Chrysler Group waits for impact of Itanium glitch

They don’t like to use the word “”crash”” at DaimlerChrysler, but the car manufacturer is hoping that recently deployed HP workstations won’t break down due to a glitch in Intel’s Itanium 2 processor.

The Chrysler Group, one of the auto maker’s business units, announced this week that it has migrated part of its high-performance computing centres in Michigan and Detroit to a cluster comprised of HP’s Workstation zx6000 with HP-UX in a rack-mount configuration running MSC. Software’s Virtual Product Development software. Though everything has been running smoothly since it was installed late March, the company’s high-performance computing manager, John Picklo, said there are still concerns the hardware contains Itaniums that Intel has confirmed have an electrical problem.

“”We are still in discussions with them. We don’t yet know if we’re affected by this,”” he said. “”We’re confident that between them they will very quickly get us some answers in regard to whether that problem exists in any of the systems we have.””

Intel has said the Itanium 2 glitch affects 900 MHz and 1 GHz versions of the chip but not the forthcoming Itanium 6M, code-named Madison. That processor is expected later this year.

Nathan Brookwood, a processor analyst with Insight 64, said even if customers like the Chrysler Group are affected, they would likely receive an upgrade to Madison at little or no charge once it is available.

“”An awful lot of folks that were looking at Itanium and thinking about Madison are holding off on their orders anyway — that glitch didn’t affect them,”” he said.

Picklo said Chrysler is using the Itanium 2-based systems for the most resource-intensive type of simulations it conducts. Besides fluid dynamics and crash tests (or as Chrysler likes to call them, “”impact simulation””), the company puts each of its designs through a series of noise vibration and harshness tests. Variables in these simulations could include, for example, how much noise is transferred into the vehicle when a car drives over tar strips on the highway, Picklo said.

The noise simulations are highly complex because they involve the entire vehicle in a model, which has to be broken down in Lego-like blocks in order to get accurate results. “”That’s a lot of data points,”” he said.

The Chrysler Group chose Itanium 2 based on its price-performance potential, said Picklo. Though design cycles might not happen more quickly, some of the time saved through improved performance could allow for more simulations, and thereby improved vehicles. Along with computer simulations, Chrysler performs physical tests as well, but Picklo said these tests are looked at differently today when the results are compared with that of the workstations.

“”In the old days, we were kind of happy if it was close,”” he said. “”Now what we’re finding is, if we do a physical test and the test doesn’t match the simulation results, we try to figure out what went wrong on the physical test. We figure it must be a mistake on the physical thing because the simulations have gotten so good.””

Brookwood said that while Itanium was making inroads in the high-performance computing space, the chip may eventually migrate into the more classic data processing and enterprise-type environments. Software tools like database applications are only now becoming available on Itanium, he added.


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