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Interactive Airflow and Climate Simulation in HLRS Computing Room

Interactive Airflow and Climate Simulation in HLRS Computing Room

Problem description

As a national supercomputer centre, HLRS provides computational resources for research and industry. The largest installation is a NEC SX-9 vector computer. The necessary computer racks reside in a computing room of about 37 x 22 m (120 x 72 ft). The heat of the outlet air is exchanged to water by huge condensers. Cool air is brought in via openings in the floor. As power supply and cooling capacity are both limited, it is vitally important to intelligently place the racks, preventing hot air streams being aspirated by the installations.
In order to optimize the setup in the computing room, we implemented an interactive simulation of the airflow and heat transfer in the HLRS computing room.

Interactive Simulation

The interactive simulation is based on our visualization and simulation environment COVISE, interactively coupled with ANSYS CFX as solver. The complete engineering process, consisiting of mesh generation, definition of boundary conditions and simulation startup is carried out automatically in the background. A COVISE module named HPCRoom automatically generates a computational mesh based on parameters that define position, size and flow direction of the racks. This module also knows about the computers' electrical power consumptions and the exact inlet and outlet boundary conditions. Mesh and boundary conditions are then handed over to the CFX COVISE module that starts up the simulation on the cluster. ANSYS CFX imports the mesh and automatically decomposes both for the following parallel processing. After each iteration, results like pressure, velocity and temperature are transferred back to COVISE.


Automatization of the simulation process chain is a mandatory requirement to solve large problems interactively. Furthermore, we want to show the future of engineering: Out of one consisitent environment, without time-consuming and annoying interfaces, simulations can be carried out as easy as filling out an Excel sheet. Certainly, details can still be controlled by experts.

Tangible interface

A physical model of the computing room can be used for Augmented Reality visualization. Therefore, a camera tracks the position of the tangible interface.
By adding visualization objects like streamlines, particle traces, isosurfaces and cuttingsurfaces to the camera's videostream, the simulation results can be evaluated directly at the model unsing a head-mounted display, VR or conventional screens.

Future Work: Integration in Microsoft Surface

To easen the positioning of the racks, the tangible interface can be placed on a MS Surface table.
We will implement a plugin in our renderer that allows it to run under the Microsoft Surface SDK.
The Surface hardware will be responsible for tracking the position of the objects and for the visualization of the simulation results.