NAG HPC Consulting Experts Enhance Computational Fluid Dynamics Application for Optimised Ship Design


Cetena is a study centre, based in Italy, that carries out a range of research and consulting work for the maritime industries.  One of the software tools Cetena utilise as part of their virtual prototyping work is a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) application, known as HELYX-EcoMarine from ENGYS.

NAG, as HPC experts, were asked to investigate the optimal system configuration for the CFD based application to achieve good performance on the chosen HPC cluster platform.

Project Scope

Ship builders and operators, wanting to enhance their fleets, require ever more efficient and safer hull designs to cope with the demands of rough seas. Often, specialist consulting businesses are needed to provide expertise in fluid and environmental modelling. These subject specialists, such as Cetena, use advanced software for virtual modelling to optimize ship design. To assist with their virtual modelling work Cetena turn to application vendors, such as ENGYS, to provide the best software tools. NAG fits into this ecosystem of subject experts by providing the knowledge and experience of running a variety of numerically based software applications on large HPC clusters.

For this Cetena/ENGYS project NAG were funded by Fortissimo1 to assist the ISV partner to enhance its existing CFD package. NAG introduced a new solver for the analysis of added ship-hull hydrodynamics resistance problem, and incorporated a client-server component to facilitate the set-up, control and execution of large-scale simulations on remote HPC clusters via a desktop environment familiar to the end users.

NAG’s work included studying the overall architecture and software environment of the cluster, providing CSE support to the partners, simplifying the software deployment process, and establishing good practice on processing large distributed data sets and their remote visualisations.

Parallel 3D Remote Visualisation

Using open-source software, NAG investigated different approaches to supporting the visualisation of large distributed data sets on remote clusters. The combination of forward/reverse communication, with/without SSH tunnelling, and the use of different software rendering engines (and the use of GPU hardware wherever applicable) were studied. One efficient approach was taken forward and implemented by the ISV partner in their commercial CFD product.

Working cloud-based CFD solution

NAG’s work on this project has shown that a cloud-based solution can be achieved that delivers both efficiency (e.g. the 3D interactive visualisation of CFD models in real-time) and convenience (e.g. same desktop-based graphics user interface to set up and execute jobs, both locally and remotely). The cost-effectiveness of the cloud-based solution was also demonstrated. The project continues looking at how the software solution can be deployed in various cloud environments and how the deployment process can be streamlined to benefit the ISV partner.

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1   This work was carried out as part of the collaborative European Fortissimo 2 project ( to promote the use of High Performance, cloud-based simulations in the engineering and manufacturing industries, mainly targeting SMEs and mid-cap companies