Clustered Linux Cuts Down On Crash Tests

System lets DaimlerChrysler run more virtual-impact simulations, reducing demand for real-life studies.
As if the economy wasn't bad enough, more crash-test dummies will be looking for work now that DaimlerChrysler AG has implemented a clustered Linux system that can run more virtual-impact simulations than the company's current Unix systems. That means less of a demand for real-life impact studies and, hopefully, more five-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The world's third-largest carmaker, with more than $136 billion in sales last year, revealed Monday at the Convergence 2002 conference in Detroit that it has implemented a 108-node IBM IntelliStation Linux cluster running LS-DYNA software from Livermore Software Technology Corp. to perform crash-test simulations. The cluster, which can perform 18 concurrent simulation tests, has more capacity than the three high-end Unix servers it's replacing.

"We're getting 20% better performance out of the cluster than out of our newest (high-end Unix) servers," says John Picklo, manager for high-performance computing for the company's Chrysler Group. In all, DaimlerChrysler has 20 high-end servers performing crash-test simulations, including several SGI Origin, Hewlett-Packard Superdome and IBM RS/6000 SP servers. Although Picklo wouldn't say how much the cluster cost, he says it's about 40% less than what he would have spent on a new high-end Unix server.

There are two primary benefits to virtual crash testing--an automaker can do more simulations earlier in the design process, and it doesn't have to spend money on prototype parts that will eventually be destroyed. Crash-test simulations are compute-intensive applications, Picklo says. "We'll take a whole vehicle and break it down to 700,000 pieces, like a Lego version of a car. We break each second down to microseconds to look at how each piece bends and twists and interacts with its neighbors." The computation of a fifth of a second of simulation time could take 48 hours split up across 12 processors.

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