OnDemand Portal Accelerates HPC Work for Academic and Industrial Users

By Linda Barney

December 21, 2020

Editor’s note: This special guest post explores the use of the OnDemand and Open OnDemand web interfaces, developed by Ohio Supercomputer Center to facilitate use of powerful HPC resources, and used by academia and industry, including NASCAR.

Historically, the HPC community has done their work via a command-line interface to enter system commands and move through files or directories, as well as run programs. To facilitate greater use of its significant computational resources, Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) developed OnDemand, an accessible web interface that allows anyone with OSC access to log into and use one of the OSC supercomputer clusters. With funding through the National Science Foundation (NSF), OSC created an open source version called Open OnDemand (OOD) that allows research institutions and universities to run their own instance of OnDemand. In addition, OSC created a special OnDemand portal for commercial customers called AweSim OnDemand.

OSC addresses the computational demands of academic and industrial research communities with a robust shared infrastructure. Pictured is OSC’s Dell/Intel Owens cluster.  “Owens” is the namesake of J.C. “Jesse” Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics.

OSC’s OnDemand high performance computing environment includes clusters based on Intel Xeon processors. Pitzer, OSC’s newest system, is an Intel Xeon processor-based cluster built by Dell. When students and customers log onto OSC OnDemand, they have access to a supercomputer capable of running large workloads with advanced processing capabilities not typically available to all users on their own computers. Running on an OSC cluster accelerates the time to insight during data analysis and lowers the cost-per-terabyte during data processing. One AweSim user, NASCAR, uses workflows developed by TotalSim to perform simulations of race cars.

According to Alan Chalker, Ph.D., director of OSC Strategic Programs, “The inspiration behind OSC’s OnDemand is two-fold: Every other technology developed web-based user interfaces so end-users could easily interact with the technology. Lack of a web-interface in HPC led to the perception that HPC work was lagging behind in ease of use. Scientists and engineers would rather spend their time advancing their disciplines than learn HPC. Many students have always used web-based graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and are not interested in spending time learning about file systems, directories, and command line entries. Developing an easy-to-use web-based interface is lowering the barrier to entry so that students, commercial clients, and government researchers have access to OSC supercomputer cluster systems.”

Making HPC Modeling and Simulation Available to Commercial Customers

Designers and engineers who use common computer-aided design (CAD) or computer-aided engineering (CAE) software on desktop computers often encounter limitations in the modeling and simulation they can efficiently perform on those systems. OSC realized that access to OnDemand would provide commercial engineering and design firms with increased power and processing speed and allow more detailed models to be created faster.

OSC worked with modeling and simulation (M&S) experts to create AweSim with M&S-as-a-service. This program provides small-to-mid-sized manufacturers (SMMs) with simulation-driven design to enhance innovation and strengthen economic competitiveness.

According to Chase Eyster,  business development manager for Ohio Supercomputer Center, “There are currently six commercial Engineering Service Providers (ESPs) with expertise in multi-physics, finite element analysis, structural/welding engineering, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) that help a variety of AweSim clients in academic research, government non-profit as well as other commercial users. We feel like we have a very deep bench to go to for assistance to help HPC users.”

Ray Leto and Naethan Eagles, executives from TotalSim US, are part of that group of providers. “TotalSim, one of OSC OnDemand’s largest users, is an expert in CFD and Leto and Eagles have done massive amounts of work on OSC systems, help with technical issues, and create modeling and simulation workflows for use by customers,” states Eyster.

NASCAR: Using Simulations to Model and Test Race Cars

NASCAR Research and Development works with TotalSim who developed computational fluid dynamics (CFD) workflows and scripts specifically for NASCAR. Members of NASCAR technical team log into the OSC AweSim OnDemand portal to run their Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations using the TotalSim workflows.

NASCAR uses CFD simulations running through OnDemand for a number of projects. For example, NASCAR is developing its next-generation car coming in 2022 that was aerodynamically developed in OpenFOAM open source software. NASCAR uses CFD for things that are difficult to test, including running multiple vehicles together in different configurations on a race track, testing liftoff, and developing new safety devices. NASCAR found strong correlations between CFD simulations and work with actual cars in a wind tunnel. NASCAR makes final conclusions based on work in the wind tunnel, but most of the preliminary work is based on CFD computer simulations.

NASCAR uses the ANSA pre-processing program to locally prepare the geometry and meshes used in the calculations. The information is uploaded to OSC via OnDemand. TotalSim developed a web-based tool that shows NASCAR images and, files and reduces the need to download files. NASCAR can run up to 50 separate CFD cases per day at times of heavy development, so having a web-based tool that allows the results and images to be quickly reviewed on the cluster saves data transfer time.

According to Dr. Eric Jacuzzi, NASCAR’s senior director of aerodynamics, simulation and design at NASCAR, “Running on supercomputing clusters at OSC allows us to run more simulation cases, run them more quickly, and save computer job processing time. We were originally running about 50 cases a month with 1 terabyte (TB) of storage, but we can now run 250 CFD simulations a month using 15TB of storage.

Running on the OSC Owens cluster provides NASCAR with 2,000 Intel Xeon Scalable processing cores. A single car CFD simulation run takes 6 or 7 hours to run. Simulations with multiple cars in varying positions relative to one another take 12-15 hours. These multi-car simulations of varying positions are combined together into maps that give insight into the aerodynamic effects each car exerts on the other. A typical map is around 40 different vehicle positions and takes 2.5 days to complete.

“The amount of data in each run has grown massively and is approximately 100  percent larger than runs done in the past. It would not be possible to run these CFD simulations without the use of OSC’s supercomputer clusters. Running CFD simulations on OSC clusters is a cost-effective way for NASCAR to be on the cutting edge of testing and developing car technology and which we could not afford otherwise,” states Jacuzzi.

OSC Supercomputer Cluster and OnDemand Architecture

All OSC supercomputer clusters use Intel Xeon processors, which provide high performance, advanced reliability and hardware-enhanced security optimized for demanding workloads. In addition, the clusters have GPUs, interconnects, huge memory nodes, and shared data storage. The OSC cluster architecture is able to handle the most demanding HPC modeling and simulation jobs.

Pitzer, OSC’s newest system, is a Dell-built cluster that leverages Intel Xeon Gold and Platinum processors and Nvidia V100 GPUs

OOD provides system administers with an easy-to-install web access to HPC resources, resulting in intuitive access to supercomputing. Tools include job management and monitoring applications along with graphics desktop environments and desktop applications including RStudio Server, Jupyter Notebook, Matlab, Abaqus/CAE and other tools.

An OnDemand instance can be installed at other supercomputer centers, institutions, or research centers without connecting to OSC supercomputers.

OnDemand, Open OnDemand, and AweSim OnDemand are used by a number of global institutions. As of 2019, OnDemand was used in 136 US locations and 70 international locations. OnDemand is being used in major universities, national laboratories, hospitals, and in commercial industry.

Chalker has big aspirations for Open OnDemand, “We hope it will become the default interface for accessing HPC modeling and simulation resources to lower the learning curve and broaden the base for users. The NSF eXtreme Digital (XSEDE) program leadership has a vision of making OnDemand available to XSEDE users. A single front-end XSEDE login to OnDemand would allow the user to run OnDemand on any supercomputer on the XSEDE system.”

About the Author

Linda Barney is the founder and owner of Barney and Associates, a technical/marketing writing, training, and web design firm in Beaverton, Ore.


Header image: NASCAR race car CFD simulation running on OSC Owens supercomputer

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