Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Nicholas Lee, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Esmeralda Swartz, Agathe Caffier

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
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, will discuss how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the data to create additional revenue streams, such as improved warranties or premium features. Or slash...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on demos and comprehensive walkthroughs.
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small, but are focused on specific tasks. The ability for developers to deploy multiple containers – thous...