiest way to set up an execution is to first create a cosim::system_structure, as described above, and inject this structure into an empty cosim::execution using cosim::inject_system_structure(). However, it is also possible to build the execution "by hand" by adding simulators and functions to it in the form of cosim::slave and cosim::function objects, respectively.

When would you choose which method? Starting with cosim::system_structure has several advantages:

  • cosim::system_structure refers to entities by name, whereas cosim::execution refers to them by numeric IDs.
  • A single cosim::system_structure can be used to set up multiple cosim::execution objects. This is useful in many cases, for example if you want to simulate the same system with different initial conditions.
  • cosim::system_structure only requires entity descriptions, whereas cosim::execution requires actual entity instances. This has practical and performance-related implications, in that the latter could entail loading of DLLs with model code, and even network communication in the case of distributed co-simulations.

However, if you only need to run a single simulation and therefore need to instantiate all entities exactly once anyway, and you are OK with using numerical indices to manipulate them (which you must, anyway, once the execution is up and running), then reaching straight for cosim::execution may be the right thing to do.

Getting results

To obtain the results of an execution, i.e. the values of various simulator variables at various times, create an observer. More specifically, add a cosim::observer object using cosim::execution::add_observer(). The cosim::observer interface is designed to support many use cases, from file output to real-time visualisation.

libcosim itself supplies three implementations of this interface, namely:

Manipulating the system

Sometimes, you need to influence the simulation in some way. This could be to change parameters, override variable values, or even transform them in more or less subtle ways. In libcosim, this is done via the cosim::manipulator interface.

cosim::manipulator is very similar to cosim::observer, but where the latter merely has a read-only view of the system, a manipulator has much extended powers. More precisely, a cosim::manipulator can apply any transformation to any variable in the system.

libcosim supplies two manipulators:

A scenario can be loaded from a file, or it can be specified in code as a cosim::scenario::scenario object. In both cases, it consists of a series of events that occur at predetermined times. At each event, some variable is modified in some way.

Changing the algorithm

Under the hood, cosim::execution delegates much of its responsibilities to a co-simulation algorithm (sometimes called master algorithm). These responsibilities include:

  • Deciding when to step various simulators forward in time, and how far
  • Keeping simulators synchronised in time
  • Routing data between simulators

In libcosim, a co-simulation algorithm must be implemented as a subclass of the cosim::algorithm interface.

There exist several co-simulation algorithms, and libcosim has been designed to support even the more advanced ones. The library itself provides only one option: cosim::fixed_step_algorithm. For the most part, this is a rather simple, fixed-step (i.e., non-adaptive) algorithm. However, it has a nice extra feature in that it allows the use of different step sizes for different simulators, as long as they're all multiples of the same base step size.

Customising libcosim

The library was designed with a large number of use cases in mind, but we are only able to support so many of them out of the box. If there is something you need to do, and there is no way to do it with libcosim's built-in functionality, you may be able to achieve it by extending libcosim in various ways.

Here is a list of some important customisation points. All of these are interfaces (pure virtual classes) of which you can make your own implementations. Many have already been mentioned, but we list them again for completeness and ease of reference: