Low-cost Linux clusters drive supercomputing use in manufacturing

The days when only the largest manufacturers could afford supercomputers based on proprietary hardware are giving way to an era of lower-cost high performance computing (HPC) clusters built on x86 processors. Suffice to say, it isn't quite as simple as buying standard hardware and plugging it in. With clusters, a linked group of computers share processing horsepower.

10/01/2007


The days when only the largest manufacturers could afford supercomputers based on proprietary hardware are giving way to an era of lower-cost high performance computing (HPC) clusters built on x86 processors. Suffice to say, it isn't quite as simple as buying standard hardware and plugging it in.

With clusters, a linked group of computers share processing horsepower. In manufacturing, product development teams use HPC clusters to model the effects of design variations. But increasingly, these solutions run on standard platforms. According to Framingham, Mass.-based analyst firm IDC , 65 percent of HPC systems sold in the first half of 2006 ran on Linux, while during the last few years, x86 processors have come to dominate the market.

“It's really these microprocessors that are driving the whole market right now,” says Dave Morton, CTO with Linux Networx , a vendor of Linux-based supercomputer clusters that run on x86 chips. “They have such a high level of performance, and they are cheap. So by starting with these low-cost computing elements, we have the basis for powerful systems.”

The trick is arriving at a complete solution. According to Morton, Linux Networx competes with more generic “white box” cluster vendors by bundling in a complete software stack, including cluster management software.

Morton cites these other value-adds:

  • A proven implementation of standard interconnect protocols such as Infiniband and Myrinet.

  • Math and communication software “libraries” that accelerate cluster performance.

  • Expertise in optimizing clusters to run third-party applications, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis packages.

Digital Technology Laboratory (DTL), a provider of engineering services to its parent company, machine tools manufacturer Mori Seiki , is using a Linux-based HPC cluster from Linux Networx. DTL will use the supercomputer to accelerate the performance of engineering software, including the Fluent CFD package from Ansys .



The use of more proprietary hardware elements in supercomputing have given way to standard x86 architecture in recent years.

The 13-node system, which features dual-core Intel processors, is expected to significantly outperform the previous platform DTL used for CFD, according to Zach Piner, director of mechanical engineering with DTL. In initial testing of the 13-node supercomputer, its performance was up to 30 times faster than the previous PC platform, says Piner.

The increased performance comes from the HPC solution's ability to make use of clustering and parallel processing between nodes, though the new platform's 64-byte capabilities also is a factor with larger simulations, says Piner. For example, the supercomputer is well suited to simulating the effect of room-temperature changes on machine tool performance.

Besides engineering software, other supercomputing uses in manufacturing include financial risk analysis and simulations related to business process optimization, says Bjorn Andersson, director of HPC for Sun Microsystems . Sun's HPC clusters can be configured with x86 processors from Intel or AMD, and support Linux or Sun's Solaris operating systems.

Andersson also believes HPC is more accessible thanks to commodity components, and he too sees a need for bundling the necessary hardware, software, and support.

“Many companies tried putting together clustered HPC systems on their own at least once, but they don't want to try it again because of the hidden costs of figuring out how to put it all together and manage it.”





No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Your leaks start here: Take a disciplined approach with your hydraulic system; U.S. presence at Hannover Messe a rousing success
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me