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October 8, 2010

Maximizing Supercomputing Resources

Nicole Hemsoth

Staying at the forefront of computational science takes continuously increasing computing power. And the University of Stuttgart’s High Performance Computing Center (HLRS) has taken an innovative approach to making sure they stay in that lead.

First, HLRS forged partnerships with academia, government and commercial research organizations. And then they took advantage of the latest advances in high-performance computing in the form of the powerful and affordable Cray XT5m supercomputer. The combination of shared supercomputing and brain power has facilitated researchers in making scientific advances more quickly and at lower cost than ever before.

HLRS is just one part of a triumvirate. The other two partnerships are the High Performance Computing Center for Academia and Industry (HWW) and the Automotive Simulation Center/Stuttgart(ASCS). HSS is a partnership of academia, government and business groups who use supercomputing cycles for scientific visualization, computational fluid dynamics, physics, etc. ASCS is focused on common technical or scientific problems in the automotive industry and includes automakers, suppliers, engineering and scientific software developers and hardware vendors.

The three organizations and the members they’re comprised of share varying percentages of a Cray XT5m supercomputer (housed at the University of Stuttgart). The system starts around $500,000 but incorporates the hardware and software advancements of the Cray XT5 supercomputer – the basis of the petascale system currently in use at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Key technical capabilities that help lower the total cost of ownership include AMD Opteron “best-of-class” standard x86 processors and Cray’s SeaStar interconnect technology – both of which are fully upgradeable.

And the HLRS partners have been maximizing their supercomputing capability by taking a highly collaborative approach.

For example, ASCS partners are collaborating on multidisciplinary optimization. That means they’re correlating the multitude of design and engineering parameters that go into making a car as efficient as possible. Engineers at the industrial partners provide goals and requirements for the project; HLRS and other research partners then create mathematical modeling and algorithms, conduct experiments and validate the models; ISVs implement the code into their software and pass it back to HLRS for validation; and finally, the code goes to the industrial partners for use.

Previously, it would have been too expensive for any one of the participants to work on their part of the cycle, but by working in concert everyone benefits. And a key component of the cost reduction is the Cray XT5m supercomputer.

“Because the system is less expensive than other supercomputing systems each of the simulations costs less to run,” says Michael Resch, director of HLRS.”Simulation is part of the design phase and the earlier in the design process you can conduct complex simulations, the easier it is to avoid errors in the manufacturing phase. For the automotive industry here in Stuttgart that becomes a competitive advantage.”

Ultimately, Resch says, this iterative relationship helps identify potential advances in numerical and computational methods and gets those advances incorporated into ISVs’ code.

For a closer look at HLRS and their Cray XT5m system, download the AMD case study here.