You will be Surprised Where Sneeze Germs Travel in an Airplane

sneezing-in-airplane-300x279Ever been on a flight, hear someone sneeze, and then sit in fear as you imagine millions of tiny infectiousness germs laughing historically as they spread through the cabin of the plane?  In my imagination they are green and drip mucus. In reality they are small liquid particles and instead of going everywhere, it appears they fall on just a few unlucky people. 

ANSYS, Inc.  put out a very cool video showing the results of an in-cabin CFD run done by Purdue University that tracks the pathogens as they leave the sick persons mouth, get caught in the climate control system’s air stream, and waft right on the people next to and behind them.  The study was done for the FAA Center for Excellence for Airliner Cabin Environment Research.   

Here is the video, check it out and share with your friends. Especially if you have a friend that doesn’t sneezes out into the open air:

Visit the ANSYS Blog to learn even more.

#betterlivingthroughsimulation

PADT Opens Utah Office

PADT-UtahIt is now official: PADT has an office in the Salt Lake City area, second after the class A office space in Austin, TX.  Last week we signed a lease for a space at 5282 S Commerce Dr in Murray, Utah.  We have been looking for a while and when this location opened up we felt it was located in a great spot and was the size we needed.  It is 17 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, less than 30 minutes to most of our SLC customers, and not a bad drive to those who are north and south, right up or down I-15.

This office will focus on providing sales and technical support to our Utah Stratasys and ANSYS customers.  It will provide enough space for a few demo 3D Printers and also has a great meeting room for training and mentoring sessions.

You can read more in the official press release here.  

To get a feel for where it is located, here is a screen grab.

        PADT-Utah-Office-Map

Proximity to some of the best skiing in the country was not much of a factor in the decision process… but it helped.

Here is a shot of Anthony, Doug, Patrick, and Mario modeling in the hallway. 

PADT-Utah-Team-Halway

It will take us a month or so to get everything up and running, but once done we will set up a time for an open house. Watch this space for more about our continued growth and success in Utah.

Recommended Free Utilities for the ANSYS User’s Toolbox

free-stuffWhat do you have in your toolbox? The ANSYS suite of tools is pretty comprehensive.  But an efficient user always has a collection of utilities that they use with ANSYS products to automate processes, convert data, and scrub results.  In 2008 we published a list of free and commercial tools that we were using at PADT, and web results show that it is one of our more popular posts. So we thought it was a good time to revisit and update those lists.

We will start with the free tools, well because everyone loves something for free. This is by no means a comprehensive list, these are simply the tools we currently use here at PADT. If you have alternative suggestions, please leave them in a comment.  I tried to put them in some logical grouping, but failed.  So here they are, in no particular order:

untitled python
Scripting Language
www.python.org

Every good simulation user needs scripting.  We spend a lot of time dealing with large amounts of data and setting up all sorts of complicated processes.  Scripting can be used to create, modify, sift through, or translate text versions of our models, loads, and results.  Some users like to stick with APDL and never leave ANSYS, some know Matlab very well.  Others may use newer languages like Lua or older ones like perl.
Here at PADT we have found that python is the best tool for scripting outside of ANSYS MAPDL (we use APDL if we are in the program).  Not only is it easy to learn and use, it has hundreds of free libraries that do almost anything you want. Lots of people know it, and you are not dependent on some other piece of software. Python also works on Linux and Windows. In addition, most CAE tools these days support python scripting.  This is certainly true of the Workbench project page and ANSYS ACT for ANSYS Mechanical. 

Alternatives: perl, Lua, linux shell scripts.

vtk VTK
Visualization Library
www.vtk.org

Did you ever wish there was a toolkit out there that you could use to quickly build a visualization tool?  I know I spent days of my early career writing simple tools from scratch, and spending most of my time on graphics stuff.  Well, VTK is that toolkit.  It consists of C++ class libraries, and includes interpreters for Tcl/Tk, Java, and python.  With python, you can create little applications very quickly without having to know a full object oriented programming language.  The resulting graphics are fast and attractive. If you are going to be writting your own vertical application that works with your FEA or CFD tool, use VTK for the graphics.

paraview ParaView
Visualization Tool
www.paraview.org 

The first time you use ParaView, your response will most likely be OMG. It is a visualization tool written in VTK.  It reads most FEA and CFD formats, along with pretty much any faceted geometry data format.  [Unfortunately it is not reading the current ANSYS ds.dat file that ANSYS mechanical writes (or a cdb file)  I’ll try and submit a bug report. ]  But it does read a CGNS file, which you can export to from Workbench. 

But we don’t use it for working with ANSYS files so much, we have tools for that. We use it to deal with other file formats like STL, NASTRAN, CGNS, ExodusII, etc…  Very handy and intuitive to use. It is also an example of how powerful VTK is.

Alternatives: OpenCascade

notepad  Notepad++
Source Code Editor
notepad-plus-plus.org 

This is a great text editor.  Newer than most, it builds on the dozens of previous text editors out there.  It does syntax highlighting and auto completion for many languages. For ANSYS users, it has a powerful column editing mode, very sophisticated search and replace, and macro recording and playback.  I’m not aware of an APDL syntax highlighter, but you have PeDAL for that. There are a lot of text editors out there, and this one has bubbled to the top as the most popular at PADT.

Alternatives: Notepad, PSPad, TextPad, UltraEdit, and dozens more

vim Vim/GVim
VI Text Editor
www.vim.org 

Some people love VI, the old Unix text editor.  I’m one of those people. I’ve been using VI for over 30 years.  So I have to have a VI editor on my machine and I use it instead of Notepad++ or other text editors. Because I don’t want to touch a mouse, I want to [Esc] jjjj llll .  instead.  Vim is really the only good VI tool out there anymore, and it comes standard on most Linux installs instead of the old Vi.  The windows version works great.

Alternatives: Elvis, Vile, Lemmy

openoffice OpenOffice
Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Slide Shows, Database
www.openoffice.org 

Let’s be honest, MS Office dominates this type of tool. It works, everyone has it, and everyone knows it.  But sometime you don’t want to fork over cash to those guys in Seattle. Or maybe you spend your day on Linux.  OpenOffice is about 90% of what MS Office does, and it is free. It kind of died at Sun when they got bought by Oracle.. Since Apache has taken up the market, it has seen a lot of enhancements.

Many people just think about the word processor, but remember it has a simple drawing tool, an equation editor, a a very good database program.

Alternatives: GoogleDocs, LibreOffice

latex LaTeX
Document Perpetration System
www.latex-project.org 

How do you tell an engineer with an advanced degree from one who just has a BS?  The one with the MS or PhD like LaTeX.

Traditionally the tool of thesis writers, LaTeX has significant utility for the ANSYS user.  It allows you to create nice looking documents by imbedding tags in the document.  A pain when we have WYSIWYG editors, but very useful if you want to use scripting to create a document.  It is also a great way to create very good looking equations and tables.  Think of it as HTML for nice looking documents.

