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May 2010
The Flow
CFD Insights for the Turbomachinery Designer

INSIGHT: Compressor Map in a Day? Welcome to the World of Cloud-Based CFD
Cloud computing services from providers like Amazon and Google hold the promise of putting virtually unlimited compute resource at the fingertips of turbomachinery designers large and small. Is cloud-based CFD for real? In this month's issue of The Flow, we sit down with ADS founder and cloud computing lead Michael Ni to find out more.

FLOW: What is cloud computing?
Mike:
There are lots of definitions of cloud computing, but I like to view it simply as a web service that gives organizations instant access to computing capacity on a pay as you go basis.

FLOW: Why put CFD in the cloud?
Mike:
It's a powerful concept because it removes a lot of the capacity and cost inhibitors associated with CFD. We believe it gives turbomachinery designers the ability to:
  • Capitalize on the full power of CFD without the need for infrastructure investment and overhead
  • Pay only for CFD capacity consumed
  • Gain time. With essentially limitless capacity, simulations can be conducted without artificial license constraints bounding the number of jobs or size of job that can be performed. Imagine generating compressor maps in a day!
  • Rethink the value of CFD in the design cycle. With cloud-based CFD, designers now have the means to incorporate new types of simulations into their design cycle that have historically been too computationally intensive to consider. For example, 3D design optimization or large scale unsteady analysis to improve durability.

FLOW: Who are the likely users?
MIKE:
It should be of interest to turbomachinery designers both large and small, though in different ways. For larger turbomachinery makers already invested heavily in CFD infrastructure, cloud-based CFD is a great way to access "surge" capacity during critical design junctures. For small to mid-sized organizations, cloud-based CFD represents a tremendous opportunity to "level the playing field" with market incumbents. Think about it--through cloud-based CFD you could give a one-man design shop as much CFD horsepower as the world's largest turbomachinery OEMs.

FLOW: How is ADS taking advantage of cloud-based CFD today?
MIKE:
Here at ADS we have been using Amazon EC2 extensively for product development and testing, as well as for in-house simulations. It's allowed us to fully exercise the capability of our codes in our test suites and for clients without the need to provision and manage a large internal cluster. It's also allowed us to be extremely responsive to our clients since we can turnaround projects quickly.

FLOW: Is your entire CFD analysis process carried out in the cloud?
MIKE:
No. We believe the best use of cloud-based CFD is in execution, not in airfoil design or post-processing and analysis. Given geometry data and a set of aerodynamic conditions, our system automatically provisions cloud-based resources to generate the mesh and carry out the run across one or more instances. When the simulation completes, we extract the desired output data and download it for local post-processing and analysis.

FLOW: Sounds great, do you think security is an issue?
MIKE:
No more so than other outsourced business functions like IT outsourcing, payroll and billing. We're pretty comfortable that providers like Amazon are well-steeped in this area and have the policies and procedures in place to satisfy the needs of our customer base. In fact, we suspect that in many cases, the standards at Amazon are more stringent than what our customers have deployed in-house.

We tap into the cloud as if we're accessing a node in our network through a VPN. The communication channel is authenticated, the data transferred is encrypted, and the instances in the cloud that are executing the simulation are dedicated solely to us. Furthermore, CFD data does not persist--once the results are downloaded back to us locally they are permanently deleted in the cloud.

FLOW: Do you notice any differences in performance when running simulations in the cloud vs. locally?
MIKE:
No doubt your mileage will vary depending on the cloud and local configurations you're comparing. If you've deployed a high performance cluster with high speed Infiniband interconnects, you'll probably see a difference, at least in the short term. If you've got a four stage design that can execute on a quad-core machine, the difference will be minimal. Having said this, a provider like Amazon definitely gives folks like us the ability to deploy our cloud-based CFD capabilities against a variety of instance types (CPU/cores, RAM, interconnect bandwidth) depending on how we want to trade off cost vs. turnaround time.

FLOW: So do you think cloud-based CFD is for real?
MIKE:
Though it's still early, our experience suggests that cloud-based CFD is very real. We have seen tangible benefits for our business and believe it can be of real value for both the larger and smaller turbine and compressor design firms.

FLOW: Thanks, Mike.
MIKE:
You're welcome.

CASE STUDY: Using Fly-By Animation to Analyze Thermal Loading
As part of an SBIR Phase II grant with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, ADS has developed conjugate heat transfer analysis capability to enable accurate prediction of aero and thermal loads in a film cooled turbine vane. As part of this process, fly-by animations are employed to give designers an "up close and personal" view of thermal loading patterns. In this short video clip, ADS chairman and CTO Bob Ni uses this fly-by capability to take you on a journey through a film cooled turbine vane. <more>

TECHTIPS: Incorporating Bleed/Leakage Flows into your Simulation

ADS provides an engine modeling capability that allows you to easily incorporate bleed/leakage flow into your simulations. <more>

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