SGI Folds In CFD Business

By Michael Feldman

August 16, 2011

If you are a user of computational fluid dynamics and thought the CFD world begins with ANSYS Fluent and ends with CEI EnSight, that could soon change. SGI has acquired OpenCFD Ltd, a UK-based company that offers an open source CFD package with the name of OpenFOAM. The idea is to bring CFD software to a much wider audience while generating extra revenue with value-added products and services.

OpenFOAM (FOAM stands for Field Operation and Manipulation) is an open source package of CFD solvers and utility applications for engineers and scientists. Launched in 2004, the software has been funded by support, training and development contracts over the last six-plus years. According to the OpenCFD website, over 100 organizations are now paying customers.

Functionally speaking, the package includes such features as fluid flows involving chemical reactions, turbulence and heat transfer, particle methods, solid dynamics, electromagnetics, and meshing. It also supports pre- and post-processing. The last major release in June, version 2.0.0, added thermophysical modeling, chemistry, Lagrangian modeling, run-time control features, and additional meshing support. Since 2004, the software has grown to more than half a million lines of code.

The OpenFOAM acquisition brings the entire OpenCFD team onto SGI’s payroll along with a commitment to continue the development of the software under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The deal includes the establishment of the OpenFOAM Foundation, an independent non-profit group that will manage source code distribution. SGI CEO Mark Barrenechea and OpenFOAM creator Henry Weller will be on the Board of Directors.

According to SGI’s new chief marketing officer, Franz Aman, there’s a nice cultural fit between the two companies, given SGI’s support for open standards and its motivation to sell hardware with as little software burden as possible. Beyond that, Aman thinks there’s a big opportunity to broaden the appeal of CFD software and enable researchers to contribute to the problems around computational fluid dynamics. “We see the community approach as the right and best model for this,” he says.

SGI has been involved with OpenCFD for awhile, having already qualified OpenFOAM for their cloud offering, Cyclone. SGI has also resold OpenFOAM training, a task they will now bring in-house, along with related custom software development work. “We just felt this was a great opportunity to bring our hardware, software, and services together,” says Aman.

While OpenCFD has kept itself busy with support and development work, SGI thinks it can expand this work through its global reach and broad customer base. Aman admits they’re not exactly sure how big the market is, noting that the 200,000 or so free downloads of the software don’t all represent commercial opportunities. Many of those are being used by academic researchers, but a good proportion are on the commercial side, in manufacturing and defense, in particular.

For those customers, SGI is betting that the comfort of a commercially supported version would have more appeal. To that end, the computer maker intends to wrap the OpenFOAM software with its MPI library, some other tools, and software support, and selling the product on a yearly subscription basis. Aman compares it to the model that Red Hat uses, offering Fedora code for free alongside its RHEL commercial product.

Although SGI is not quoting subscription pricing, Aman says, “From a total cost of ownership perspective, I think we are the most cost effective solution in the marketplace.” The subscription version is available immediately and includes the OpenFOAM source, SGI MPI, the ParaView tool for visualization, binaries, and support. Over time they intend to add more features, but will always retain the common open source core at its foundation.

Aman is quick to point out that OpenFOAM and commercial offerings like ANSYS Fluent are complementary technologies. The way he sees it, ANSYS offers fully integrated CFD applications out of the box, while OpenFOAM is more like a development platform where users can customize and extend basic CFD capabilities. In particular, OpenFOAM is useful for building unique solvers in cases where pre-packaged CFD can’t be used.

SGI runs into both types of users. In fact, says Aman, many of its customers run multiple types of CFD-based applications for different purposes. While OpenFOAM has the potential to coalesce some of the market, there will always be a need for shrink-wrapped CFD. “This is about growing the market, not about going head to head with ANSYS,” says Aman.

There may also be a large untapped market for CFD software beyond the usual suspects of auto/aero customers. Aman points to the biomedical uses (think heart valves), astrophysics, weather forecasting, and virtually any application that needs to model something in liquid or gas. Says Aman: “I think CFD is going to grow significantly beyond the manufacturing sector.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Geospatial Data Research Leverages GPUs

August 17, 2017

MapD Technologies, the GPU-accelerated database specialist, said it is working with university researchers on leveraging graphics processors to advance geospatial analytics. The San Francisco-based company is collabor Read more…

By George Leopold

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Centers (IPCCs) has resulted in a new Big Data Center (BDC) that Read more…

By Linda Barney

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last week the cloud giant released deeplearn.js as part of that in Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Leveraging Deep Learning for Fraud Detection

Advancements in computing technologies and the expanding use of e-commerce platforms have dramatically increased the risk of fraud for financial services companies and their customers. Read more…

Spoiler Alert: Glimpse Next Week’s Solar Eclipse Via Simulation from TACC, SDSC, and NASA

August 17, 2017

Can’t wait to see next week’s solar eclipse? You can at least catch glimpses of what scientists expect it will look like. A team from Predictive Science Inc. (PSI), based in San Diego, working with Stampede2 at the Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Bolsters Azure With Cloud HPC Deal

August 15, 2017

Microsoft has acquired cloud computing software vendor Cycle Computing in a move designed to bring orchestration tools along with high-end computing access capabilities to the cloud. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Ships Supercomputer to Space Station, Final Destination Mars

August 14, 2017

With a manned mission to Mars on the horizon, the demand for space-based supercomputing is at hand. Today HPE and NASA sent the first off-the-shelf HPC system i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD EPYC Video Takes Aim at Intel’s Broadwell

August 14, 2017

Let the benchmarking begin. Last week, AMD posted a YouTube video in which one of its EPYC-based systems outperformed a ‘comparable’ Intel Broadwell-based s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Thrives in Cancer Moonshot

August 8, 2017

The U.S. War on Cancer, certainly a worthy cause, is a collection of programs stretching back more than 40 years and abiding under many banners. The latest is t Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Raises the Bar for Distributed Deep Learning

August 8, 2017

IBM is announcing today an enhancement to its PowerAI software platform aimed at facilitating the practical scaling of AI models on today’s fastest GPUs. Scal Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Storage Breakthrough Paves Way for 330TB Tape Cartridges

August 3, 2017

IBM announced yesterday a new record for magnetic tape storage that it says will keep tape storage density on a Moore's law-like path far into the next decade. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Stuffs a Petaflops of Machine Intelligence into 20-Node Rack

August 1, 2017

With its Radeon “Vega” Instinct datacenter GPUs and EPYC “Naples” server chips entering the market this summer, AMD has positioned itself for a two-head Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This