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Linux Clusters Power Virtual Crash Tests

Car companies look for higher server performance to reduce simulation costs

Several automakers have begun virtual crash tests on groups of Intel-based computers running Linux to cut the costs of putting new cars on the road. DaimlerChrysler AG is the latest manufacturer to turn to clustered Linux, revealing last week that it has a cluster of 108 IBM IntelliStation M Pro 6850 workstations running Red Hat Linux that can simulate crash tests for 40% less than its Unix servers.

John Picklo

Linux delivers 20% better performance, Picklo says.
The automaker has 20 high-end servers performing crash-test simulations, including several SGI Origin, Hewlett-Packard Superdome, and IBM RS/6000 SP servers. The Linux cluster, which began operation in August, can perform 18 concurrent simulation tests, more 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 Unix servers," says John Picklo, high-performance computing manager for the Chrysler Group.

DaimlerChrysler isn't the only major automaker taking advantage of the open-source operating system's cost and performance advantages. Ford Motor Co. has been using Linux clusters for computing-intensive tasks since June 2001. The world's second-largest carmaker started with a group of 32 Linux servers to run fluid dynamics tests. In April, it combined 64-bit HP Alpha servers running Red Hat Linux to do safety computations, which include virtual crash testing, says Vince Scarafino, Ford's manager of numerically intensive computing. The automaker says its cost savings exceed 40%.

DaimlerChrysler plans to move its fluid aerodynamics and combustion simulation apps to Linux clusters by the second quarter of next year, as the company continues to replace its Unix and mainframe servers. That should let it run more simulations earlier in the design process and spend less on actual crash tests.

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