Alternatives: Word Processors

cutepdf CutePDF
PDF Creator/Writer
www.cutepdf.com 

This tool is not as important as it once was, since many programs write to PDF for you. But every once in a while you run across one that does not.  It installs like a printer, so anything program with a print command allows you to save as PDF. 

Alternatives: Adobe Online PDF Creator, PDF reDirect, PDFCreator, and a ton more.

adobe-reader-logo Adobe Reader
PDF Viewer
get.adobe.com/reader 

I almost left this off the list, but to be fair I included this. If you don’t have Acrobat Reader, you must live in a cave.  It is pretty much required to do business in this day and age.

ghostscript

Ghostscript
Ghostview
GSView

PostScript Tools
pages.cs.wissc.edu/~ghost 

Ghostscript is an old Gnu project that contains tools for working with PostScript.  Ghostview is the viewing tool on Linux, although it has been replaced by GV.  GSView is a viewer for Windows.  Look at the website to learn about which tool you should be using.

If you just look at PDF’s, then Adobe Reader is all you need. But if you have an older program that output PostScript directly, or you want to write a tool that create PostScript, then this toolset is for you.

windows-snipping 

Windows Snipping Tool
Screen Capture Tool
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snipping_Tool 

This comes with all modern Window’s operating systems.  And, to be honest, this is the one free utility most of us use more than any other.  Who saves images to files any more, we just snip them!  If you don’t have it in your task bar, put it there and get used to using it. 

Your Linux Desktop Environment will have a similar tool: KSnapshot or GNOME Screenshot

camstudio

CamStudio
Screen Capture Tool
camstudio.org 

CamStudio is an open source tool for capturing video and audio off your screen.  Now one may want this to create screen grabs of “Lost in Space” reruns… but what does an ANSYS user need this for.  We use it to make tutorials for other users.  It is a great way to capture what you are doing on your screen for training or to share with co-workers.

Alternatives:  We mostly use commercial tools for this… see the next article.

gimp-logo

GIMP
Image Editing Tools
www.gimp.org 

I hate the name of this product. The politically-correct-Berkley-grad in me finds it very distasteful. But it stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program.  It is not Adobe PhotoShop, but every release it gets closer. And in some areas it is better. It runs on Linux and Windows, always a plus.  We use it on our Unix machines to crop and clean up images. It can also be used to combine a series of images into an Animated GIF.  It is not bad at deleting backgrounds to make images with transparency for presentations as well.  It also has a fairly good vector creation layer.

We used to recommend a mixture of free tools to deal with image manipulation and editing, but now we feel that GIMP does it all.

Alternatives; ImageMagick, MS Paint

Movie to GIF MovieToAniGif
Make Animated GIF’s from AVI’s
www.evanolds.com/movtogifsimple.html

Everyone uses Microsoft PowerPoint to do presentations, and for most things it works great. But one thing is really sucks at is animations: you have to keep the movie files you are showing in the same directory because you can not embed them.  The simplest solution to this problem is to convert your animations into animated GIF files. Then insert those in your presentation. It also solves the problem of putting animations on your website without using YouTube or Flash.

The tool we use mostly is Move to Animated GIF Converter.  It is old, the last version came out in 2010, but it still works just fine.  Not much to it, point it at an AVI file and then save it as an animated GIF.

Alternatives: There are a bunch of tools out there, we have not used any so can’t really recommend an alternative.

engauge-digitizer Engauge
Converts Images of Graphs into Data
digitizer.sourceforge.net

Have you ever asked someone for material properties and you get a scan of a phototcopy of a book page back?  It happens less these days than it used to but you still sometimes get an image of a graph rather than a spreadsheet file.  Have no fear, Engauge is here!  It takes your image and allows you to identify the axis and the scale, then the data.  With a few clicks you have a table of useful data. 

Alternatives: A ruler.

Gnuplot Gnuplot
Plotting Tool
www.gnuplot.info

Most FEA tools have their own 2D and 3D Graphing options, and of course Excel does a pretty good job. But sometimes you need more, or you want a plotting tool you can script. Gnuplot is that tool. It has been around forever and has about every type of graph imaginable. As a command line based program with its own scripting language, it can be generated by your programs to get the exact plot that you want.

Alternatives: Python’s matplotlib or PyQtGraph, Scilab

scilab Scilab
Numerical Computation Tool
www.scilab.org

We don’t us a lot of Matlab here at PADT, we try and beat it out of new grads when we hire them… no not really.  It is a tool that our younger engineers are used to using.  The problem is it is kind of expensive when you use it every once in a while. Scilab is a nice open source alternative.  It works well and runs on Linux and Windows. 

Alternatives: Julia, Sage.

Remote_desktop_connection_icon

Windows Remote Desktop
Remote Desktop Tool
Built in to Windows Operating Systems

This is another “free” utility that comes with the windows operating system. Strictly speaking, it is not free because you paid for Windows, but it is so important, I thought it it was worth mentioning. 

Accessing your a windows computer remotely was something we can now do all the time, even from a mobile device. And internet connections are fast enough to where you can do real work from a coffee shop, home, or even from an airplane with WiFi. 

More importantly, in March of 2014, Microsoft released apps for iOS, Android, and Mac that work really, really well. We had been using 3rd party apps that were OK, but the new MS apps are great and I log on to my desktop all the time from my iPad and work fairly productively.

vnc

VNC
Remote Desktop Tool
www.tightvnc.com
www.realvnc.com

Remote Desktop works great for Windows boxes.  But if you want to do a remote desktop thing with Linux, or cross platform, we recommend VNC.  There are a ton of VNC tools out there, we seem to use tightVNC, and realVNC.  You need a server on the remote machine, and a viewer on the machine you are using. The viewers are free, not all servers are free.  There are also apps for iOS and Android for VNC viewers.

We recommend using VNC only if you are connecting to a Linux machine from a Windows machine and you don’t want to mess with an X11 server on your Windows Machine (See below for X11 servers for Windows).  VNC does a pixel copy across the network, which is not as fast as X11 or Remote Desktop that send primitives back and forth.

We have not had time to investigate VNC tools like TurboVNC that use VirtualGL and other tools to speed up the sending of the graphics window back and forth. NX (see below) uses VirtualGL

Alternatives: Tons, just google.

NX

NX
Remote X11 Desktop Client and Server
www.nomachine.com

Above we talk about Remote Desktop and VNC as ways to see remote machines.  If you want to see a Linux machine the best free way we have found is to use NX. This is one of those open source tools that is free and not free, and can get confusing.  It works like VNC in that you need a server on your remote machine, and a client on your machine. The client from www.nomachine.com is free.  The server is something you need to load on the remote machine, and probably comes in your Linux distribution. FreeNX seems to be the most popular.

You should get very nice performance for 3D graphics on your internal internet, and not bad over the internet either.  We recomend NX over Cygwin if you don’t need a full unix clone on your windows machine, if you are just logging in to a LInux box, use NX.

