Today’s Le Monde Informatique asks how the world of high-powered computing (HPC) can be reconciled with the needs of companies as regards simulation and modelling. An American research centre is working of the creation of an app store to provide dedicated applications.

The major problem for supercomputers is that companies are not benefiting from this technology. The modelling and simulation tools based on supercomputer processing could enable companies to create and test prototypes in virtual environments. However, the licence fees required for simulating wind tunnels, furnaces, welding and other processes are expensive. Furthermore, these solutions require multi-core systems and qualified engineers to use them. The solution is to take a HPC treatment and convert it into an application.

image of Blue Mountain supercomputer

Blue Mountain supercomputer. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) is working on this via a programme called AweSim. An investment of US $ 6.5 mn. has been made by the US government and private companies such as Procter & Gamble to create an App Store. This should open at the end of the first quarter of 2014 with one application and several web-based tools. The AweSim programme has the ultimate aim of becoming a business and bringing together thousands of applications.

Reducing costs and resorting to open source tools

Tom Lange, Procter & Gamble’s Director of Modelling and Simulation states that these solutions will serve as the group’s logistics. He explains that traditionally, “the software industry is based on the sale of licences which can cost $50,000 dollars per year for an HPC application. This price is beyond the reach of small businesses which are not interested in temporary use”.

AweSim will use open source HPC tools in its applications and is working on partnerships with major HPC software suppliers to make some of their solutions available in the form of applications. OCS is also working on a development kit so that other centres with supercomputers can supply applications. Programme Director Alan Chalker explains how this may work. A vehicle manufacturer wants to produce a solution to reduce the wind resistance of an 18 wheel truck. He will be able to download a CAD file, refine some parameter, click to launch it and use 128 cores out of the OCS supercomputer’s 8,500. The final cost will be US $200-500 for one hour of processing by over 6,000 CPUs. It will take 48 hours to simulate the process and report the results. A test in an actual wind tunnel can cost up to US $100,000.