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What’s Missing in Analysis-Driven Design

By Peter Varhol

Editor’s note: This is an HPC Sponsored Report for Intel Cluster Ready.

What’s Missing in Analysis-Driven Design
Intel’s 300mm 45nm wafers like the one shown here are used to make it’s newest dual and quad-core processors that are made up of hundreds of millions of the company’s new 45nm transistors with Hafnium-based high-k metal gate silicon technology.

Analysis and simulation in the product design process has been the domain of specialized experts since its beginning in the mid-1950s. While many design teams engage analysis and simulation, there is typically someone on the team with the expertise to set up the problem and analyze results. For smaller teams or individual engineering designers, these useful but complicated design procedures have often been out of reach.

A large part of the problem is that software products supporting simulation and design have remained limited and difficult to use. Until recently, most required a deep level of understanding of the parameters used to set up the problem, and the ability to take numerical results and translate them to product characteristics.

The difficulty in creating analyses and interpreting results mean that products are being over-engineered as a precaution against failure, or are going through multiple physical prototype phases to meet requirements or iron out flaws. In either case, the result is increased costs and longer design cycles, which ultimately make the product less competitive than it could be.

A Revolution of Engineering Software
What is changing is the software. It’s getting better, faster, more comprehensive, and easier to use. Software vendors such as ANSYS, Siemens PLM, SolidWorks, Autodesk, and others are focused on making digital analysis and simulation in design and manufacturing both easier to use and more affordable. They are democratizing the tools needed to perform sophisticated design engineering and they are helping small and medium businesses harvest the results from simulation based design.

Software vendors are able to achieve these goals thanks in large part to the increased power and capability of engineering workstations based on industry-standard processors. With the 64-bit Intel® Xeon®5600-series processor, systems have up to two processors, each supporting 6 computational cores and 12 computing threads. These processors, combined with recent software advancements, make it possible for engineers and designers to create, test and modify their ideas in near real-time. These workstations and work group clusters deliver the compute capacity of high-performance computers that were only available in the data center or on a supercomputer just a few years ago. What once took a rack of expensive RISC-based processors 15 minutes to solve can now be solved in less than 12 minutes on a much less expensive dual processor workstation that fits under a desk.

For complex and highly detailed analyses and simulations, server clusters can be employed to speed up computations further. Clusters can draw computing power from systems utilizing high-speed networking to create supercomputer-like performance. Because many high-end servers use Intel Xeon processors, Intel has an interest in ensuring that hardware from different vendors scales up well, and works with both components and software. Developed in conjunction with hardware and software partners, Intel Cluster Ready (ICR) systems let engineering design groups match engineering design applications to today’s leading platforms and components. ICR systems include servers from Appro, Dell, SGI, and Super Micro, among others, and high-speed networking from a variety of network hardware providers.

Better, Faster, Cheaper Becomes a Reality
The combination of sophisticated and easy to use analysis and simulation software with the compute performance of Intel processors and Intel-based workstations delivers better and faster engineering processes at a significantly lower cost than in the past. Dynamic analysis and simulation are now engineering tools that are ready to be used on a wider range of products than before.

For straightforward designs, the combination of sophisticated but highly usable software with the power of today’s intelligent workstations closes the gap in analysis-driven design.

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About Peter Varhol

Contributing Editor Peter Varhol covers the HPC and IT beat for Digital Engineering. His expertise is software development, math systems, and systems management. You can reach him at DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.