(and yes, we hate that the name is the same as the CAD/PLM tool… causes great confusion)

Alternatives: Cygwin, VNC

cygwin cygwin
Linux on Windows
www.cygwin.com

If you need more than visualization on a remote Linux machine from your Windows box, you actually want to run Linux on top of Windows without rebooting or using a virtual machine, then you need cygwin.  It is a fairly full linux distribution that runs on Windows, including full X11 capability.  We don’t recommend it for people who are not Linux savvy, but if you are and you want to work in that environment, then it works very well.

putty putty
ssh Tool
www.putty.org

The best, and most secure, way to connect to a Linux machine is through SSH. If you have NX or cygwin you just open up a terminal and connect. But what if you just want a text connection. Putty is a simple tool that will store your connections and let you log right in and provide you with that terminal.  Better yet, it has an SCP tool (ssh copy) that is very handy for transferring files between machines.

dropbox dropbox
File sharing Tool
www.dropbox.com

There are a ton of “cloud” tools out there that let you load a file up on a server in the sky, backing it up or sharing it with others.  We use Dropbox at PADT for a couple of reasons.  The first is that it is more than a cloud solution, the files you put on Dropbox get copied to all of the computers you have that are connected to your Dropbox.  I keep all the essential files I need every day, and for whatever project I’m working on in a Dropbox folder and I have access to it at home, on my laptop, even on my iPad. 

I also use it to transfer files to other people who don’t know what FTP is.

Alternatives: Box, Copy, GoogleDrive (with Sync)

filezilla filezilla
FTP Tool
www.filezilla-project.org

Real simulation users FTP from the command line… and waste time doing so.  FileZilla is a great tool that uses a GUI to connect to FTP servers and transfer files by dragging and dropping.  It makes finding files, transferring multiple files, and monitoring those big transfers a breeze.

Alternatives: ftp command line, cURL,lftp

7zip 7-Zip
File Compression Tool
www.7-zip.org

This is the most capable windows based compression tool we have found.  For many people the built in compression in Windows is fine, but if you want other options, and the ability to work with formats besides .ZIP ( including TAR, GZIP, RAR, LZH) this is the preferred tool.

Alternatives: windows compression, we have not used any other free tools for this

Encryption

I was going to recommend two tools for encryption: TrueCrypt and PGP.  But it looks like both tools are in flux right now. 

TrueCrypt makes virtual drives as files. When you decrypt them they show up as a drive on your machine. Very handy for achieving any special security concerns you may have.  But in march it was mysteriously shut down. They recommend that you use BitLocker which comes free with Windows.  We have not tried it so we can’t recommend it. Too bad, it was a great tool.  An alternative is PGPDisk, but that costs money or you have to compile it yourself.

PGP encrypts files and had great email plug-ins. It was a nice tools for sending customer data back and forth in a secure way.  It was purchased by a series of companies and ended up sort of becoming static. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The good news is that there is an open source version called PGP, available on www.pgpi.org.  You want the GnuPG version which is free.  There are links here to PGPDisk source code as well.

Bottom line, if you need to encrypt, you might as well pay for a commercial version that is supported.

So, that is all of the tools we could think of, a very diverse list.  Remember, put any other suggestions you have in the comments below.

In the Heart of Oil and Gas Simulation: PADT at ANSYS Convergence 2014 Houston

This years ANSYS user group meeting is off to a great start. I need to change gears from electrical stuff that dominated in Santa Clara last week to oil and gas. Some great applications of simulation to really difficult problems.

20140522-085218-31938412.jpg

ANSYS Acquires SpaceClaim


Big news this morning in the ANSYS world: ANSYS, Inc. has acquired SpaceClaim, makers of a very powerful 3D Solid Modeling tool that has been an add-on for ANSYS products for some time.

Here is the official press release:

finance.yahoo.com/news/ansys-acquires-spaceclaim-corporation-leading-111400173.html

Here at PADT we have been long time users of the SpaceClaim products, and big fans. This will certainly secure the focus of the SpaceClaim development team on continuing their work on providing simulation users with the tools they need to create, modify, and add intelligence to their geometry.  The debate of DesignModeler vs. SpaceClaim seems to be settled!

This is a great technology fit and there’s another innovation as a financial tools using an invoice template to save time and money with it, there also seems to be some nice business advantages as well.

Still Time to Attend an ANSYS User Group Conference

conference-2014-logoApril is almost over, and you know what that means? It’s time for the ANSYS Convergence Regional Conference to begin.  These free events are held once a year and are an opportunity for the entire spectrum of ANSYS users to get together for one day. Each event is a bit different, but the goal is the same:  Users share presentations on what they have done and the experts from ANSYS, Inc. share what is new and exciting with the products.  

These events are technical in nature, with a general session followed by specific technical tracks.  

conf2And PADT will be at the Santa Clara and Houston events this year, highlighting our services and products and presenting in Santa Clara.

The four US events are:

There are also 12 events in Asia, 12 in Europe, 7 in Latin America, and 7 in  the Africa/Middle East region.
See the full list here.

Remember, it’s free and always educational.  Even in our modern world of blogs, forums, and webinars, it is valuable to just spend some time talking with experts and other users.

PADT is a “Silver Sponsor” so we would love to see you there!

Help! My New HPC System is not High Performance!

It is an all too common feeling, that sinking feeling that leads to the phrase “Oh Crap” being muttered under your breath. You just spent almost a year getting management to pay for a new compute workstation, server or cluster. You did the ROI and showed an eight-month payback because of how much faster your team’s runs will be. But now you have the benchmark data on real models, and they are not good. “Oh Crap”

Although a frequent problem, and the root causes are often the same, the solutions can very. In this posting I will try and share with you what our IT and ANSYS technical support staff here at PADT have learned.

Hopefully this article can help you learn what to do to avoid or circumvent any future or current pitfalls if you order an HPC system. PADT loves numerical simulation, we have been doing this for twenty years now. We enjoy helping, and if you are stuck in this situation let us know.

Wall Clock Time

It is very easy to get excited about clock speeds, bus bandwidth, and disk access latency. But if you are solving large FEA or CFD models you really only care about one thing. Wall Clock Time. We cannot tell you how many times we have worked with customers, hardware vendors, and sometimes developers, who get all wrapped up in the optimization of one little aspect of the solving process. The problem with this is that high performance computing is about working in a system, and the system is only as good as its weakest link.

We see people spend thousands on disk drives and high speed disk controllers but come to discover that their solves are CPU bound, adding better disk drives makes no difference. We also see people blow their budget on the very best CPU’s but don’t invest in enough memory to solve their problems in-core. This often happens because when they look at benchmark data they look at one small portion and maximize that measurement, when that measurement often doesn’t really matter.

The fundamental thing that you need to keep in mind while ordering or fixing an HPC system for numerical simulation is this: all that matters is how long it takes in the real world from when you click “Solve” till your job is finished. I bring this up first because it is so fundamental, and so often ignored.

