Cenaero, one of Belgium’s leading players in High-Performance Computing (HPC), has chosen Bull’s ultra high-density mobile data center, mobull, to meet an exponential increase in demand for computing capacity. The supercomputer, housed in a container, will bring the research center’s processing power up to 40 Teraflops.
As a research center specializing in the development of computer simulation methods and tools, primarily for the aeronautical industry, Cenaero regularly needs to invest in increasingly powerful computing resources and infrastructures. Its customers and partners, most notably aircraft engine manufacturers, are looking for more and more powerful simulation solutions in order to stay at the cutting edge of progress.
Very soon after it was established in 2002, Cenaero equipped itself with a supercomputer. Since then it has regularly extended the power of this system, in collaboration with specialist firm Serviware, a subsidiary of Bull.
This has frequently earned the research center, based at Gosselies in the region of Wallonia, a place in the TOP 500 rankings of the world’s biggest supercomputers and enabled it to become one of Belgium’s major players in HPC.
Cenaero is set to reaffirm its status as the country’s leader in intensive computing, as the organization is currently involved in migrating to a new HPC solution that will effectively double its processing power, from its current level of 20 Teraflops to around 40 Teraflops. In comparison, nowadays a standard PC delivers around 10 Gigaflops (or 10 billion operations a second). Cenaero’s new supercomputer will be around 4,000 times more powerful than this. “If we simply followed Moore’s Law (with computing power doubling every 18 months) we would risk missing opportunities,” says Serge Bogaerts, Head of the IT & QA Support Group at Cenaero. “Engineers constantly need access to more and more computing power. The real challenge for Cenaero and its partners is also to enable researchers to develop simulation systems and software that are compatible with even the world’s biggest computers (so-called ‘Tier 0’), which feature several tens of thousands of processors.”
Flexibility and energy efficiency
Following an invitation to tender, Bull’s subsidiary Serviware was chosen as the winning bidder, with a Bull supercomputer. The contract – worth almost €2 million and co-funded by the European FEDER program and the region of Wallonia – involves installing the supercomputer with around 3,300 processing cores, comprising bullx B500 compute nodes equipped with Intel® Xeon® processors. The supercomputer is housed in a mobull™ mobile data center, which consists of a 14 meter long container capable of holding up to 15 server cabinets.
“This type of container-based solution is now mature from a technological point of view. But mobull also offers two more big advantages. The first is all about energy consumption. From the start, mobull was designed for maximum energy efficiency. Its HPC capacity is even more dense than a traditional server room. And the cooling system operates as close as possible to the sources of heat. For an equivalent processing capacity, electricity consumption (measures in watts per flop) is much lower. This energy efficiency means we can increase our computing capacity even though our budget for energy consumption stays the same,” Serge Bogaerts stresses.
The other big advantage is the flexibility of this ‘turnkey’ solution, which does not require a whole new room to be fitted out. “The flexibility inside the container is much better than rival solutions,” Serge Bogaerts continues. “This is a highly modular approach. It is easy to add more server cabinets. This extendibility was an important selection criteria for us.”
Cenaero has given itself six months to finalize the migration to the new supercomputer, which will enable it to serve many more local design offices and engineering companies, as well as to respond to new design projects with ever more exacting requirements.
Cenaero (the Center for excellence in Aeronautical research) is an applied research center focusing on developing computer simulation technologies, primarily for the aeronautical industry but also for the energy, transport and biomedical sectors. Cenaero is a privately-owned organization, founded in 2002 and part-funded by the region of Wallonia and the European Union’s FEDER and FSE structural funds. Its role is to encourage innovation to the benefit of leading-edge companies in the region, by focusing its efforts on developing the next generation of multidisciplinary computer simulation software.