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high-performance computing


reduce the time spent managing cloud resources, allowing users to spend more time getting results from their HPC systems. On the final day of MEW25 a special event


was held to look at the benefits of using HPC in a variety of industries; again cloud computing took a prominent role. Andy Searle CAE & HPC IT manager at


Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) discussed the role of virtual prototyping at JLR. He explained the importance of simulation in the development of


JLR vehicles. He said ‘We have seen a complete shiſt from physical to virtual prototyping.’ JLR has an in-house cluster of 22,000 cores:


‘But demand is coming into our environment for 50,000 cores’ said Searle. Tis of course leads to times where the compute infrastructure at JLR cannot support the sheer volume of simulation that the company is undertaking; Searle explained that cloud bursting can deliver the extra performance in times when the workload is too much for the existing cluster: ‘I have to


give my teams the ability to compete in a global marketplace with the likes of Toyota and BMW.’ Industry and academia face the reality that


they must constantly do more with fewer resources. Shrinking R&D budgets and reduced government spending all contribute to this environment, and cloud computing offers a chance to get ahead. Delivering the performance needed without having to buy, implement and manage an in-house cluster is an advantage to many HPC users.


The middle is still missing


Trying to encourage the uptake of HPC by manufacturing industry? Attract medium-sized companies, says David Hudak


T


he primary focus of HPC has been modelling and simulation from the beginning – accurately simulating physical problems was the initial


driver for high-performance computing. Since their inception, academic HPC centres such as, in the United States, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Texas Advanced Computing Center, San Diego Supercomputer Center and Ohio Supercomputer Center all had policies along the lines of: ‘If we can help industry, we will’. But for a long time, direct industry/HPC centre engagements were sporadic at best. Tis has improved over the past 10 years.


Industry and academic HPC centres have built sustained collaborations. Te companies are from a variety of sectors such as energy, automobile and aerospace manufacturing, and biotechnology. Multiple public/private partnerships have been launched to address barriers to HPC adoption, including expertise, soſtware, and access to hardware. I head the Industry Relations programme for the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), which is an initiative of the US National Science Foundation. XSEDE is a single virtual system that scientists and engineers can use to interactively share computing resources, data and expertise. In my industry relations role, I enjoy talking about XSEDE’s part in addressing these barriers. For example, we are trying to address the ‘expertise barrier’ by leveraging our training and education programmes for workforce development. So, are all the pieces in place? Are we on the precipice of a new era in modelling and


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simulation in support of industry, particularly manufacturing? Te answers are ‘no’ and ‘maybe’. We are still searching for the ‘missing middle’.


Again, around 10 years ago, it was noted that only the largest Tier-1 manufacturers like Procter & Gamble used HPC-based modelling and simulation. It was argued then by many ‘serious people’ (myself included) that small-to- medium manufacturers were not using HPC due to up-front costs of hardware, soſtware, and expert analysis. Tis category of companies was referred to as the missing middle. Te argument went that if the hardware and soſtware became affordable, the missing middle would begin to adopt HPC. Well, a lot has changed in the past 10 years. Academic HPC centres and commercial cloud providers now provide


INDEPENDENT


SOFTWARE VENDORS ARE EVOLVING THEIR LICENSING PLANS


hardware on demand and at reasonable rates. Independent soſtware vendors are evolving their licensing plans to accommodate short- term usage. Promising open-source packages like OpenFoam and WARP3D reduce soſtware costs even further. Hardware and soſtware are much more available. And yet, the middle is still missing. I think the root of the missing middle is the


different view of HPC taken by manufacturers and HPC centres. Being from the academic community, I think of HPC as (1) install a big machine and (2) write some soſtware for that


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machine. Manufacturers would rather not do either of those. Industry is not concerned about directly owning and operating HPC hardware if cheaper outsourcing alternatives exist. As Tom Wilkie noted in a recent SCW op-ed, ‘Airbus’s business depends on HPC… But HPC is not its business.’ Similarly, manufacturers are not interested in writing soſtware. In my experience, manufacturers are interested in pre-packaged ‘Turbo Tax’ apps rather than full FEA or CFD solvers. (Disclosure: I participate in an initiative by the Ohio Supercomputer Center called AweSim that is developing a platform for creating, hosting, and selling such apps.) But even if simulation apps exist,


manufacturers must customise and integrate them into business processes before realising any value. To meet this need, Tier-1 companies internally develop ‘simulation technicians’ who understand the manufacturing processes and are trained to apply simulation apps. Tese practitioners are part of the


manufacturing team and improve solutions, in part, by using the apps. Tese techs underscore the need for industry best practices on modelling and simulation adoption – when, where, and how to use HPC. HPC in and of itself is not a competitive


advantage for industry. Improving a company’s capability to design, test, and manufacture products through HPC provides the competitive advantage. A key element for the missing middle is


recognising ‘simulation techs’ play a unique role with their own expectations, skill sets, and training. Tese practitioners will improve the bottom-line through modelling and simulation.


David Hudak serves as the director of supercomputer services at the Ohio Supercomputer Center and as XSEDE industry relations manager.


DECEMBER 2014/JANUARY 2015 19


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