Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Linux Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Esmeralda Swartz

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: 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
The list of ‘new paradigm’ technologies that now surrounds us appears to be at an all time high. From cloud computing and Big Data analytics to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT), today we have to deal with what the industry likes to call ‘paradigm shifts’ at every level of IT. This is disruption; of course, we understand that – change is almost always disruptive.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cisco, the worldwide leader in IT that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cisco makes amazing things happen by connecting the unconnected. Cisco has shaped the future of the Internet by becoming the worldwide leader in transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Cisco and our partners are building the platform for the Internet of Everything by connecting the...
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
Temasys has announced senior management additions to its team. Joining are David Holloway as Vice President of Commercial and Nadine Yap as Vice President of Product. Over the past 12 months Temasys has doubled in size as it adds new customers and expands the development of its Skylink platform. Skylink leads the charge to move WebRTC, traditionally seen as a desktop, browser based technology, to become a ubiquitous web communications technology on web and mobile, as well as Internet of Things compatible devices.
SYS-CON Events announced today that robomq.io will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. robomq.io is an interoperable and composable platform that connects any device to any application. It helps systems integrators and the solution providers build new and innovative products and service for industries requiring monitoring or intelligence from devices and sensors.
Docker is an excellent platform for organizations interested in running microservices. It offers portability and consistency between development and production environments, quick provisioning times, and a simple way to isolate services. In his session at DevOps Summit at 16th Cloud Expo, Shannon Williams, co-founder of Rancher Labs, will walk through these and other benefits of using Docker to run microservices, and provide an overview of RancherOS, a minimalist distribution of Linux designed expressly to run Docker. He will also discuss Rancher, an orchestration and service discovery platf...
Sonus Networks introduced the Sonus WebRTC Services Solution, a virtualized Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) offer, purpose-built for the Cloud. The WebRTC Services Solution provides signaling from WebRTC-to-WebRTC applications and interworking from WebRTC-to-Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), delivering advanced real-time communications capabilities on mobile applications and on websites, which are accessible via a browser.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Proven by the world’s most demanding enterprises, including AAA NCNU, Constant Contact, Falck, Hootsuite, Pitney Bowes, Telekom Denmark, and VMware, Aria helps enterprises grow their recurring revenue businesses. With Aria’s end-to-end active monetization platform, global brands can get to market faster with a wider variety of products and services, while maximizin...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akana, formerly SOA Software, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Akana’s comprehensive suite of API Management, API Security, Integrated SOA Governance, and Cloud Integration solutions helps businesses accelerate digital transformation by securely extending their reach across multiple channels – mobile, cloud and Internet of Things. Akana enables enterprises to share data as APIs, connect and integrate applications, drive part...
After making a doctor’s appointment via your mobile device, you receive a calendar invite. The day of your appointment, you get a reminder with the doctor’s location and contact information. As you enter the doctor’s exam room, the medical team is equipped with the latest tablet containing your medical history – he or she makes real time updates to your medical file. At the end of your visit, you receive an electronic prescription to your preferred pharmacy and can schedule your next appointment.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgenia will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgenia is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional Social, Mobile and Cloud user experiences, our solutions help large and medium-sized organizations dr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Liaison Technologies, a leading provider of data management and integration cloud services and solutions, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Liaison Technologies is a recognized market leader in providing cloud-enabled data integration and data management solutions to break down complex information barriers, enabling enterprises to make smarter decisions, faster.
The WebRTC Summit 2014 New York, to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 16th International Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular Information Management® solutions for high-performance data protection, universal availability and sim...
Cloud is not a commodity. And no matter what you call it, computing doesn’t come out of the sky. It comes from physical hardware inside brick and mortar facilities connected by hundreds of miles of networking cable. And no two clouds are built the same way. SoftLayer gives you the highest performing cloud infrastructure available. One platform that takes data centers around the world that are full of the widest range of cloud computing options, and then integrates and automates everything. Join SoftLayer on June 9 at 16th Cloud Expo to learn about IBM Cloud's SoftLayer platform, explore se...
SYS-CON Media announced today that 9 out of 10 " most read" DevOps articles are published by @DevOpsSummit Blog. Launched in October 2014, @DevOpsSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce softw...
Wearable technology was dominant at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) , and MWC was no exception to this trend. New versions of favorites, such as the Samsung Gear (three new products were released: the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo and the Gear Fit), shared the limelight with new wearables like Pebble Time Steel (the new premium version of the company’s previously released smartwatch) and the LG Watch Urbane. The most dramatic difference at MWC was an emphasis on presenting wearables as fashion accessories and moving away from the original clunky technology associated with t...
The world's leading Cloud event, Cloud Expo has launched Microservices Journal on the SYS-CON.com portal, featuring over 19,000 original articles, news stories, features, and blog entries. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. Microservices Journal offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. Follow new article posts on Twitter at @MicroservicesE