CFD Automatic Optimisation using OpenFOAM in Grid Environments

Gregory Katsaros1, Francisco Campos2, Dimosthenis Kyriazis1 and Theodora Varvarigou1
1

Dept .of Electrical and Computer Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, 9, Heroon Polytechniou Str, 15773 Athens, Greece E-mail: {gkats, dkyr, dora}@telecom.ntua.gr ICON Rofel House, Colet Gardens, London W14 9DH, United Kingdom E-mail:f.campos@icon-cg.co.uk
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Abstract A new approach for solving CFD design optimisation problems in Grid infrastructures is presented in this paper. The method relies on GRIA, a middleware for deploying data and job services within a Grid environment. The CFD code OpenFOAM was customised and deployed through GRIA as a Grid service to perform large number of fluid design evaluations in a remote HPC cluster. This process was then integrated with other commercial software (CATIA v5 and STAR-Design) in an automatic optimisation loop using the multi-disciplinary optimisation code modeFRONTIER. The effectiveness of the new method was evaluated using an industrial example. This work is part of the ongoing research effort in the framework of EU BEinGRID funded Project. Keywords: Automatic Optimisation, Grid Computing, Computational Fluid Dynamics, OpenFOAM

1. INTRODUCTION The advent of Grid environments has enabled the creation of “virtual” High Performance Computing (HPC) clusters by unifying large networks of geographically dispersed computers connected to the Internet. The resulting Grid infrastructure provides a cost effective way of accessing powerful distributed and heterogeneous computational resources for running demanding applications in a transparent way [1], [2]. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is an example of application requiring great computational power for solving complex fluid and heat transfer related problems. When CFD is employed for engineering design as part of an automatic optimisation process (usually driven by genetic type algorithms), many calculations are often needed in order to obtain an optimum design solution. Grid computing offers a suitable alternative to in-house hardware resources for performing this type of calculation. Enabling execution of demanding applications on Grid environment has been a research topic for some time. For example, [3], [4] and [5] present the work performed for various application domains on biocomputational, learning and medical fields. Similarly, in [6] an approach for deploying, testing and analysing multiphysics codes in Grid-based computing environments is described.

a general purpose optimisation system framework that relies on Grid RPC is discussed. In a mono-objective optimisation. in FlowGRID Project. Both are exemplary cases for demonstrating the role of remote computation and data access in constructing a Grid-enabled problem solving environment. In the first the authors introduce an approach implemented in Matlab for optimising the shape of a two-dimensional airfoil using CFD within a Grid computing environment. which depends on certain variables. In mathematical terms the problem may be written as follows: . In the second. Further details are available in [17]. is presented in [14]. A distinction should firstly be made between mono-objective and multi-objective optimisation. such as authentication. the purpose of the problem can be mathematically described with only one objective function of the problem variables. BASIC DEFINITIONS IN AUTOMATIC OPTIMISATION The optimisation process can be defined as the search for the absolute maximum (or minimum) of a function. mesh generation. A real industrial design problem was employed to demonstrate the feasibility of the methods and the potential for future commercial exploitation of the technology as part of the ongoing research effort in the framework of EU BEinGRID funded Project. The use of Globus and Condor for sharing computer resources and the definition of XML standards for the annotation of CFD datasets. [18] and [19]. a study and a set of simulations were performed and presented in [15] to enable access to CFD solutions through Grid environment. a middleware for deploying data and job services within a Grid environment [16]. a new approach for exploiting Grid computing to solve automatic CFD optimisation problems involving real industrial engineering designs is presented. meshing and post-processing tools with a CFD solver (CFDExpert). along with a distributed database framework for them. Some formal definitions can be useful to better understand the concept of automatic optimisation. Other interesting studies on CFD optimisation in Grid infrastructures are presented in [9] and [10]. in [7] and [8] the authors present a toolkit (Geodise) that includes client functionality to Globus compute resources and a job submission Web service which exposes a cycle-scavenging Condor pool within the Matlab environment. respecting certain constraint equations. in [13] a web portal (CamCFDWP) and its functionalities. which integrates in Garuda Grid CAD. Additionally. The method relies on GRIA. Authors in [12] also describe a similar Grid computing application where CAD. and solving are automated within the Matlab scripting environment to perform Grid computations and database toolkits in the form of Matlab functions. 2. job submission and file transfer. Further investigations on the field of CFD optimisation include the work described in [11]. are presented as a way to provide simple integration of CFD applications to Grid resources. Finally. In this paper.Regarding CFD optimisation using Grid infrastructures.

