Orca3D News

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When is a computer fast enough?

Part of our business involves carrying out seakeeping predictions for our customers, running advanced ship motions prediction software on a supercomputer. The supercomputer is actually composed of many multi-core computers networked together with a high speed Infiniband network, giving us computing power that is normally only found in a few government labs and research universities.

When we initially built this system two years ago, it was a major step ahead of what we'd done in the past. But this is a classic case of "Build it, and they will come," and we found that even running 24/7, we could not keep up with the demand. We’ve recently completed an upgrade to the system, and our testing shows that we’ve reduced the time to compute each condition (a condition is a unique combination of speed, heading, and wave height) by a factor of four. We’re now able to run approximately one million conditions per month. This scale of analysis is important when the mission of the vessel is critical, severe weather conditions cannot be avoided, the size and cost of the vessel makes physical prototyping impractical, and especially when the design is novel.

While interesting, this may not be directly relevant to your work. However, we feel that by being a leader in this type of extreme computing and engineering environment, we’re better able to create innovative design tools for all of our customers. Not to mention that having that kind of computing horsepower is kind of fun!