The Causes

As mentioned above, an HPC server or cluster is a system made up of hardware, software, and people who support it. And it is only as good as its weakest link. The key to designing or fixing your HPC system is to look at it as a system, find the weakest links, and improve that links performance. (OK, who remembers the “Weakest Link” lady? You know you kind of miss her…)

In our experience we have found that the cause for most poorly performing systems can be grouped into one of these categories:

  • Unbalanced System for the Problems Being Solved:

    One of the components in the system cannot keep up with the others. This can be hardware or software. More often than not it is the hardware being used. Let’s take a quick look at several gotchas in a misconfigured numerical simulation machine.

  • I/O is a Bottleneck
    Number crunching, memory, and storage are only as fast as the devices that transfer data between them.
  • Configured Wrong

    Out of simple lack of experience the wrong hardware is used, the OS settings are wrong, or drivers are not configured properly.

  • Unnecessary Stuff Added out of Fear

    People tend to overcompensate out of fear that something bad might happen, so they burden a system with software and redundant hardware to avoid a one in a hundred chance of failure, and slow down the other ninety-nine runs in the process.

Avoiding an Expensive Medium Performance Computing (MPC) System

The key to avoiding these situations is to work with an expert who knows the hardware AND the software, or become that expert yourself. That starts with reading the ANSYS documentation, which is fairly complete and detailed.

Often times your hardware provider will present themselves as the expert, and their heart may be in the right place. But only a handful of hardware providers really understand HPC for simulation. Most simply try and sell you the “best” configuration you can afford and don’t understand the causes of poor performance listed above. More often than we like, they sell a system that is great for databases, web serving, or virtual machines. That is not what you need.

A true numerical simulation hardware or software expert should ask you questions about the following, if they don’t, you should move on:

  • What solver will you use the most?
  • What is more important, cost or performance? Or better: Where do you want to be on the cost vs. performance curve?
  • How much scratch space do you need during a solve? How much storage do you need for the files you keep from a run?
  • How will you be accessing the systems, sending data back and forth, and managing your runs?

Another good test of an expert is if you have both FEA and CFD needs, they should not recommend a single system for you. You may be constrained by budget, but an expert should know the difference between the two solvers vis-à-vis HPC and design separate solutions for each.

If they push virtual machines on you, show them the door.

The next thing you should do is step back and take the advice of writing instructors. Start cutting stuff. (I know, if you have read my blog posts for a while, you know I’m not practicing what I preach. But you should see the first drafts…) You really don’t need huge costly UPS’, the expensive archival backup system, or some arctic chill bubbling liquid nitrogen cooling system. Think of it as a race car, if it doesn’t make the car go faster or keep the driver safe, you don’t need it.

A hard but important step in cutting things down to the basics is to try and let go of the emotional aspect. It is in many ways like picking out a car and the truth is, the red paint job doesn’t make it go any faster, and the fancy tail pipes will look good, but also don’t help. Don’t design for the worst-case model either. If 90% of your models run in 32GB or RAM, don’t do a 128GB system for that one run you need to do a year that is that big. Suffer a slow solve on that one and use the money to get a faster CPU, a better disk array, or maybe a second box.

Pull back, be an engineer, and just get what you need. Tape robots look cool, blinky lights and flashy plastic case covers even cooler. Do you really need that? Most of time the numerical simulation cruncher is locked up in a cold dark room. Having an intern move data to USB drives once a month may be a more practical solution.

Another aspect of cutting back is dealing with that fear thing. The most common mistake we see is people using RAID configurations for storing redundant data, not read/write speed. Turn off that redundant writing and dump across as many drives as you can in parallel, RAID 0. Yes you may lose a drive. Yes that means you lose a run. But if that happens once every six months, which is very unlikely, the lost productivity from those lost runs is small compared to the lost productivity of solving all those other runs on a slow disk array.

Intel-AMD-Flunet-Part2-Chart2Lastly, benchmark. This is obvious but often hard to do right. The key is to find real problems that represent a spectrum of the runs you plan on doing. Often different runs, even within the same solver, have different HPC needs. It is a good idea to understand which are more common and bias your design to those. Do not benchmark with standard benchmarks, use industry accepted benchmarks for numerical simulation. Yes it’s an amazing feeling knowing that your new cluster is number 500 on the Top 500 list. However if it is number 5000 on the ANSYS Numerical simulation benchmark list nobody wins.

Fixing the System You Have

As of late we have started tearing down clusters in numerous companies around the US. Of course we would love to sell you new hardware however at PADT, as mentioned before, we love numerical simulation. Fixing your current system may allow you to stretch that investment another year or more. As a co-owner of a twenty year old company, this makes me feel good about that initial investment. When we sick our IT team on extending the life of one of our systems, I start thinking about and planning for that next $150k investment we will need to do in a year or more.

Breathing new life into your existing hardware basically requires almost the same steps as avoiding a bad system in the first place. PADT has sent our team around the country helping companies breath new life into their existing infrastructure. The steps they use are the same but instead of designing stuff, we change things. Work with an expert, start cutting stuff out, breath new life into the growing old hardware, avoid fear and “cool factor” based choices, and verify everything.

Take a look and understand the output from your solvers, there is a lot of data in there. As an example, here is an article we wrote describing some of those hidden gems within your numerical simulation outputs. http://www.padtinc.com/blog/the-focus/ansys-mechanical-io-bound-cpu-bound

Play with things, see what helps and what hurts. It may be time to bring in an outside expert to look at things with fresh eyes.

Do not be afraid to push back against what IT is suggesting, unless you are very fortunate, they probably don’t have the same understanding as you do when it comes to numerical simulation computing. They care about security and minimizing the cost of maintaining systems. They may not be risk takers and they don’t like non-standard solutions. All of these can often result in a system that is configured for IT, and not fast numerical simulation solves. You may have to bring in senior management to solve this issue.

PADT is Here to Help

Cube_Logo_Target1The easiest way to avoid all of this is to simply purchase your HPC hardware from PADT.  We know simulation, we know HPC, and we can translate between engineers and IT.  This is simply because simulation is what we do, and have done since 1994.   We can configure the right system to meet your needs, at that point on the price performance curve you want.  Our CUBE systems also come preloaded and tested with your simulation software, so you don’t have to worry about getting things to work once the hardware shows up.

If you already have a system or are locked in to a provider, we are still here to help.  Our system architects can consult over the phone or in person, bringing their expertise to the table on fixing existing systems or spec’ing new ones.  In fact, the idea for this article came when our IT manager was reconfiguring a customer’s “name brand” cluster here in Phoenix, and he got a call from a user in the Midwest that had the exact same problem.  Lots of expensive hardware, and disappointing performance. They both had the wrong hardware for their problems, system bottlenecks, and configuration issues.

Learn more on our HPC Server and Cluster Performance Tuning page, or by contacting us. We would love to help out. It is what we like to do and we are good at it.