Graphical representation of robustness and accuracy of an optimisation algorithm.…. The new variable set is then selected according to this increasing direction within the function domain.…. i. ⎪ ⎪ xn ⎪ ⎩ ⎭ which gives the maximum value of the objective function f(X) respecting the constrains: gj(X) = 0. Generally. f(x) f(x) Low accuracy Low robustness High accuracy High robustness x x Figure 1. k = 1. stochastic algorithms search the whole domain through multiple concurrent design evaluations and are specially suited for multiobjective problems. based on the natural genetic evolution of a group of individuals. m lk(X) < 0. j = 1.. Accuracy.Find the set of variables ⎧ x1 ⎫ ⎪x ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ X = ⎨ 2⎬ ⎪ . The following table (Table 1) compares the gradient-based algorithms against the stochastic algorithms with respect to the three properties previously described. Two additional concepts must also be considered when comparing the different algorithms: accuracy and robustness (see Figure 1).…. . The search for the optimum can be performed using a variety of algorithms. One of the most commonly used type of stochastic algorithms is the so called Genetic algorithms.e. q. p In multi-objective optimisation the problem is similar but instead of a unique objective function. A first distinction can be made between gradient-based algorithms and stochastic algorithms. on the other hand.. Another important feature of the optimisation algorithms is the convergence velocity. Alternatively. the number of iterations required to reach the convergence (to find the objective function maximum). the problem is finding X that maximises fi(X). Gradient-based algorithms evaluate the objective function gradient and try to find the increasing direction of the objective function. relates to the ability of reaching a solution as close as possible to the optimum of the objective function. Robustness relates to the ability of the algorithm to find the absolute optimum of the objective function. a given number of functions have to be simultaneously maximised or minimised. with i = 1.

Figure 2 shows a qualitative representation of a possible Pareto frontier for a two-objective optimisation (if the two objective functions f1 and f2 had to be maximised). Consequently. Gradient-based and stochastic algorithms comparison. where many objective functions are involved. other concepts of the optimisation theory relevant to this work are: • • • Design Of Experiments (DOE) Statistical Analysis Pareto frontier DOE is a fundamental part of the optimisation process when dealing with multiple objective functions and stochastic algorithms.Table 1. can then be investigated using Statistical Analysis to locate the most important areas of the objective functions domains. The relationships among different variables. the concept of best design is replaced with the concept of dominant designs which concentrate along a trade line usually known as Pareto frontier. the best solution is simply the design that gives the maximum (minimum) value of the objective function. One last important concept in multi-objective optimisation is that of the Pareto frontier. Pareto frontier qualitative representation. f2 Pareto Frontier f1 Figure 2. the theoretical best solution would be the design that simultaneously provided the maximum value for all the objective functions. . Gradient-based Algorithms LOW HIGH HIGH Stochastic Algorithms HIGH LOW LOW Robustness Accuracy Convergence velocity In addition to the optimisation algorithms. Instead. or among variables and objectives. A combination of input variables can be defined to produce an initial population of designs with the best possible distribution in the design space. In a multi-objective optimisation. defining a congruent DOE and performing statistical analysis of the results from the DOE evaluation can help reducing the calculation time before the actual optimisation is performed. Such situation does not usually occur. In a mono-objective optimisation.

thus making the overall design procedure inconsistent. The process is usually complex. More precisely. solver setup.e. State-of-the-art gradient based or stochastic algorithms are then employed to define and screen several design variations in order to find an optimal solution. the manual process becomes a parametric CFD tool. When these scripts are read and executed in sequence using advanced optimisation software. time-consuming and relies heavily on engineering experience. Moreover. the traditional manual methodology for defining a CFD case (i. Starting from an initial geometry. there is no guarantee that the final solution is actually the “best” solution. especially for designs involving computational fluid domains whose size was considered prohibitive until a few years ago. i. mesh generation. distributed computing based on high-performing CPU technology allows a massive use of optimisation tools.e. Grid enabled technologies offer further potential for expanding the current capabilities and improving the latest methods. In order to introduce the CFD process into the optimisation loop. Figure 3. The overall process is described in Figure 3. calculation and post-processing) needs to be fully automated by means of user defined scripts or macros. CAD changes are introduced manually based on results from a limited number of design iterations and CFD analyses. CAD preparation. Designers are relying more and more on this type of automated methods in order to reduce the product development time and satisfy the growing design requirements to stay competitive in the market. . different “best” solutions are obtained from different designers. the benefits of parallel execution of CFD analyses are being exploited by taking full advantage of the most sophisticated IT frameworks available. In this sense. CFD IN THE DESIGN OPTIMISATION PROCESS The traditional CFD design process is often based on a “trial-and-error” type approach. Automatic CFD optimisation methodology. The introduction of a mathematical framework to find an optimum design through the use of the latest optimisation techniques standardises to some extent the design procedure and eliminates most of the drawbacks found in the traditional approach.3.

