Getting to Know PADT: High Performance Computing (HPC) IT Support Services

 This post is the twelfth installment in our review of all the different products and services PADT offers our customers. As we add more, they will be available here.  As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to info@padtinc.com or give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT.

The fact of the matter is, to be blunt, that building, maintaining, and optimizing systems for high-performance computing (HPC) is different than any other part of the IT world.  That is why most companies engaged in simulation who use HPC often struggle with their computers and networks. There is nothing wrong with their IT departments, they simply don’t have the manpower or the experience to support HPC systems. And that is why PADT offers IT support services tailored towards the needs of simulation users.  We bridge that gap between the unique needs of HPC for simulation and customer’s existing IT infrastructure.

We started offering this service simply because customers asked us to. As part of  ANSYS technical support duties, we kept getting calls from customers who were just not getting good performance out of some very expensive computer hardware. After looking into it we often found that they had the wrong hardware, it was configured wrong for HPC, or there was unnecessary overhead on the system.  In each case, we got together with the customer’s IT department and the users to understand the problem and implement fixes.

PADT’s IT team can offer a variety of services, including, but not limited to:

  • Implementing data management software
  • Performance benchmarking
  • Troubleshooting and Debugging Systems
  • High-performance Network design and installation
  • Making things run faster
  • System tuning
  • System design and configuration
  • Upgrading existing hardware
  • Installing software packages
  • Setting up queuing and monitoring tools

Focused on Performance

Most computer systems and the IT infrastructure that supports them, in the commercial world, are focused on security first, operating cost second, then performance.  And these are the right priorities. But in the HPC world, those same systems and infrastructure have to be focused on performance, with robustness second.  Security is important, but you solve that problem by isolating the systems and controlling access. PADT’s IT team gets this and because we run a large HPC infrastructure for our own simulation consulting business, they know how to set things up right and keep them tuned for performance.

A Partnership Between Users, IT, and PADT

Our deep knowledge of scientific computing and the hardware it runs on is only one part of our success in this area. The other is knowing how to be that translator between IT and the users of demanding numerical software packages.  We understand why IT can or can not open certain ports, and why the user needs those ports. We get the desire to establish a company-wide policy using remote drives that use RAID 1. We also know that doing that kills HPC performance. That starts the conversation on why users need local drives in RAID 0 for their number crunching.

The examples go on and on and involve memory, network fabric, different versions of MPI for each solver, and much more.  Often times just being able to explain these issues in terms everyone can understand is the greater value PADT can add.  And then our IT experts will be there with the customer’s IT experts at 11:30 PM installing those GPU cards and configuring them.

Maximize the Return on your HPC Investment

The cold hard reality is that companies spend large sums on advanced hardware, software, and infrastructure. Why not spend a little more to make sure you are getting the most from that sizeable investment.  PADT is here to help, to work with your IT and users, to get the most out of the tools you have.   Please don’t hesitate to call us at 480.813.4884 or send an email to info@padtinc.com to learn more.

CoresOnDemand: Helping Engineers Do Their Magic

CoresOnDemand-Logo-120hEngineers Do Magic

In the world of simulation there are two facts of life. First, the deadline of “yesterday would be good” is not too uncommon. Funding deadlines, product roll-out dates, as well as unexpected project requirements are all reliable sources for last minute changes. Engineers are required to do quality work and deliver reliable results in limited time and resources. In essence perform sorcery.

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Second, the size and complexity of models can vary wildly. Anything from fasteners and gaskets to complete systems or structures can be in the pipeline. Engineers can be looking at any combination of hundreds of variables that impact the resources required for a successful simulation.

Required CPU cores, RAM per core, interconnect speeds, available disk space, operating system and ANSYS version all vary depending on the model files, simulation type, size, run-time and target date for the results.

Engineers usually do magic. But sometimes limited time or resources that are out of reach can delay on-time delivery of project tasks.

At PADT, We Can Help

PADT Inc. has been nostrils deep in engineering services and simulation products for over 20 years. We know engineering, we know how to simulate engineering and we know ANSYS very well. To address the challenges our customers are facing, in 2015 PADT introduced CoresOnDemand to the engineering community.