CUBE Systems are Now Part of the ANSYS, Inc. HPC Partner Program

CUBE-HVPC-Logo-wide_thumb.png

The relationship between ANSYS, Inc. and PADT is a long one that runs deep. And that relationship just got stronger with PADT joining the HPC Partner Program with our line of CUBE compute systems specifically designed for simulation. The partner program was set up by ANSYS, Inc. to work:

CUBE-HVPC-512-core-closeup3-1000h_thumb.jpg“… with leaders in high-performance computing (HPC) to ensure that the engineering simulation software is optimized on the latest computing platforms. In addition, HPC partners work with ANSYS to develop specific guidelines and recommended hardware and system configurations. This helps customers to navigate the rapidly changing HPC landscape and acquire the optimum infrastructure for running ANSYS software. This mutual commitment means that ANSYS customers get outstanding value from their overall HPC investment.”

CUBE-HVPC-512-core-stairs-1000h_thumb.jpg

PADT is very excited to be part of this program and to contribute to the ANSYS/HPC community as much as we can.  Users know they can count on PADT’s strong technical expertise with ANSYS Mechanical, ANSYS Mechanical APDL, ANSYS FLUENT, ANSYS CFX, ANSYS Maxwell, ANSYS HFSS, and other ANSYS, Inc. products, a true differentiator when compared with other hardware providers.

Customers around the US have fallen in love with their CUBE workstations, servers, mini-clusters, and clusters finding them to be the right mix between price and performance. CUBE systems let users carry out larger simulations, with greater accuracy, in less time, at a lower cost than name-brand solutions. This leaves you more cash to buy more hardware or software.

Assembled by PADT’s IT staff, CUBE computing systems are delivered with the customer’s simulation software loaded and tested. We configure each system specifically for simulation, making choices based upon PADT’s extensive experience using similar systems for the same kind of work. We do not add things a simulation user does not need, and focus on the hardware and setup that delivers performance.

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Is it time for you to upgrade your systems?  Is it time for you to “step out of the box, and step in to a CUBE?”  Download a brochure of typical systems to see how much your money can actually buy, visit the website, or contact us.  Our experts will spend time with you to understand your needs, your budget, and what your true goals are for HPC. Then we will design your custom system to meet those needs.

 

Customers and Partners Win at AZBio Awards and Pittsburgh Tech 50 for 2013

It is awards season and PADT partners and customers are racking up the wins around the country.

AZBio-Awards-2013-Header-10-10

On October 10th we were fortunate enough to be at the 2013 AZBio Awards where we were pleased to see:

  • The founder of customer Ventana Medical Systems,  Thomas M. Grogan, M.D, win a Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Customer W. L. Gore and Associates picked up the Arizona Bioscience Company of the Year Award.
  • Linda Hunt, the President and CEO of Dignity Health Arizona received the Arizona Bioscience Leader of the Year award. The Barrow Neurological Institute, part of Dignity Health, is a PADT customer.

Not only were we pleased to see these winners, but once again PADT provided the trophies for these awards so they were able to take a little piece of PADT home with them.

AZ-Bio-Awards-2013

 

More images from the event can be found on their Facebook page.

Pittsburgh-tech-50-ANSYS-Alung-2013Then just today we received word that the Pittsburgh Technology Council announced the winners of their Tech 50 for 2013.  And once again, a PADT customer and one of our most important partner received an award.

  • Medical device customer ALung won the Life Sciences Company of the Year award.
  • ANSYS, Inc., a partner and customer, was awarded the Tech Titan Award for, well being a tech titan.

We offer our congratulations to all of the winners and hope to see more as the awards season continues.

If you want to win a few technology awards, maybe you should consider being a PADT customer… seems like a trend.

Part 2: ANSYS FLUENT Performance Comparison: AMD Opteron vs. Intel XEON

AMD Opteron 6308, INTEL XEON e5-2690 & INTEL XEON e5-2667V2 Comparison using ANSYS FLUENT 14.5.7

Note: The information and data contained in this article was complied and generated on September 12, 2013 by PADT, Inc. on CUBE HVPC hardware using FLUEN 14.5.7.  Please remember that hardware and software change with new releases and you should always try to run your own benchmarks, on your own typical problems, to understand how performance will impact you.

By David Mastel

Due to the response to the original article on this subject,  I thought it would be good to do a quick follow-up using one of our latest CUBE HVPC builds. Again, the ANSYS Fluent standard benchmarks were used in garnering the stats on this dual socket INTEL XEON e5-2667V2 configuration.

CUBE HVPC Test configurations (Same as in last comparison)

  • Server 1: CUBE HVPC c16
  • CPU: 4, AMD Opteron 6308 @ 3.5GHz (Quad Core)
  • Memory: 256GB (32x8G) DDR3-1600 ECC Reg. RAM (1600MHz)
  • Hardware RAID Controller: Supermicro AOC-S2208L-H8iR 6Gbps, PCI-e x 8 Gen3
  • Hard Drives: Supermicro HDD-A0600-HUS156060VLS60 – Hitachi 600G SAS2.0 15K RPM 3.5″
  •  OS: Linux 64-bit / Kernel 2.6.32-358.18.1.e16.x86_64
  • App: ANSYS FLUENT 14.5.7
  • MPI: Platform MPI
  • HCA: SMC AOC-UIBQ-M2 – QDR Infiniband
    • The IB card installed however solves were run distributed locally
  • Switch: MELLANOX IS5023 Non-Blocking 18-port switch

Server 2: CUBE HVPC c16i (Intel server from last comparison)

  • CPU: 2, INTEL XEON e5-2690 @ 2.9GHz (Octa Core)
  • Memory: 128GB (16x8G) DDR3-1600 ECC Reg. RAM (1600MHz)
  • RAID Controller: Supermicro AOC-S2208L-H8iR 6Gbps, PCI-e x 8 Gen3
  • Hard Drives: Supermicro HDD-A0600-HUS156060VLS60 – Hitachi 600G SAS2.0 15K RPM 3.5″
  • OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • App: ANSYS FLUENT 14.5.7
  • MPI: Platform MPI

Server 3: CUBE HVPC c16ivy (New “Ivy” based Intel server)

  • CPU: 2, INTEL XEON e5-2667V2 @ 3.3 (Octa Core)
  • Memory: 128GB (16x8G) DDR3-1600 ECC Reg. RAM (1600MHz)
  • RAID Controller: Supermicro AOC-S2208L-H8iR 6Gbps, PCI-e x 8 Gen3
  • Hard Drives: Supermicro HDD-A0600-HUS156060VLS60 – Hitachi 600G SAS2.0 15K RPM 3.5″
  • OS: Linux 64-bit / Kernel 2.6.32-358.18.1.e16.x86_64
  • App: ANSYS FLUENT 14.5.7
  • MPI: Platform MPI
  • HCA: SMC – QDR Infiniband
    • The IB card installed however solves were run distributed locally

ANSYS FLUENT 14.5.7 Performance using the ANSYS FLUENT Benchmark suite provided by ANSYS, Inc.

