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Airbus deploys modular datacentre strategy to boost HPC capacity

Archana Venkatraman

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has developed a modular (containerised) datacentre approach to boost its high-performance computing (HPC) capabilities required to develop the next generation of aircrafts.

The modular datacentres deployed in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany will help the IT team increase its HPC capabilities to 1,200 teraflops.

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High-performance computing (HPC) uses parallel processing to run advanced applications efficiently, reliably and quickly. HPC systems typically execute in excess of a teraflop or 1012 floating-point operations per second. 

A modular datacentre is a portable infrastructure designed for rapid deployment, energy efficiency and high density. It can be shipped and set up anywhere that has power source, network connection and cooling equipment. 

It also helps businesses save time and costs in building their own datacentre, and eliminates the need to build oversized facilities for future capacity requirements because pre-built, standarised datacentre pods can be added later to expand capacity.

For its high-performance compute needs, Airbus has picked HP Performance Optimised Datacenters (PODs) – HP’s version of modular datacentres, which comes with a seven-figure price tag.

The datacentre modules feature pre-integrated clusters of HP ProLiant server blades running on Intel processors, which are helping the aircraft maker increase its HPC availability while saving energy – power use per teraflop has decreased by almost 50% compared with the existing POD infrastructure, also from HP, according to Airbus’s IT team.

In 2011, Airbus took delivery of two containerised HP PODs in which it would deploy 2,016 clustered HP ProLiant BL280 G6 blade servers to develop a HPC supercomputer. At that time the supercomputer was going to be included in the TOP500 Supercomputer list as world’s 29th biggest computer.

Airbus has now entered into a five-year “supercomputing” collaboration with HP, within which the IT provider will increase the capacity of the clusters, improve datacentre cooling capabilities and upgrade IT infrastructure for Airbus.

According to Airbus CIO Guus Dekkers, the availability, resilience and security of the company’s IT will improve too in the next five years.

“This will further support Airbus engineering teams in aircraft development” Dekkers said.

Airbus’s 12-metre-long containerised datacentres deliver datacentre space of 500m2 and contain all the elements of a converged infrastructure – blade servers, storage, networking, software and management as well as integrated power and cooling technologies. 

The company selected HP PODs because the tools comply with French and German security and environmental legislation and Airbus policies, according to Dekkers.

“Organisations like Airbus need creative scenarios to cater for future business needs,” says Peter Ryan, senior vice-president & general manager for the European HP Enterprise Group. “HP will provide the technologies and operations to support Airbus’ HPC for the next five years.”

HP's Enterprise Services team configured the new HPC clusters for Airbus and integrated the datacentre clusters with the existing Airbus IT infrastructure to address the company's supercomputer needs.


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