HPC offers SMBs competitive edge

A server rack maker shares how it leveraged a government grant to access high-performance computing services to slash its product development time from up to two years to as fast as 3 months.


SINGAPORE--A local server rack maker leverages high-performance computing (HPC) to shorten product its development time, with the help of a government grant.

CK Cheong, executive director of ERS Industries, said previously modeling and simulation was a "luxurious tool" for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) due to the high cost of HPC hardware and software. He was speaking to ZDNet on the sidelines of the HPC Symposium organized by government research agency A*Star's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC).

HPC, which leverages on supercomputers to solve complex issues, has been applied in areas such as weather forecasts, healthcare, and food and beverage. It has been increasingly pushed by governments around the world as they recognize its value in driving economic competitiveness. For example, the European Commission set out a plan to double EU investment  in HPC from 630 million euro (US$826.5 million) to 1.2 billion euro (US$1.6 billion). 

A*Star adds new supercomputer 

Marek Michalewicz, director at A*STAR Computational Resource Centre (ACRC), shared that the center recently acquired an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer. The system has 100 teraflops (TFLOPS) of computing power, 512 nodes, 8,192 cores with 1 GB/core.

With the new system, A*Star will double CRC's computing power. Not counting the Blue Gene/Q, the center has 5 supercomputers which have a a combined computing power of about 100 TFLOPS.

Michalewicz said apart from the high processing power, the center chose the new supercomputer because of its energy efficiency. He said the Blue Gene/Q can save S$1 million to S$1.5 million in lower energy cost over the a 3 year period.

ERS was introduced to IHPC under an A*Star program, called Get-Up (Growing Enterprises through Technology Upgrade) aimed at pushing companies to upgrade their technical capabilities. Cheong added the company received additional support from a separate government grant which subsidized the cost of simulation and modeling by70 percent grant.

Modeling and simulation helped the company cut down development time and prototyping costs. Cheong said previously it would take about 1 to 2 years to come up with a new product as it needed to build and test prototypes. Through HPC-enabled simulation and modeling, the time was cut down to 3 to 4 months, he said.

IHPC carried out heat flow analysis of server rack using computational fluid dynamics to compute the spatial temperature distribution and flow pattern. It also identified potential hot spots and ways to dissipate heat and lower server temperature.

ERS and the research agency worked on simulation for thermal and air as well as power. The next phase of modeling and simulation will be on minimizing the impact of electromagnetic waves on the racks.

Tony Lee, managing director of ERS Industries, added the partnership, would give the company the endorsement of a government agency, which would help open doors such as to multinational companies.

According to Alfred Huan, executive director of IHPC, A*Star is able to help SMBs in Singapore with problems in process, design and production for tech-oriented products. He pointed out HPC was not just about the machine but also about the people who can identify the problem to solve and "verbalize" it into computer codes for simulation to happen.

IHPC is also working with MNCs in HPC-powered research and development. IHPC and Rolls-Royce established the Computational Engineering Laboratory in December 2011 to conduct joint research in intelligent data analysis.

In 2010, Samsung approached IHPC to develop a new simulation technique to predict electromagnetic radiation. Since the first phase of the project, the South Korean company has engaged IHPC for two phases of research and development.



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