Onera (Centre Français de Recherches Aérospatiales), the French aerospace research center, chose SGI Altix to significantly boost its computing power. Its new supercomputer will be used to enhance the precision of Onera’s computer simulation models, accelerate its digital simulation processes and adapt its computing resources for massively parallel processing (MPP) technology. More than 3,000 processing nodes, versus its predecessor’s 512 nodes, offer twice the power to significantly boost computation speed.

Offering more than 10 terabytes of memory, the Altix cluster enables Onera’s computation codes – such as Elsa for aerodynamic simulation, or Cedre for the simulation of propulsion and the thermal budget for aerospace vehicles – to simulate computation configurations involving more than one billion degrees of freedom. This enables Onera to meet the multifaceted challenge of sustainable development, for example, by simulating noise sources and propagation to precisely analyze aircraft drag and reduce jet engine emissions.

Onera is also using SGI Altix ICE to deliver 34 teraflops of processing power to its new system “Stelvio,” named after the highest mountain pass in Italy. Incorporating 384 SGI Altix ICE nodes, each comprised of two Intel Xeon processors (4-core), Stelvio has a total of 3,072 cores with 14TB of memory. The cluster is connected by an ultra high performance, dual-plane InfiniBand network and an SGI InfiniteStorage 15000 system with 400TB of disk memory and Lustre parallel file system, delivering processing performance of 6GB per second. Stelvio is one of the ten most powerful computers in France and one of the Top 100 worldwide.

“Stelvio marks a tremendous step forward in our research capabilities,” said Paul Levart, IT director at Onera. “We're very pleased that SGI is playing a major role in European collaboration. With the new SGI Altix ICE cluster, Onera has installed a truly world-class, high performance computing (HPC) system.”

"We are both proud and honored to be part of Onera’s major step forward in HPC,” said Pascal Barbolosi, managing director of SGI in France. “Stelvio will give its users tremendous performance to meet fast-growing demand for computing power, especially with regard to electrical supply and cooling.”

Based on the Novell SLES Linux operating system, the Altix ICE cluster will provide a large share of the computing power needed by all scientists at Onera, enhancing the agency’s research capabilities across scientific branches and departments, including:

  • Materials and structures: Aeroelasticity and structural dynamics, composite materials and structures, metallic materials and structures, and laboratory for microstructural investigations.
  • Fluid mechanics and energetics: Fundamental and applied energetics, aerodynamics and energetics modeling, computational fluid dynamics and aeroacoustics.
  • Physics: Electromagnetism and radar, physics and instrumentation, and theoretical and applied optics.

Onera’s bidding process was conducted under French government rules for allocation of public funds. SGI won the contract after a year-long, fiercely fought international competition. Stelvio replaces the previous Bull computer system.

Onera’s Computing, Engineering and Testing Facilities Division (GMT) is in charge of the new supercomputer, which manages the center’s large computing facilities and networks. It provides technical assistance to the global aerospace industry and research teams and, in particular, is responsible for operating Onera’s world-class fleet of wind tunnels. This entails continual development of test methods and resources, involving Onera’s own scientific departments.