Sauber launches supercomputer

Sauber Petronas has launched Supercomputer "ALBERT" Sauber Petronas is continuing its offensive in the field of aerodynamics: Only nine months after the launch of its ultra-modern wind tunnel, the Swiss team today presented a new supercomputer...

Sauber Petronas has launched Supercomputer "ALBERT"

Sauber Petronas is continuing its offensive in the field of aerodynamics: Only nine months after the launch of its ultra-modern wind tunnel, the Swiss team today presented a new supercomputer for CFD calculations to international media representatives at its headquarters in Hinwil. "ALBERT", as the machine has been christened, is one of the most powerful in Formula 1 as well as the automotive industry as a whole.

The supercomputer was built by the Swiss company DALCO and has a total of 530 AMD Opteron(tm) processors installed in High-Density Cooling Enclosures supplied by American Power Conversion (APC). The software is provided by Fluent. Sauber has established technology partnership agreements with all four companies.

CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) serves to analyse and design aerodynamic components and is an important complement to wind tunnel work. "Aerodynamics has been steadily gaining importance in recent years, accounting for roughly three quarters of the performance of a Formula 1 car today. This also means that Computational Fluid Dynamics has become increasingly important," Team Principal Peter Sauber said.

Sauber Petronas has been working with a supercomputer for years. However, the growing complexity of the tasks has drastically raised the demands made on computing power. Hence, the new supercomputer is nearly 30 times more powerful than the one previously used by Sauber. This enormous power reduces computing times considerably as well as enabling much more complex tasks to be solved.

These capacities are underlined by impressive technical data: The supercomputer can achieve a peak performance of 2.3 Tflop/s and is being equipped with 1 TB RAM and 11 TB of storage. To illustrate the point for non-computer experts, this means that "ALBERT" is capable of performing 2,332,000,000,000 computing operations per second.

To achieve the same computing performance, the entire population of the city of Zurich would have to multiply two eight-digit figures every four seconds for a whole year. The machine has over 1,085,440 megabytes of physical memory and over 10,880 gigabytes of hard drive storage.

Sauber entrusted the project management to the Swiss company DALCO, which proved to be particularly flexible and capable. When it came to the critical decision of which processors to use, the choice was clear for DALCO's specialists: They chose the AMD Opteron processor with Direct Connect Architecture. Altogether, the new Sauber supercomputer comprises 530 AMD Opteron processors in a cluster architecture with dual nodes installed in High-Density Cooling Enclosures provided by American Power Conversion (APC).

As a world debut, the system is the first ever to use APC's "InfraStruXure" High-Density Cooling Enclosures. The supercomputer comprises a total of ten racks, each having a width of one metre, a depth of 1.20 metres and a height of 2.30 metres, resulting in a total width of ten metres and an impressive weight of 18 tons.

Also taken from APC's "InfraStruXure" line was the uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which is highly critical since any power failure could lead to the loss of huge amounts of data.

The software for the CFD calculations is provided by the German subsidiary of Fluent, USA. "The computational efficiency and accuracy of the Fluent software, combined with its functionality and flexibility, have allowed us to efficiently integrate CFD into our aerodynamic development process," Torbjorn Larsson, Head of CFD at Sauber, praises the software.

The virtually unlimited technical possibilities of the Sauber supercomputer are used for analysis in the field of aerodynamics. CFD plays a particularly critical role in the development of front, rear and auxiliary wings as well as being a vital tool for thermal analysis and brake cooling development. Computational Fluid Dynamics does not compete with but rather complements the work in the wind tunnel.

For example, during the development of a new front wing, up to 100 variants are evaluated two-dimensionally before roughly half a dozen of them are analysed in three-dimensional form. The most promising versions are subsequently built for the 60-percent model and tested in the wind tunnel. CFD thus enables particularly efficient use of the facility.

"By building the new wind tunnel we started a new offensive in the field of aerodynamics. The launch of the supercomputer represents another step in the same direction. All of these efforts are aiming in the same direction: We intend to improve our performance and further reduce the distance between ourselves and the front runners," Peter Sauber summed up the team's ambitions.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Peter Sauber
Teams Sauber