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Chrysler adopts Linux for vehicle crash testing

Chrysler Group is using a Linux cluster computer for crash simulation testing and analysis. The system is expected to improve simulation performance by 20%, while saving about 40% in costs compared with the Unix-based hardware used previously.

IBM built the system, which has been running since August, using 108 IBM IntelliStation M Pro 6850 workstation PCs - each equipped with dual 2.2-GHz Intel Xeon processors and Red Hat Linux. The cluster is running modified LS-DYNA crash-testing software from Livermore Software Technology Group. The software was originally designed for Unix operations.

The system includes 2.6TB of disk space in a TotalStorage FAStT500 storage device attached through Gigabit Ethernet.

Chrysler Group spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said the idea of using a Linux cluster for crash simulation testing came from Chrysler IT workers who saw Linux being used in a wider range of applications in many businesses.

"This was one area where they saw different activity going on in other industries and they thought this might work for us," Halprin said.

The crash simulation software tells vehicle engineers what happens to the passengers in a crash and how a vehicle, including interior and exterior materials, reacts to the stresses of impact.

Using Linux and the new supercomputer cluster, some 18 simultaneous impacts can be conducted at once. The latest system replaces three previous supercomputer clusters that ran Unix.

The cost of the system has not been released, although savings were a major motivator for the project, which was first considered about a year ago. For years, carmakers have used supercomputers costing tens of millions of dollars to do crash simulation testing of their vehicles, according to Chrysler. By the late 1990s, Unix clusters were brought in to do the work at a lower cost.

Halprin believed this is the first time a carmaker has used a Linux cluster for vehicle crash simulation testing. Chrysler said it would consider Linux for other vehicle simulation testing, including computational fluid dynamics, noise vibration and metal forming.

Karen Smith, vice-president of Linux strategy at IBM, said the deal shows that IBM is beginning to see Linux used in new applications every day in corporate computing. The cluster signals a marked change in the price/performance curve seen in the past for this kind of analysis, she said

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