News Archive

SDSC Clears Pathways to Discovery for Industrial Partners

OpenFOAM Software Offers Computational Fluid Dynamics Solutions

Published July 26, 2021

[Enlarge] Choi used this case to run a benchmark test on SDSC’s Expanse supercomputer with OpenFOAM. The animation shows an incompressible flow analysis passing a rotating ship propeller.  Credit: DJ Choi, SDSC

By Avani Ranka, Research Experience for High School Students, San Diego Supercomputer Center, UC San Diego

The San Diego Supercomputer Center’s (SDSC) Expanse supercomputer aptly has added significant capacity and capability in support of SDSC’s base of scientific users, including its industrial partners. With the Industrial Partners Program (IPP) in mind, SDSC previously acquired an “Industry Rack,” which comprises more than 7,000 AMD x86-compatible computing cores and 16 NVIDIA V100 Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). It also partnered with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider Core Scientific to implement a portal-driven provisioning and payment system for industrial users of Expanse. Now, SDSC is adding software capabilities to industrial users with the OpenFOAM Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) package.

“Computational Fluid Dynamics methods are widely used in product engineering today, in fields such as aerospace, automotive, civil engineering, consumer products, manufacturing, medical devices and others,” said SDSC Industry Relations Director Ron Hawkins. “OpenFOAM provides an open source, widely available CFD package that allows industry users to execute CFD simulations on Expanse’s high-performance architecture for faster time-to-solution and therefore, faster time-to-market.”

While science users have already been leveraging OpenFOAM for their research, Hawkins noted that Computer-Aided Engineering packages such as OpenFOAM are of particular interest to industrial users. The OpenFOAM package is available to industry users through Core Scientific’s Plexus™ interface.

What Exactly is OpenFOAM?

OpenFOAM, a free, open source CFD software tool, was designed as part of a C++ CFD toolbox for customized numerical solvers. First released in 2004 by OpenCFD, OpenFOAM has eventually become a leading open source CFD software package.

“Engineers and scientists use OpenFOAM for helping them to solve complex fluid dynamics problems,” explained Dong Ju Choi, a senior computational scientist at SDSC and assistant clinical professor of UC San Diego’s Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences. “For example, civil engineers can use it to calculate general flows and mechanical engineers can use it to research new problems in their components such as strength estimation for materials that compose rockets and airplanes.”

How Does OpenFOAM Work on Expanse?

Complex engineering problems can often be too large and require more than one computer to come up with a viable solution. In these instances, a supercomputer is used to solve the problem in a manageable time frame—days instead of months. Scientific software such as OpenFOAM on supercomputers like Expanse typically runs in parallel mode (using multiple processors) instead of serial mode (using a single processor). In other words, the problems are split into different parts and each part is managed by a separate processor so multiple pieces of a simulation are computed at the same time. 

How can Potential Users Obtain Access to OpenFOAM on Expanse?

Expanse has over 7,000 compute cores (processors) dedicated to industrial engagements that can be accessed through execution of a simple commercial contract or service agreement,” said Hawkins. “In addition to the physical resources, SDSC computational scientists are eager to engage with industry counterparts to provide expertise in simulation setup, code tuning, optimization, troubleshooting, visualization and other activities.”

OpenFOAM is just one example of the new capabilities that the SDSC team has been installing and testing on Expanse. OpenFOAM is released every six months in June and December with new developments and contributions. Prior to release, the software is tested by application specialists, development partners and users like Choi at SDSC.