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A system simulation is computer-based model of how a specific system would operate given certain conditions. These simulations have a wide range of uses, from preparing for a natural disaster all the way to seeing if a piece of computer hardware is ready for use. Some forms of system simulation are used in nearly every development field, regardless of what is being developed. Using a system simulation is also common practice in computer and network design.
At its broadest meaning, a system simulation answers a ‘what if?’ question. When people need to know how a given group of people, computer system or manufactured part will react in a certain situation, they use a simulation. These simulations are generally accurate to the situation, as long as all variables are taken into account.
A system simulation works by mathematically creating the simulated parties. First, it creates models for the different things being simulated. These models are constructs based on data fed into the simulation; the more information fed into the system, the more accurate the model. These models cover everything in the simulation, both the object of interest and everything with which it will interact. When the model runs, it determines probability for action based on the interaction of the various models in the program.
What makes a system simulation different from a normal simulation is scope. System simulations model groups of interconnecting actions. This means they model more than single interactions—they model a causal relationship between multiple interacting factors. This level of complexity allows system simulations to output information on circumstances beyond the scope of a more simple program.
The complexity of a system simulation allows it to model many different types of things. One of the more basic uses is in manufacturing and development. It is possible to simulate the interaction of a small modification to a preexisting system such as a new machinery piece or a car component. The simulation will determine ifcthe addition is worth the work involved in manufacturing or installing the part.
Another common use of system simulation is the modeling of real world events. Things such as weather systems, animal migration and even human reactions to certain events may be programmed into a simulation. These simulations are vital for preparing for natural or man-made disasters by testing people’s responses to various simulated situations.
The last common use for system simulations is in networked systems. These systems range from computer networks to plumbing or electrical systems. Before a network is put together, a simulation can help designers find flaws or trouble spots in an initial design. By ironing out these problems in a simulation, people can save time and money in the real world.