Land Rover gears up for grid computing

IBM says that a critical stage in the Land Rover design process that used to take three months can now be done overnight, driven by its grid computing efforts

Land Rover has replaced the IT system supporting its vehicle design process with an IBM grid computing system in an attempt to save time and cut costs.

The Coventry-based company was previously using a more sluggish method of testing designs but has now deplopyed grid computing on hundreds of its PCs to speed up processes.

"There's a lot of hype over grid computing in academia," said Mike Robinson, Linux and grid leader for IBM UK. "But you'll see a lot of announcements this year about it with companies getting the business benefit."

Land Rover has to perform a computer-generated process called "clash analysis" on every vehicle part it makes to ensure they all fit together properly before it makes the prototype. Previously this was a labour-intensive task that used a great deal of computer processing power on one machine. During the three-month process, information was passed back and forth between departments after every individual test.

"Clash analysis is a very complex process," said Robinson. "They took time to do it. And they didn’t have a way of tracking the number of clashes they did."

IBM says it has networked Land Rover's computers together to allow hundreds of machines to "help" the perform the clash analyses. This allows the network to process ten car designs a night. The grid scheduler does this by pulling all the tasks together and delegating them to various computers. In the morning it pulls the data together and presents the results, IBM explained.

"Rather than a three-month period, it's an overnight process," Robinson said. "There's a reporting system so you can see week by week how the car is improving."