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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
SGI Graphics supercomputers for two flight simulator projects
SGI Graphics supercomputers for two flight simulator projects
Keywords: Simulation, Aircraft, Computing, Software
SGI recently announced that Lockheed Martin has purchased four SGI Onyx 3000 series high-performance graphics supercomputers for use in the next four F-16 Mission Training Centre (MTC) pilot training systems for the US Air Force. Also announced, under a separate contract from Lockheed Martin, SGI is providing SGI Onyx 350 visualisation systems, plus communications and networking integration, to develop F-16 Block 60 flight simulators using specialised video displays.
The $2 million dollar F-16 pilot training systems deal, secured by SGI in October, will increase the number of SGI Onyx 3000 based F-16 MTC pilot training systems from 10 to 14. The Onyx 3000 series graphics supercomputers performing image generation provide highly realistic and precise simulation of the multi-role functions that F-16 fighter aircraft perform in combat missions. In addition to the four SGI Onyx 3000 supercomputers – each with seven graphics pipes, the company will deliver an SGI InfiniteStorage TP9100 disk array, two SGI Origin 3000 family supercomputers, as well as Silicon Graphics Octane2 and Silicon Graphics O2 visual workstations. These extremely reliable and high-performance systems form the majority of the computational components of the F-16 training simulators. SGI Professional Services will build and integrate the systems at Lockheed Martin, before they are shipped to their designated Air Force bases around the world.
This order from Lockheed Martin will field SGI Onyx 3000 series image-generators in four level CF-16 MTC pilot training systems. Each of these simulation systems supports air-to-air and air-to-ground training scenarios in a 3608 environment with high-fidelity geospecific databases and high-resolution visual cues. Level C MTCs also include briefing/ debriefing systems, threat stations, a weapons controller system and a mission observation center where the training mission can be watched as it takes place.
“SGI Onyx 3000 visualisation systems have the power and real-time visualisation capability to concurrently process imagery, video, 3D terrain and geospatial data, meeting the demanding needs of customers like the US Air Force,” said Charles McCoy, F-16 MTC, Programme Director for Lockheed Martin in Akron, OH.
The US Air Force currently trains F-16 pilots in MTCs at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Each F-16 flight simulator within an MTC can be networked together through Air Combat Command's Distributed Mission Operations (DMO) programme.
“The SGI Onyx 3000 series image generators continue to deliver revolutionary dimensions of realism and the scaleable data compute power required to generate the highest resolution photo-specific imagery and physical environment required to meet the military's training needs,” said Steve Detro, SGI's, Senior Manager of Business Development for DoD and Intelligence Programmes. “We are honoured to continue to contribute to this dramatic advancement in flight simulation and to provide increased safety and training realism for US Air Force pilots.”
SGI Onyx 350 visualisation systems for new F-16 block 60 cockpit training
A separate flight simulator contract awarded to SGI in Q4 FY03 by Lockheed Martin is an $800,000 package of hardware, integration and networking services. While the Air Force F-16 MTC's are full, “out-the-window” flight simulators, this project called upon SGI to provide host hardware and serial communications and networking integration services. The SGI Onyx 350 visualisation system displays both interior cockpit controls and instrumentation-using the latest, most advanced F-16 cockpit known as Block 60-as well as specialised training videos.
Consisting of four SGI Onyx 350 visualisation systems offering SGI's flexible frame-buffering graphics hardware, the four flight simulators have an unusual and challenging requirement: 16 input/output serial connectors from each cockpit to each host computer were needed to accommodate the various specialised displays, and integrate with commercial off-the-shelf products. SGI Professional Services has developed this capability using a number of products the company sells and distributes; they also ensure the SGI-based system supports other subcontractors' products.
“Lockheed Martin chose SGI for their flexible graphics architecture and high-performance compute capabilities. This architecture enables the system to scale to the 16 graphics pipes that deliver the various visuals and data at the speeds they require, something not many vendors would want to tackle,” said Eric Kana, Systems Engineer, SGI Professional Services. “Given the complex nature of the integration, we were also chosen for our expertise, because we research and test, and make sure our system will talk the various languages, bit- and byte-wise, to other system components. We are very pleased to be chosen by Lockheed Martin to help develop this system, which will greatly enhance pilot training.”
