Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Flint Brenton, Tim Hinds, Sujoy Sen

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Orbital Sciences 'Take Off' with Linux Clusters

And provide significant performance improvements and cost savings

Since its beginning in 1982, Orbital Sciences has become a pioneer in developing smaller rockets and satellite systems for such diverse purposes as intercepting hostile missiles launched against the U.S. or launching satellites for better cellular phone reception. With a range of space and satellite systems, plus the added responsibility of supporting virtually all of the country's major missile defense programs, Orbital relies on massive amounts of computing power to continually optimize and simulate launch vehicles for reliability and accuracy.

Orbital's Challenge: Fast and Reliable CFD

Orbital, like many organizations in the aerospace industry, depends on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to predict how rockets and satellites will perform in various environments. CFD works by turning the region of flow into discrete volumes, generally cube-like cells. The governing fluid equations are then used to set up a large matrix, which can be solved using a high-performance computer system. Orbital relies on CFD software from Fluent Inc. to simulate many aspects of the motion of fluid within or around Orbital's launch vehicles.

Orbital's existing computer system was continually bogged down and unable to produce fast, accurate simulations. As a result, there was a significant slowdown when arriving at solutions for CFD problems over 1 million cells. Orbital engineers were limited in the number and variety of CFD problems they could process. To help meet deadlines, Orbital often had to outsource smaller simulation problems, which could cost up to $50,000 per job and $300,000 annually.

"In the case where a larger problem was deemed mission-critical, there invariably was a need to justify the cost of outsourcing smaller problems that had to be completed, including projected payback on the outsourced engineering work," said Richard Straka, vice president and chief engineer of Orbital's Launch Systems Group (LSG). "Ultimately these justification efforts pulled engineering talent from its core competencies to convince management to spend the money necessary to support the outsourced CFD."

Investigating Linux Clusters

The inefficiencies and frustration caused by its existing system led Orbital to investigate new computing architectures. Orbital wanted to migrate to a Linux cluster because of the industry-wide reputation that clusters provided optimal performance for CFD applications.

"We wanted a system that scaled linearly with additional CPUs and could grow with us as computational demands increased. Linux clusters provided us with that capability," said Straka.

Orbital engineers were experienced in using UNIX and had dabbled in the Linux operating system for years, so they were well aware of the advantages Linux offered. Although Orbital hadn't deployed Linux on a large scale yet, they were drawn to its cost benefits and flexibility.

"Orbital is steeped in SunOS and UNIX for engineering and CAD purposes, but when it came time to invest in a compute cluster for CFD, it was Linux that even made the conversation realistic because of its cost and hardware independence," said Mike Turner, IS director of Infrastructure for Orbital Sciences.

The Fluent Factor

Since Fluent is such a major component of Orbital's design process, it was important that the cluster vendor they chose could meet the following criteria:
  1. Understand the CFD and aerospace industry
  2. Experience with Fluent Inc. software
  3. Experience deploying Fluent-based clusters
  4. Compelling price/performance ratio
Orbital was drawn to Linux Networx after learning from Fluent about a Linux Networx system that was successfully installed at Fluent's facility to run CFD jobs for its customers at their Remote Simulation Facility (RSF). Orbital was also impressed with the knowledge base of Linux Networx engineers gleaned from previous CFD installations at other customer sites such as The Boeing Company. However, the deciding factor for Orbital to investigate a Linux Networx cluster solution was the partnership that had formed between Linux Networx and Fluent to provide an optimized Evolocity cluster system preloaded with Fluent software for the CFD market.

"We want our customers to have a successful, seamless experience when deploying a new compute environment and the Evolocity CFD cluster provides this. Problems with deployment represent a barrier to expanded use of our software and incur costs to the customer," said Paul Bemis, vice president of marketing for Fluent. "The partnership between Linux Networx and Fluent provides end users with a 'sure bet' in terms of successful deployment."

To be certain the Evolocity CFD solution would meet Orbital's needs, Linux Networx ran several Fluent benchmark tests on a cluster at Linux Networx's Solution Center, an in-house testing and validating facility that allows customers to try different cluster configurations. The Solutions Center cluster ran problems with very fine granularity in decomposition, which Orbital's previous computer system was unable to handle in a timely manner. The results from the Solutions Center proved that an optimized CFD cluster could produce results much faster than the previous solution. Impressed with the results from the Solutions Center, Orbital purchased an Evolocity CFD cluster with 24 Intel Xeon processors.

