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18 October 2011

ClusterVision and Intel® Cluster Ready Bring Green Energy Solutions to Market Fast

High performance cluster computing technology from ClusterVision and Intel® Cluster Ready is helping Ceres Power speed design, and improve quality, for a new generation of domestic power and heating products.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 18 October, 2011 — ClusterVision, specialist in high performance compute, storage and database clusters, is helping Ceres Power to develop domestic heating products that could ultimately change the world, by moving power generation away from giant centralized plants and into every home. Challenges remain, but success requires bringing high quality technology products to market, quickly, and in volume, to stay ahead of the competition. To answer these challenges, Ceres Power worked with ClusterVision to rapidly deploy an 8-node, 64-CPU high-performance compute cluster. Certified as Intel Cluster Ready, the new cluster was operational within a day, and in less than a week was speeding time to results by eight to ten times for the company’s key design, simulation, and analysis applications.

The CHP (Combined Heat and Power) product from Ceres Power is a compact, cost-effective micro-generator which has the potential to reduce home electricity and heating costs by 25%. As the new standard for energy provisioning in millions of homes, it also provides a foundation for smart grids, which could eventually improve efficiency and reduce emissions on a global scale. At the heart of every CHP unit is a fuel cell module based on solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology developed by Ceres Power. This patented technology opens the door to mass market implementation by enabling efficient power generation at the relatively low temperatures required for residential solutions. The savings can be compelling. The fuel cells not only generate power very efficiently, but also at the point of consumption, which eliminates the transmission losses that occur over electrical power lines. Compared with traditional energy delivery models, a Ceres Power CHP unit improves the efficiency of energy delivery from 35% to around 90%. Home owners save money, CO2 emissions are reduced substantially, and the load is lightened on today’s overburdened power grids.

To meet its tough market challenges, Ceres Power needed a computational system which would enable significantly accelerated product development while simultaneously ensuring the highest levels of product quality. “Our engineers were relying on workstations to perform digital simulation, and analysis. Our models and analyses were effective, but they took a long time to run, even on our largest eight-core workstations,” Euan Freeman, Manager Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) at Ceres.

After exploring options with several vendors, Ceres Power turned to ClusterVision, a company that has built some of the most powerful high performance computing clusters in Europe. ClusterVision helped to design and configure an 8-node system, comprising 1 head-node (Dell PowerEdge 510 with Dual Quad-Core Xeon), plus 7 blade servers (Dell PowerEdge PE M610 with dual Xeon X5670 Processors (2.93 GHz). According to Freeman, “I chose the Intel processors because of their number crunching superiority. Intel just seems to be ahead of the game in that respect.”

The system was designed to handle the full range of Ceres Power’s existing workloads. Faster performance for 3D modelling and simulation software has resulted in dramatically reduced time to results and accelerated design iterations. Using the new cluster, Ceres Power engineers are able to focus on more complex experimental designs, achieve greater detail and accuracy, and run larger and more complex models, ultimately producing optimized designs with less reliance on costly, time-consuming physical prototypes.

Importantly for Freeman, ClusterVision is focused on making cluster computing easy for users, through two key elements:

Firstly, the Intel Cluster Ready Architecture. Designing and building an HPC cluster is a complex and time-consuming task, which, in order to ensure seamless interoperability, requires the selection, integration, and testing of many individual hardware and software components. Intel Cluster Ready establishes a common, standards-based hardware and software architecture for clustered computing systems. This helps to reduce cost, risk, and complexity for new cluster deployments, ensuring that components work together and that registered applications run reliably on any certified cluster, right out of the box. The Intel Cluster Checker software is included as part of the software installation, and is executed as a standard component in the ClusterVision service solution. ClusterVision was one of the first HPC vendors to join the Intel Cluster Ready program, and has been instrumental in optimizing the Intel Cluster Checker software to deliver higher value to many of its customers, especially those, such as Ceres Power, that haven’t had previous experience implementing a cluster.

“We’ve integrated Intel Cluster Ready into our cluster development processes. Initially reluctant to add an additional certification requirement, our engineers have found that Intel Cluster Checker software actually simplifies the work of building a cluster, allowing them to detect faulty hardware and software components more easily. That can be a significant advantage when you have hundreds or even thousands of components per cluster,” Christopher Huggins, ClusterVision Sales & Marketing Director.

Secondly, Bright Cluster Manager, the cluster management solution from Bright Computing, implemented by ClusterVision. Bright Cluster Manager complements the Intel Cluster Ready architecture by making it easy to install, manage, and use an HPC cluster. Users can quickly provision, test, and manage their cluster from a single application with a unified interface. Bright Cluster Manager also performs automated health checking to quickly detect and resolve problems before they impact performance.

Christopher Huggins continues, “With the Intel Cluster Ready architecture and our Bright Computing software, customers can get their cluster into production within days, and without a lot of tuning, testing, and management overhead. A lot of smaller companies and research organizations now have a viable path for implementing HPC.”

Commenting on the challenges of implementation, Euan Freeman of Ceres Power continues, “We had tight design schedules to meet and we couldn’t afford to devote a lot of time and resources to purchasing, deploying, and managing a cluster. ClusterVision told us the system would run all of our workloads and perform seamlessly right out of the box - and they were right. A ClusterVision engineer arrived with the system, and had it set up and running our applications within a day. He spent a couple more days with us, teaching us how to use and manage the cluster, and then we started to use it for analysis. The process was simple and seamless. Everything worked the way it was supposed to.”

The engineering team at Ceres Power use the cluster as a platform for number of scientific applications, including: gPROMS from PSE, which provides 1D simulations for exploring fuel cell chemistry and performance within specified environments, DYMOLA for the rest of the company’s 1D simulation needs, ANSYS 3D Design and Analysis tools for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling to better understand the flow of fluids, gasses, and heat, and Abaqus finite element analysis (FEA) for understanding and optimizing solid components. The cluster has quickly become a critical resource for Ceres Power. All of the company’s 3D analyses are run on the cluster, along with an increasing number of large 1D simulations. Freeman and his team are moving toward 90% utilization of the system as they continue to fine-tune their queuing model to more closely match cluster availability with design workflows.

Freeman and his engineering team consider the Intel Cluster Ready certified system to be a clear success for Ceres Power. “We’re on track to meet our aggressive product launch schedule, and we’ve significantly improved the performance and quality of parts of our CHP product. I’d recommend this approach to any company that wants to use digital simulation and analysis to improve product quality and accelerate time-to-market.”

About Ceres Power
Ceres Power is a world leading AIM-quoted alternative energy company based in the UK, developing fuel cell technology for use in small scale combined heat and power products for the residential sector and in energy security applications. Ceres Power is committed to providing alternative energy solutions to address the global challenges of reducing emissions, increasing fuel efficiency and improving energy security, by utilising its unique fuel cell technology in products sold into the micro-generation market.

About ClusterVision
ClusterVision is specialist in the design, implementation and support of small- and large-scale computer clusters. Their clustering technology provides a cost-effective alternative to traditional supercomputers by connecting multiple computers to form a unified powerful computing system. ClusterVision's team of experts has designed and built some of the largest and most complex computational, storage and database clusters in Europe. With a background in applied scientific research and practical experience with a wide range of HPC technologies, the team understands customers' requirements and provides tailor-made solutions. ClusterVision has offices in Amsterdam, Gloucester (UK), Munich, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Oslo and Madrid.

For more information
Dr. Tony Kent
Marketing & PR Manager
Tel: +44(0)7795 44 1655
pr [at] clustervision [dot] com

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