ANSYS Fluent Benchmark page link:http://www.ansys.com/Support/Platform+Support/Benchmarks+Overview/ANSYS+Fluent+Benchmarks

Release ANSYS FLUENT 14.5.7 Test Cases
(20 Iterations each)

  • Reacting Flow with Eddy Dissipation Model (eddy_417k)
  • Single-stage Turbomachinery Flow (turbo_500k)
  • External Flow Over an Aircraft Wing (aircraft_2m)
  • External Flow Over a Passenger Sedan (sedan_4m)
  • External Flow Over a Truck Body with a Polyhedral Mesh (truck_poly_14m)
  • External Flow Over a Truck Body 14m (truck_14m)

Here are the results for all three machines, total and average time:

Intel-AMD-Flunet-Part2-Chart1Intel-AMD-Flunet-Part2-Chart2

 

Summary: Are you sure? Part 2

So I didn’t have to have the “Are you sure?” question with Eric this time and I didn’t bother triple checking the results because indeed, the Ivy Bridge-EP Socket 2011 is one fast CPU! That combined with a 0.022 micron manufacturing process  the data speaks for itself. For example, lets re-dig into the data for the External Flow Over a Truck Body with a Polyhedral Mesh (truck_poly_14m) benchmark and see what we find:

Intel-AMD-FLUENT-Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intel-AMD-FLUENT-summary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Pricing of INTEL® and AMD® CPU’s

Here is the up to the minute pricing for each CPU’s. I took these prices off of NewEgg and IngramMicro’s website. The date of the monetary values was captured on October 4, 2013.

Note AMD’s price per CPU went up and the INTEL XEON e5-2690 went down. Again, these prices based on today’s pricing, October 4, 2013.

AMD Opteron 6308 Abu Dhabi 3.5GHz 4MB L2 Cache 16MB L3 Cache Socket G34 115W Quad-Core Server Processor OS6308WKT4GHKWOF

  •  $501 x 4 = $2004.00

Intel Xeon E5-2690 2.90 GHz Processor – Socket LGA-2011, L2 Cache 2MB, L3 Cache 20 MB, 8 GT/s QPI

  • $1986.48 x 2 = $3972.96

Intel Xeon E5-2667V2 3.3 GHz Processor – Socket LGA-2011, L2 Cache 2MB, L3 Cache 25 MB, 8 GT/s QPI,

  • $1933.88 x 2 = $3867.76

REFERENCES:
http://www.ingrammicro.com
http://www.newegg.com

INTEL XEON e5-2667V2
http://ark.intel.com/products/75273/Intel-Xeon-Processor-E5-2667-v2-25M-Cache-3_30-GHz

INTEL XEON e5-2690
http://ark.intel.com/products/64596/

AMD Opteron 6308
http://www.amd.com/us/Documents/Opteron_6300_QRG.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-precision_floating-point_format

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_processing_unit#Integer_range

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floating_point

STEP OUT OF THE BOX, STEP INTO A CUBE

PADT offers a line of high performance computing (HPC) systems specifically designed for CFD and FEA number crunching aimed at a balance between cost and performance. We call this concept High Value Performance Computing, or HVPC. These systems have allowed PADT and our customers to carry out larger simulations, with greater accuracy, in less time, at a lower cost than name-brand solutions. This leaves you more cash to buy more hardware or software.

Let CUBE HVPC by PADT, Inc. quote you a configuration today!

 

Columbia: PADT’s Killer Kilo-Core CUBE Cluster is Online

iIn the back of PADT’s product development lab is a closet.  Yesterday afternoon PADT’s tireless IT team crammed themselves into the back of that closet and powered up our new cluster, bringing 1104 connected cores online.  It sounded like a jet taking off when we submitted a test FLUENT solve across all the cores.  Music to our ears.

We have recently become slammed with benchmarks for ANSYS and CUBE customers as well as our normal load of services work, so we decided it was time to pull the trigger and double the size of our cluster while adding a storage node.  And of course, we needed it yesterday.  So the IT team rolled up their sleeves, configured a design, ordered hardware, built it up, tested it all, and got it on line, in less than two weeks.  This was while they did their normal IT work and dealt with a steady stream of CUBE sales inquiries.  But it was a labor of love. We have all dreamed about breaking that thousand core barrier on one system, and this was our chance to make it happen.

If you need more horsepower and are looking for a solution that hits that sweet spot between cost and performance, visit our CUBE page at www.cube-hvpc.com and learn more about our workstations, servers, and clusters.  Our team (after they get a little rest) will be more than happy to work with you to configure the right system for your real world needs.

Now that the sales plug is done, lets take a look at the stats on this bad boy:

Name: Columbia
After the class of battlestars in Battlestar Galactica
Brand: CUBE High Value Performance Compute Cluster, by PADT
Nodes: 18
17 compute, 1 storage/control node, 4 CPU per Node
Cores: 1104
AMD Opteron: 4 x 6308 3.5 GHz, 32 x 6278 2.4 GHz, 36 x 6380 2.5 GHz
Interconnect: 18 port MELLANOX IB 4X QDR Infiniband switch
Memory: 4.864 Terabytes
Solve Disk: 43.5 TB RAID 0
Storage Disk: 64 TB RAID 50

Here are some pictures of the build and the final product:

a
A huge delivery from our supplier, Supermicro, started the process. This was the first pallet.

b
The build included installing the largest power strip any of us had ever seen.

c
Building a cluster consists of doing the same thing, over and over and over again.

f
We took over PADT’s clean room because it turns out you need a lot of space to build something this big.

g
It is fun to get the chance to build the machine you always wanted to build

h
2AM Selfie: Still going strong!

d
Almost there. After blowing a breaker, we needed to wait for some more
power to be routed to the closet.

e
Up and running!
Ratchet and Clank providing cooling air containment.

David, Sam, and Manny deserve a big shout-out for doing such a great job getting this thing up and running so fast!

When I logged on to my first computer, a TRS-80, in my high-school computer lab, I never, ever thought I would be running on a machine this powerful.  And I would have told people they were crazy if they said a machine with this much throughput would cost less than $300,000.  It is a good time to be a simulation user!

Now I just need to find a bigger closet for when we double the size again…

CUBE-HVPC-Logo-wide

PADT Expands Local 3D Printing, Support, and Simulation Services with New Albuquerque Office

Web-PADT-Front-Door-New-Mexico

We are very pleased to announce that PADT is opening new local office in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Sandia Science and Technology Park. The office will focus on providing sales, technical support, 3D Printer maintenance, and a meeting space to better serve customers in New Mexico.

Some of PADT’s earliest customers came from the state of New Mexico, and the company provides products, support, and services to many organizations in the area, including all of the major universities, the National Labs, and dozens of commercial companies. The new office will allow the local team, and employees visiting from PADT’s Colorado or Arizona locations, the opportunity to work in a familiar location, have direct access to PADT’s infrastructure, and provide customers a location to view the 3D Printing, simulation, and product development technologies that PADT offers. The location at the Eubank entrance to Kirtland AFB and Sandia National Labs give direct access to the highest concentration of PADT customers in the state.