The four SGI Onyx 350 systems have already been delivered and, as networking and integration continues, SGI's flexible graphics architecture is already delivering the various video formats needed, at the required speeds.
SGI also reports that Wichita State University's sciences, math and engineering researchers now have access to one of the most powerful computing architecture available today with the installation of a SGI Altix 3000 supercluster.
More than 130 faculty members, research associates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in such fields as computational fluid dynamics, structural and design engineering, and chemistry currently use the system installed in the university's High-Performance Computing Center.
Planned research projects using the center's new computing power vary widely, depending on the academic interests of participating faculty members:
Elizabeth Behrman of the physics faculty is leading a group mapping how quantum computing could one day bring about faster, more powerful computers-up to a million times faster than any currently existing computer.
Robert Carper of the chemistry department is heading a group investigating the molecular structure of ionized liquids, which has important applications for many manufacturing industries.
In a study that reflects the high interest in aerospace engineering and aircraft design issues in the Wichita region, which is an important industry hub, Klaus Hoffmann of the aerospace engineering department is investigating a computational fluid dynamics application showing flow fields under the influence of magnetic fields.
The new system complements a 24-processor SGI Origin 2000 server that remains in production. As John Matrow, a System Administrator/Trainer at the center, puts it, “Compared to the previous system, the new processors are seven times faster, and the capacity is four times greater. It's like a highway with a speed limit seven times faster than it used to be and with four times the number of lanes, creating a factor of 28 times the improvement.”
The system is built on the open source Linux operating system using the latest Intel Itanium 2 processors. A customised feature of the system, installed in July in the university's High- Performance Computing Center, is the integration of the 32-processor Altix system for large-scale, complex computational jobs with two 32-processor Intel Architecture 32-bit clusters for jobs requiring a simple distributed computing model. It is equivalent of a car with two speeds, one for intensive challenges and the other for everyday driving.
SGI Professional Services has integrated yet a third component, a front-end file server dedicated as an easy-to-use interface for the supercluster. Users need not make decisions about which subsystem will work best for any individual task and can instead concentrate on scientific research tasks.
“Most of our users haven't used resources at big supercomputing centers,” explains the university's David Alexander, Director, High Performance Computing Center, and project manager, Enterprise Resource Planning. “So our design criteria for this mixed environment was a system as transparent and flexible as possible from the users' point of view, and we've accomplished that. SGI did an excellent job of providing an integrated system that's easy for users to work with.”
“The university's High Performance Computing Center is quickly developing a national profile as a model for successful campus-wide shared computing, as reflected in its ever-increasing government and related funding,” says Bill Bartling, senior director, Market Strategy, SGI. “It's gratifying to know that the center has reinforced its long-time commitment to an SGI infrastructure with its purchase of this latest system. We very much look forward to working with center staff for many years to come.”
SGI Professional Services provided the expertise to integrate third-party hardware, software, and services with SGI compute platforms, including an SGI storage component, to create a fully integrated solution that addressed the customer's diverse system requirements. “Most of our users are using third-party software, such as Gaussian,” explains Alexander, referring to a widely used software package for computational chemistry. “We're not experts in tuning Gaussian, so having access to SGI engineers who can make sure Gaussian is running effectively is important to us. In fact, an important consideration in our buying decision was the extent to which the vendor could provide service for software we were planning to run.”
Wild Open Source, Inc., a Linux and Open Source Professional Services company based in Burlington, MA, worked closely with SGI to implement the cluster solution. “It was great to work with the combined teams from WSU and SGI,” remarked Jim Lieb, Wild Open Source's Engineering consultant. “The overall result was a great architecture that proves the value of SGI products, our combined services, and Linux technology.”
Details available from: SGI; Tel: +1 650 960 1980; Toll Free: (800) 800 SGI1 7441 in the U.S. and Canada, Web site: www.sgi.com