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CoresOnDemand offers the combination of our proven CUBE cluster, ANSYS simulation tools and the PADT experience and support as an on demand simulation resource. By focusing on the specific needs of ANSYS users, CoresOnDemand was built to deliver performance and flexibility for the full range of applications. Specifics about the clusters and their configurations can be found at CoresOnDemand.com.

CoresOnDemand is a high performance computing environment purpose built to help customers address numerical simulation needs that require compute power that isn’t available or that is needed on a temporary basis.

Call Us We’re Nice

CoresOnDemand is a new service in the world of on-demand computing. Prospective customers just need to give us a call or send us an inquiry here to get all of their questions answered. The engineers behind CoresOnDemand have a deep understanding of the ANSYS tools and distributed computing and are able to asses and properly size a compute environment that matches the needed resources.

Call us we’re nice!

Two Halves of the Nutshell

The process for executing a lease on a CoresOnDemand cluster is quite straight forward. There are two parts to a lease:

PART 1: How many cores & how long is the lease for?

By working with the PADT engineers – and possibly benchmarking their models – customers can set a realistic estimate on how many cores are required and how long their models need to run on the CoresOnDemand clusters. Normally, leases are in one-week blocks with incentives for longer or regular lease requirements.

Clusters are leased in one-week blocks, but we’re flexible.

Part 2: How will ANSYS be licensed?

An ANSYS license is required in order to run on the CoresOnDemand environment.  A license lease can be generated by contacting any ANSYS channel partner. PADT can generate license leases in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah & Nevada. Licenses can also be borrowed from the customer’s existing license pool.

An ANSYS license may be leased from an ANSYS channel partner or borrowed from customer’s existing license pool.

Using the Cluster

Once the CoresOnDemand team has completed the cluster setup and user creation (takes a couple of hours for most cases), customers can login and begin using the cluster. The CoresOnDemand clusters allow customers to use the connection method they are comfortable with. All connections to CoresOnDemand are encrypted and are protected by a firewall and an isolated network environment.

Step 1: Transfer files to the cluster:

Files can be transferred to the cluster using Secure Copy Protocol which creates an encrypted tunnel for copying files. A graphical tool is also available for Windows users (& it’s freeJ). Also, larger files can be loaded to the cluster manually by sending a DVD, Blu-ray disk or external storage device to PADT. The CoresOnDemand team will mount the volume and can assist in the copying of data.

Step 2: Connect to the cluster and start jobs

Customers can connect to the cluster through an SSH connection. This is the most basic interface where users can launch interactive or batch processing jobs on the cluster. SSH is secure, fast and very stable. The downside of SSH is that is has limited graphical capabilities.

Another option is to use the Nice Software Desktop Cloud Visualization (DCV) interface. DCV provides enhanced interactive 2D/3D access over a standard network. It enables users to access the cluster from anywhere on virtually any device with a screen and an internet connection. The main advantage of DCV is the ability to start interactive ANSYS jobs and monitor them without the need for a continuous connection. For example, a user can connect from his laptop to launch the job and later use his iPad to monitor the progress.

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Figure 1. 12 Million cell model simulated on CoresOnDemand

The CoresOnDemand environment also has the Torque resource manager implemented where customers can submit multiple jobs to a job queue and run them in sequence without any manual intervention.

Customers can use SCP or ship external storage to get data on the cluster. SSH or DCV can be used to access the cluster. Batch, interactive or Torque scheduler can be used to submit and monitor jobs.

All Done?

Once the simulation runs are completed customers usually choose one of two methods to transfer data back. First is to download the results over the internet using SCP (mentioned earlier) or have external media shipped back (External media can be encrypted if needed).

After the customer receives the data and confirms that all useful data was recovered from the cluster, CoresOnDemand engineers re-image the cluster to remove all user data, user accounts and logs. This marks the end of the lease engagement and customers can rest assured that CoresOnDemand is available to help…and it’s pretty fast too.

At the end of the lease customers can download their data or have it shipped on external media. The cluster is later re-imaged and all user data, accounts & logs are also deleted in preparation for the next customer.

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