"The major reason why we chose Linux Networx was because of their intimate experience with Fluent," said Vince Allen, manager of aerodynamics. "We wanted a turnkey-type system with Fluent loaded and ready to be used - which is what the Linux Networx CFD system offered."

Delivering the Cluster

Installing a cluster system can be a long, tedious task as miles of cable, hundreds of hardware components, and various software must come together to create a high-performance computer. Linux Networx removes this complexity by completely integrating the cluster at Linux Networx's staging facility prior to delivery. Once the system is completely built up, the cluster undergoes testing and validation to ensure the cluster can be delivered to the customer's site problem-free. With these procedures in place, installing the cluster at Orbital was quick and seamless.

"The racks were laid out perfectly with regard to cable placement and management. The on-site installation engineer was knowledgeable and focused," said Sam Hutton, principal systems analyst in Orbital's IS department. "All in all we experienced a very neat, quick, and professional installation."

Managing the Cluster

With a 24-processor cluster, Orbital wanted to ensure that each node was operating at maximum efficiency, but didn't want to spend time and resources having administrators monitor the cluster for optimal performance. Orbital was able to easily address this problem by installing a suite of total cluster management tools from Linux Networx. Evolocity systems include Clusterworx, a comprehensive cluster management software solution, and Icebox, a cluster management hardware appliance that fully integrates with Clusterworx to increase system uptime and track cluster performance. By installing this management suite, Orbital is able to run more jobs and simplify system administration.

"The management tools allow complete, comprehensive, and effective remote management, including environmental and process monitoring, threshold reporting, remote reboots and power downs, and remote console," said Hutton. "Clusterworx and Icebox are a very robust set of management and proactive monitoring tools."

Results

Since implementing the cluster, Orbital is seeing significant performance improvements and cost savings. With the optimized CFD cluster, Orbital is able to complete jobs 30 times faster than their previous solution, which significantly reduces the number of problems Orbital has to outsource to third parties. Orbital engineers estimate the Linux Networx CFD cluster will more than pay for itself within the first year because of its fast results and the reduction in outsourcing needs - a savings of over $130,000 in less than one year.

"The Linux Networx CFD clusters allow us to run bigger problems than ever before and more numerous design variations on smaller cases, allowing us to refine our analytical predictions to levels that were not attainable at Orbital before," said Allen.

More important, with the power and capabilities of the cluster, Orbital engineers now have the luxury of routinely running small tasks and achieving much more focused and valid results than they were able to accomplish previously.

"The mere fact that we have the opportunity to make adjustments to a CFD calculation and resubmit it for more specific analysis makes nearly every run a candidate for more refined runs," said Straka. "The biggest benefit to us is even large tasks can run and be refined as needed, resulting in reduced risk of anomalous performance, which increases the confidence of the company in its products."

More Stories By Eric Pitcher

Eric Pitcher brings over 20 years of experience in high-performance computing to his position as vice president of product marketing at Linux Networx. Prior to joining Linux Networx, he held a variety of marketing management positions for 15 years at Cray Inc., SGI, and Cray Research. The author of 35 papers in scientific journals, Eric earned a PhD in meteorology from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from McGill University, and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Memorial University in Canada.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit y...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu, a leading provider of cloud hosting solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to foc...
Customer experience has become a competitive differentiator for companies, and it’s imperative that brands seamlessly connect the customer journey across all platforms. With the continued explosion of IoT, join us for a look at how to build a winning digital foundation in the connected era – today and in the future. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Nguyen, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how to successfully leverage mobile, rapidly deploy content, capture real-time d...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? How do you coordinate the diverse moving parts that must come together when developing your IoT product? What are the key challenges addressed by Data as a Service? How does cloud computing underlie and connect the notions of Digital and DevOps What is the impact of the API economy? What is the business imperative for Cognitive Computing? Get all these questions and hundreds more like them answered at the 18th Cloud Expo...
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 24Notion has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. 24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to con...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) will feature the upcoming 18th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in a New York news documentary about the "New IT for the Future." The documentary will cover how big companies are transmitting or adopting the new IT for the future and will be filmed on the expo floor between June 7-June 9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. KBS has long been a leader in the development of the broadcasting culture of Korea. As the key public service broadcaster of Korea...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will discuss the vast to...