The sales team in the  PADT New Mexico office will focus on distributing three  products lines:  The first is the complete suite of simulation software from ANSYS, Inc. (ANSS) (www.ANSYS.com). These tools are used by companies around the world to simulate products before testing, resulting in better performance for less cost and in less time.  The second line of products are the 3D Printer and Direct Digital Manufacturing systems from Stratasys (SSYS) (www.STRATASYS.com).  Both ANSYS, Inc. and Stratasys are the world leaders in their respective markets, and PADT is proud to be one of their reselling partners for Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.  The third product line is PADT’s CUBE Systems, (www.padtinc.com/cube-hvpc) their own brand of High Value Performance Computers specifically designed and configured for the advanced simulation user.

Additionally, the office will serve as a place for PADT’s technical staff to work together at a single location, providing simulation consulting, training and technical support.  As the company grows, the area has sufficient expansion opportunities to allow for more employees and equipment.

You can read the official announcement on the press release:

Press_release

http://www.prlog.org/12158073.pdf

Here are some images of the new office:

PADT-New-Mexico-Building

The office is literally on the corner of Research and Innovation at:

PADT New Mexico
1451 Innovation Parkway
Suite 402
Albuquerque, NM  87123

2013-06-14 17.43.36

Still working on signage, but we used a large monitor to add a little touch to the entrance

Prarie_Dog_SSTP_Welcome(Note the little welcome creature in the lower right of the image)

The office is located at the Sandia Science and Technology Park on the east side of Albuquerque, just south of I-40 near the Eubank gate to Kirtland AFB and Sandia National Labs:

PADT-New-Mexico-Map

Ready to go for Turbo Expo 2013 in San Antonio

booth2The PADT and Flownex teams have our booth set up and ready to go for the next three days at Turbo Expo 2013.

This is always one of our favorite events because most of us came from this industry, and in fact all four of the founders were turbine-engine-engineers before we started PADT.  A special part of this years event is that we are introducing Flownex to the North American Turbo community as well as our CUBE HVPC computer systems.  So lots of new things to talk about along with our established offerings of ANSYS, Inc software consulting, customization, and training.

If you are there, please make sure you stop by our booth. We would love to see you and chat.

 

Here is our press release on the event:

p0

 

Trusted Partners for Turbomachinery Simulation

p1

The ASME Turbo Expo is the industry show where PADT feels at home the most.  Founded by experienced turbine engine simulation, design, and manufacturing engineers, the company has a true understanding of the real world needs of those who are focused on simulation for Turbomachinery.

Our primary focus for this year’s conference will be the full introduction of the Flownex Simulation Environment to North America.  This thermal-fluid system simulation tool started life as a solver for combustor analysis, and has grown up to be a full featured toolset that can model any fluid-thermal network in your engine or pump.  Flownex is ideal simulation software for the quick thermo-fluid analysis of gas turbine performance.

p2
It provides aircraft engine design and system engineers with the ability to simulate complicated air and gas flow patterns through fans, compressors and turbines; match compressor and turbine power and compile maps; calculate thrust, shaft power, combustion calculations with convection, conduction and radiation heat transfer; and determine fuel consumption.  If you are using an in-house tool or software written for other applications to model your flow networks, please come by to see how Flownex can reduce the amount of time you spend modeling your systems while increasing the fidelity of your models.s grown up to be a full featured toolset that can model any fluid-thermal network in your engine or pump.  Flownex is ideal simulation software for the quick thermo-fluid analysis of gas turbine performance.

p3

PADT’s reputation in the Turbomachinery industry is built on our expertise selling, using, supporting, and customizing the complete suite of ANSYS FEA and CFD.  Turbo companies come to us for training on ANSYS software, customization of analysis tools, FEA and CFD outsourcing, and HPC hardware because they know we know their business and how to maximize the return on their investment in simulation.  We can help anyone doing simulation on Turbomachinery in a variety of ways, stop on by to find out how.

p4

Another new area the PADT provides this type of help to turbo companies is by offering a complete line of High Value Performance Computer systems specifically designed for the simulation user.  From workstations to large clusters, PADT can custom design a system that hits the sweet spot between cost and performance, delivering faster turnaround of CFD and FEA runs for considerably less than systems offered by general purpose computer suppliers.

Stop by our booth to look at the hardware, software, training, and consulting that we offer to companies around the world to help them make their studies more efficient and effective.

CFX Expression Language – Part 1: Accessing CFD Simulation Information in CFX (and FLUENT)

This week we are presenting an introduction to CFX Expression Language. If you’re not familiar with CFX, it is one of the two CFD tools available from ANSYS, Inc., the other being Fluent. CFX has been part of the ANSYS family of engineering tools since 2003. It is relatively easy to use and can be run stand-alone or tightly integrated with other ANSYS products within ANSYS Workbench. We have some general information on CFX available at this link.

CFX Expression Language, or CEL, is the scripting language that allows us to define inputs as variables, capture outputs as variables, and perform operations on those variables. Through the use of CEL we can be more efficient in our CFD runs and better capture results that we need. With CEL we can access and manipulate information without needing to recompile code or access separate routines besides the main CFX applications.

Also note that since CEL can be used in CFD Post, it is useful for postprocessing FLUENT solutions in addition to CFX, since CFD Post is common to both CFX and FLUENT. There are some things to be aware of regarding FLUENT In CFD Post. This link in to the ANSYS 14.5 Help system explains it:

// User’s Guide :: 0 // 7. CFD-Post File Menu // 7.15. File Types Used and Produced by CFD-Post // 7.15.10. Limitations with FLUENT Files

If you are a user of APDL, ANSYS Parametric Design Language, what I have written above about CEL should look familiar. One difference, though, is that while Mechanical APDL is dimensionless, CFX is not. Therefore, CEL definitions contain units where appropriate.

CEL is typically used in CFX-Pre and CFD-Post. A handy editor is available to assist in the definition of the expressions. Most of the activity is enabled by right clicking.

Virtually any quantity in CFX that requires a value input can make use of CEL, including boundary conditions and material properties. CEL can also be used to access and enhance results information. Expressions defined in CEL can be used in design point studies in ANSYS Workbench, either as input or output parameters.

So, what kind of things can you do in an expression? In addition to accessing simulation information and storing it as a variable, you can manipulate values using operators such as add, subtract, multiply, divide, and raise to a power. You can also use built-in functions such as sine, cosine, tangent and other trig functions, exponent, log, square root, absolute value, minimum, maximum, etc.

There are many predefined values, including some common CFD constants such as pi, the universal gas constant, and Avogadro’s number. The available options are different in CFX pre vs. CFD Post, with relevant choices for each.

