Using high-performance computing to improve a Scottish SME’s modelling software

Author: Ronnie Galloway
Posted: 24 Jun 2013 | 10:28

Glasgow-based Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) is benefitting from a collaboration with EPCC. The project is part of Supercomputing Scotland, a joint EPCC and Scottish Enterprise programme designed to introduce advanced computing into Scottish business.

IES is the world’s leading provider of software and consultancy services which make the built environment more energy-efficient, reducing overheads and CO2 emissions in projects around the globe. Its technologies and products rely on the detailed 3D modelling of buildings and their surroundings, and the company was keen to offer faster run-time capabilities for its SunCast software, which architects, designers and planners use to analyse the sun’s shadows and the effects of consequential solar gains on the thermal performance and comfort of buildings.

EPCC has been working with IES to accelerate the performance of SunCast by optimising the software and using parallel programming techniques. As a direct result of enabling SunCast to fully exploit the multi-core potential of modern computers (from ordinary laptops, to workstations and servers), this work will not only give IES and its customers greater flexibility in undertaking larger, more complex projects, but also analyse many different geometric options at early stages in the design process.

Reduced run times

The project with EPCC will reduce the time-to-solution for a typical customer with a 4-core laptop from several hours to less than a single hour to process exactly the same scenario. Rather than losing a day waiting for the SunCast model to run, the customer will now be able to either look at multiple options in the same time, or just do one run much more quickly.

In addition, SunCast will also be able to be run on large high-performance computers. For example, a SunCast calculation that used to take two weeks to run on a Windows desktop will now be able to operate on EPCC’s 1500-core supercomputer INDY, with the results available in a matter of minutes.

This video explains more about the joint project. 

IES Technical Director Dr Peter Thompson said, “IES is delighted to be working on key technical developments in high performance computing with EPCC. This work is an important part of our plans to ensure that we remain at the forefront of technology and continue to provide world class services in modelling and simulation in relation to energy efficiency of buildings. The structure of the Supercomputing Scotland programme together with support from Scottish Enterprise has meant the feasibility studies undertaken by EPCC could be converted quickly to live projects.”

David Smith, director of technology, engineering and creative industries for Scottish Enterprise said: “Supercomputing Scotland supports companies to be more innovative and gain competitive advantage by providing access to the world-class advanced computing technology and expertise at EPCC.

“We have established this  joint partnership with EPCC because we recognise the importance of high-performance computing for Scottish companies. The recent success story of Integrated Environmental Solutions is testament to how Supercomputing Scotland helps companies to make use of high-performance computing technology and expertise to realise their strategic growth ambitions.”

Forthcoming collaboration

In addition to the Supercomputing Scotland project, IES and EPCC will also work together on a new European Commission FP7-funded programme called FORTISSIMO. This will work to develop high performance computing (HPC) capabilities for SMEs in Europe using the Cloud by partnering closely with a number of European HPC centres and modelling and simulation software providers. Final details of the project are currently under negotiation.

Supercomputing Scotland

Supercomputing Scotland is a partnership between Scottish Enterprise and EPCC. It assists Scottish companies in the use of EPCC’s computing facilities and expertise to support strategic growth plans.
The programme is designed to provide an in-depth assessment of a company’s HPC capabilities and potential for using HPC. This detailed assessment then provides the basis for an application for financial assistance from Scottish Enterprise.

Contacts

Ronnie Galloway, EPCC
Supercomputing Scotland

Images courtesy IES.