Puffing Up Computational Fluid Dynamics On The Cloud

Huge dataset sizes and computationally intense demands of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) workloads are motivating some organizations to seek highly elastic HPC solutions with enormous memory volumes.

One example is Numeca International, an independent software vendor based in Brussels, Belgium. Its software assists researchers and manufacturers around the globe with their most challenging CFD modeling and simulation workloads that require highly-elastic HPC solutions with lots of memory.

While many organizations performing CFD simulations choose on-premise HPC infrastructure for their workloads, others seek a turnkey way to access Numeca applications as a pre-configured and hosted solution. Professor Charles Hirsch, Numeca’s founder and president, said: “At Numeca, we are considering a strategy to relieve the industry from this concern by offering solutions bundling software plus access to hardware through software as a service.”

The search for an ideal HPC as a service (HPCaaS) provider to host its flagship applications led Numeca to Iceland. There, HPCaaS instances provided by Advania Data Centers not only address the required technical specifications, but they also do it in an environmentally-friendly way. “Green” datacenters embrace the latest power-efficient hardware fueled by Iceland’s renewable energy sources. With this approach, the datacenters hosting HPC systems exceed the power efficiency requirements to qualify for the EU’s “tier one” status in the industry.

CFD In Action

Once deployed, the new software will help clients overcome massive engineering challenges like optimizing airflow around aircraft engine designs, building faster Formula One race cars, or streamlining ship hulls for improved hydrodynamics. Hirsch describes the relationship between complex CFD analysis and modern product design approaches, “In the area of computational fluid dynamics there is a trend now to go toward what we call high fidelity simulation that requires a large amount of computing resources.”

One client, Advanced Aerodynamic Vessels (A2V), designs faster boats for transportation. CFD allows them to model the shape of a vessel and simulate how it will interact with varying weather conditions, wave sizes, and more. The process led to an innovative design. Traditionally-shaped ship hulls must push against the resistance of the water. At speed, they also encounter air pressure against the front of the boat, and air suction pulls against the stern. This combination of factors causes significant drag that hampers the vessel’s speed.

With the aid of CFD, A2V honed a much more efficient hull shape like a dual-pontoon catamaran. The new design makes the vessel’s body act like an airplane’s wing. The configuration aligns air pressure and suction forces to create beneficial aerodynamic lift rather than detrimental drag. That boost effectively lightens the vessel for higher speeds and fuel-efficiency. Ironically, as the boat travels faster, it consumes less fuel than it does at slower speeds.

HPC In The Cloud

Supporting Numeca’s efforts to deliver solutions – bundling software plus access to hardware through software as a service – is Advania, which originates from rather humble roots. In 1939 an Icelandic entrepreneur founded an office equipment repair workshop in Reykjavik. Over the years, a variety of business acquisitions led to the cloud service provider’s current place as the largest cloud-based infrastructure vendor in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, with over 1,500 employees. The company built its reputation on hosting and securing a variety of customers’ HPC workloads. Commonly run tasks involve machine learning, deep learning, simulation and modeling.

According to Guy D’Hauwers, regional director for Europe at Advania: “We have built high performance computing as a service from the ground up. We have been working with the best technologies on the market, using Xeon processors to build state-of-the-art HPC. This is ideal for HPC as a Service so that companies like Numeca can focus on customers instead of worrying about the datacenter aspects.”

Numeca’s FINE/Turbo is a CFD suite that provides an integrated environment for rotating and non-rotating flow analysis in turbomachinery applications.

Going Green

Advania takes significant steps to make its datacenters as energy efficient as possible. New hardware, like the latest Intel processors, feature high compute density to maximize performance-per-watt.

Advania evaluated its energy consumption using the standard Power Effectiveness Usage (PUE) ratio. If a server requires a kilowatt, that measurement represents a ratio value of one. In the EU, the average is 1.78. Advania took that number as a challenge and wanted to do all possible to reduce it. After some experimentation, the company found an ideal combination of hardware that reduces its average power ratio to 1.10. In some cases, the PUE reaches as low as 1.03.

In the past, D’Hauwers spent more than a decade designing and optimizing datacenters. Iceland offers a perfect location since it provides plentiful renewable energy from the combination of geothermal and hydroelectric power. Since Iceland’s average temperature is a little over five degrees Celsius, ambient temperatures help cool the systems, too. Because Advania avoids carbon-based energy sources, it is not subject to the EU’s carbon tax. Therefore a “green” approach also reduces operating expenses.

Accelerating Client Results

Today, Advania’s hosted HPC instances build upon the foundation provided by Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) Apollo servers. The servers run Intel Select Solutions for HPC & AI Converged Clusters [Magpie], powered by Intel “Cascade Lake-AP” Xeon SP 9200 processors with Deep Learning Boost. The infrastructure also includes Intel Omni-Path Architecture for fast data transfer.

The cloud platform provides Numeca the foundation upon which to design, scale, and test its software. Virtual HPC instances also offer customizability and scalability for peak capacity when needed.

Because Numeca’s software must accommodate such large datasets, the latest Intel “Cascade Lake-AP” Xeon SP processors offer an ideal fit for their use case. The combination of the processor’s speed and 12 memory channels per CPU overcomes barriers commonly associated with memory-bound applications. In turn, Advania’s infrastructure offers the performance levels necessary to get Numeca’s clients the results they need faster.

Advania HPC services offer another significant benefit since its instances are configurable down to the bare-metal level. This flexibility allows for easier customization for optimal performance when running high fidelity CFD workloads. The synergy between the companies’ offerings also creates joint revenue opportunities as the solution gains adoption.

HPCaaS And The Future

Emerging workloads and new scientific challenges keep ISVs and service providers on their toes. Since their clients face ever-changing business and research needs, software running on HPCaaS instances can offer research organizations and companies of all sizes a turnkey way to access the latest HPC technologies.

Rob Johnson spent much of his professional career consulting for a Fortune 25 technology company. Currently, Rob owns Fine Tuning, LLC, a strategic marketing and communications consulting company based in Portland, Oregon. As a technology, audio, and gadget enthusiast his entire life, Rob also writes for TONEAudio Magazine, reviewing high-end home audio equipment.

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