In CFX Pre, expressions are accessed by double clicking on Expressions in the tree. That takes you to the expression editor, as shown here:

image

Notice how units are defined for each expression, but they can be mixed if desired.

Regarding CFD Post, the example below shows three expressions defined in CFD Post. The expressions within the box are user-defined. The other expressions listed are setup automatically.

The values for forceX1 and forceX2 are calculated by extracting X-direction forces on two different surfaces. The surface names were defined in ANSYS Meshing in this case, as Named Selections. The value fdiffx is calculated by subtracting forceX1 from forceX2. The resulting value, fdiffx, has been specified as an output parameter in Workbench; hence the P-> symbol next to the name.

clip_image004

New expressions are created by right-clicking in the Expressions tab. The new expression value is given a name, then the definition is input, typically by right clicking and selecting from the menus of available quantities, like this:

clip_image006

The location of application for an expression can also be selected by right clicking:

clip_image008

So we’ve got our variables defined using CEL. Now what? Here are some things we can do with CEL variables:

1. Use them as inputs such as material properties or boundary condition values in CFX. If we are running multiple cases, it is typically much easier to define quantities that we want to vary this way. The values can then be changes in the Expression Window, or if defined as a parameter in Workbench, in the parameters view as part of a parameter study.

2. Use them for reporting results quantities of interest, such as forces at a desired location.

3. Use them as input or output parameters in a design point study or design optimization.

Hopefully this brief introduction gives you a glimpse at the power of CEL. In a future article we will look at using CEL for more advanced functionality, such as applying ramped or time varying boundary conditions, using IF statements, and monitoring expression values during solution.

Yes! Concurrent Design Point Solves Using New ANSYS HPC Parametric Pack Licensing

 

image

Design Optimization – Design Point Studies.

These are terms that for many years now have been tossed about as powerful simulation tools. Indeed they are powerful tools, but for anything but relatively small models, the computing resources and time involved to get solutions have been prohibitive in many cases.

We are now in the 2010’s and computing power is far greater than it was just a few years ago. To help us better take advantage of those horsepower increases, ANSYS, Inc. has released a new license product with version 14.5, called the ANSYS HPC Parametric Pack.

How does a six minute turnaround time for 4 design points look when compared to a two hour time for a single design point? If you find that intriguing, please keep reading.

Simply put, the Parametric Pack license allows us to solve simultaneous design points on multi-core systems. For the most part, design point runs have been serial up to now. With Parametric Packs, you can solve several design points at the same time, each running in parallel.

What ANSYS, Inc. has done with the Parametric Pack concept is to allow you to multiply your existing licenses for use in simultaneous solutions of design points. Each Parametric Pack license provides a multiplier on existing licenses. If you currently have one Mechanical or ANSYS CFD license, with a Parametric Pack license it now becomes equivalent to 4 licenses for the purposes of solving concurrent design points. The more parametric pack licenses, the greater the multiplier, as shown in the following table. Note that the maximum allowed number of Parametric Pack licenses for a given study is 5.

# Parametric Pack Licenses # Simultaneous Design Point Solves
1 4
2 8
3 16
4 32
5 64

The Parametric Pack license multipliers apply in two scenarios. With scenario one, a design point study has been setup in ANSYS Workbench in which there is a set of input parameters and a set of output parameters. A table of various values of the input parameters has been defined for which we want to track the outputs. An example of this is shown below. The other scenario in which Parametric Pack licenses can be used is with design optimization using an ANSYS DesignXplorer license. We will focus on scenario one in this article, while a future article will address scenario two.

The example we will use is a Fluent study. It could just as well be an ANSYS structural or thermal solution, CFX solution, coupled field solution, etc.

image

In this case, we just have one varying input parameter (inlet velocity) and one varying output parameter (mass flow at the outlet) for the sake of simplicity.

image

Design point updates with the Parametric Pack license work through the ANSYS Remote Solve Manager, RSM. The runs can be made either on the local machine or on a remote number cruncher, but either way they need to be submitted with RSM. RSM comes with ANSYS automatically, but needs to be configured the first time you use it.

For the example shown here, I set it up to run on one of our Linux PADT Cube systems. The submission to RSM was made from my local Windows box while the solving was done on the remote Cube on PADT’s cluster.

ANSYS has to be told to use an available Parametric Pack license. It also has to be told which licenses to be used on conjunction with the Parametric Pack license. This information is defined from within Workbench, by right-clicking on the Parameter Set box and displaying Properties. Once License Checkout is set to Reserved, we click on the Reserve Licenses link to select the desired licenses to be used:

image

In the window below you can see I have reserved 1 ANSYS CFD license which allows for 1 Fluent solve. I have also reserved one ANSYS HPC Pack which allows for up to 8 parallel tasks per solve. By also reserving one ANSYS HPC Parametric Pack license, the other two are amplified. As the last column shows, the reported number of concurrent licenses is 4 for the ANSYS CFD license and 4 for the ANSYS HPC Pack license (meaning 4*8 or 32 total cores for 4 simultaneous solves).

image

More HPC Parametric Packs would amplify the licenses further. It’s important to note that not all ANSYS licenses can be amplified by the Parametric Pack license. In general, the licenses that can’t are products that rely on a third party for some of the technology, such as DesignModeler which uses the Parasolid kernel. That doesn’t mean that DesignModeler can’t be part of a study that utilizes the Parametric Pack licenses, though. It just means that that the DesignModeler tasks will be automatically completed before the jobs are submitted for simultaneous solving.

Getting back to the example, we asked ANSYS Workbench to solve 4 design points. Without Parametric Pack licensing, that would have been done sequentially. On my local Workstation, solving on a single core each design point takes about 2 hours to solve. Using 8 cores on our Cube machine, each design point takes about 6 minutes to solve. What happens when I activate the simultaneous solution with the Parametric Pack license? All 4 design points solve in 6 minutes. This particular Cube has 64 cores, so solving a single design point on 8 cores or four design points concurrently using 32 total cores both take six minutes. That is a very significant speedup. I say it’s a game changing speedup.

Here is a graph of CPU utilization during the concurrent design point solution. 32 processors utilized and the elapsed time was about 6 minutes.

image

The resulting design point info including the as-solved output parameters:

image

The bottom line:

What do you need to be able to take advantage of this capability?

1. A regular license enabling the solver you need, such as ANSYS Mechanical, Multiphysics, ANSYS CFD, ANSYS Fluent, ANSYS CFX, etc.

2. ANSYS HPC or ANSYS HPC Pack licenses which allow you to solve on more than two processors/cores for each design point.

3. At least one ANSYS HPC Parametric Pack license which allows the simultaneous design point studies and the amplification of the existing licenses. Talk to your local ANSYS rep or ANSYS Channel Partner for more info.

4. A multi-core machine, such as one of PADT’s Cube systems. More info: http://www.padtinc.com/products/hardware/cube-hvpc/index.html

In a future article we will look at the use of the HPC Parametric Pack license in conjunction with a design optimization study.