Murray Walker, the veteran Formula One (F1) commentator once said, "There are a lot of ifs in Formula One. In fact, if is F1 backwards." And the key if is "if only the car could go faster".
In an attempt to improve performance, ING Renault F1 Team took delivery of an Appro supercomputer last year to help in the design of this season's car, the R29.
Last season, their principal driver Fernando Alonso finished the season so strongly that, if his performance had been as good in the earlier races, he may have taken the championship away from Lewis Hamilton.
This year, the emphasis is on new aerodynamics and the combination of Renault's existing wind tunnel and supercomputer aerodynamics tests will be a key to providing Alonso with the best possible chance of regaining his World Champion status.
At their factory and research facility in Enstone, Oxfordshire, the Appro computer is being used to run Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations. The computer was installed last year and, according to IT manager Graeme Hackland, the process was relatively painless.
A Computational Aerodynamics Research Centre (CAR Centre) was built to house the installation at a total cost of £35m and Renault took the brave decision to respect the environment and create the facility underground.
ABM Bridge Systems
The building was constructed by ABM Bridge Systems using techniques normally applied to building tunnels. The resultant office, exhibition area, auditorium and computer centre was constructed from pre-assembled components in just six weeks after three months work preparing the site.
On completion of the building work in December 2007, Hackland and his team set about creating the IT environment. Hackland said, "We started in December when we placed the orders and in the middle of July 2008 it went live. It took literally six months. As far as the cluster was concerned, Appro sent it all over here and within 14 days it was all installed."
On completion, the installation was given the name Mistral, considered to be a suitable name because it is a wind - and it is French.
The supercomputer cluster of blade servers was pre-assembled in the USA by Appro where the software was also loaded and configured. It comprises over 4,000 CPU cores and is currently the largest in use in F1 racing. Mistral's number-crunching capacity of 38TFlops/s would place it comfortably within the top 100 performers worldwide.
APC's InfraStruXure Hot Aisle Containment Solution
While assembly was taking place, Hackland's team was putting in the racks to house the computer. On arrival, the cluster was reassembled alongside a team from APC by Schneider who designed the room that provides the power and cooling capacity required by Mistral together with associated equipment including an InfiniBand network switch and storage systems.
Renault F1 looked at several suppliers but decided that APC's InfraStruXure Hot Aisle Containment Solution fulfilled Mistral's needs. The cluster is constructed in several back to back rows. Between each row pair an enclosed corridor was constructed.
This meant that the heat generated could be directed out of the facility rather than circulating around it. Apart from improving the local environment, the corridors reduce the power required to expel the hot air.
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This was first published in March 2009