while the second is the Service Provider side. 4.g. modeFRONTIER). The orchestration of the whole CFD simulation is achieved by the optimisation application (e. As shown on Figure 4.1 Components of the Architecture In the following figure (Figure 5) the main architectural components are depicted along with their interfaces.3).g OpenFOAM). depending on the involved actors and roles. the selected Grid middleware. The interaction between those two sides is succeeded through GRIA. Overview of the Grid architecture. software vendors) hosts the CFD solver application (e. The architecture of the proposed solution presented in this paper can be distinguished in two major sides/levels. which provides a Client as well as the Service Provide component.g. Figure 4. The infrastructure on this side consists of the CAD and Meshing software as well as the Optimisation Algorithm (as presented in Figure 3). which is the actual front-end interface for the End User and the execution workflow composer utility (which is described in detail in Section 5. computer industries.4. . the first is the End User. A detailed description of the components is presented thereafter. A CFD engineer or an independent CFD service provider company can be an example of the End User role. The infrastructure on the Service Provider (SP) side (e. GRID COMPUTING IN THE DESIGN OPTIMISATION PROCESS In the following paragraphs a conceptual architectural model is provided regarding the design optimisation process in a Grid environment.

In our case we are focusing on the simpleFoam solver of the OpenFOAM package. .1 GRIA Command-Line Client GRIA command-line client component is a GRIA middleware module that provides the necessary client functionality for accessing GRIA Grid-services. As a result. users must request the latter from the Basic Application Service. This component hosts the Data and Job services (storage and processing) of the provider and in combination with the Service Provider Management (optional GRIA module) can provide accounting and billing functionality. Component Diagram 4.1. which executes the commands on their behalf.Figure 5. The security provided by GRIA middleware is based on the Web Services and PKI security protocols and mechanisms to verify the identities (and roles) of users attempting to access services.2 GRIA Basic Application Services GRIA Basic Application Services component is the major module of the GRIA middleware for the Service Provider side. the execution operations on the resources are not applied directly to the nodes but instead. The application that the Service Provider is willing to expose within the Job Service component is deployed using a wrapper script (Perl script that includes all appropriate operations for the execution) in order to be published to Grid environment. 4. which is deployed on the Job Service and is executed on the local cluster.1. The command-line interface (provided by the client) facilitates the automation of the execution procedure.

The custumer can choose between the provided SLAs and propose the agreement back to the provider. The SLA Management Service exposes specific SLAs. After a successful authentication and authorization to use the services. In order to be able to access and use the Job Service of the SP. permitted services. In this step the CFD engineer. we present the sequence diagram of the CFD execution on a Grid environment. As soon as the account is confirmed the command-line client checks if the latter account has proposed an appropriate SLA. or the batch script used on the automated optimisation process through modeFRONTIER. Via simple management protocols that can be used with GRIA Basic Application Services and other non-GRIA applications is able to propose customize Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and bill for the service usage. The answer of such a question depends on the user’s role on the resource. . Every trade account maintains a budget balance that is charged for every usage. the End User must have an enabled and valid account on the SP side. 3. will allow the custumer to use the services and be automatically billed through his trade account with a pay-per-use scheme. The first is responsible for the trade account creation and management. below. The command-line client component automatically authenticates the client’s account to the Account Service using the client certificate. for the requested Job. The SLA control is applied on terms of validity period. containing those data. application.2 Interactions between Components In the Figure 6. the state of the resource and the resource’s policy settings. The luck of any SLA or a constraint exception will not let the client to use any provided service. 5. 4. which is linked with the Job instance that was created previously. from the Service Provider. 2. 4. triggers the execution by using the command-line interface that the GRIA client provides. 1. The input data are uploaded on the remote SP through the Data Service. presenting all the available resources (CPUs. This dynamic access control system uses a Policy Decision Point (PDP) that answers to question like “Can <some user> perform <some action> on <some resource>?”. This account is accompanied with a certificate signed from an authority trusted by the SP.1. input-data etc) starts the execution process. the client proceeds on creating the Job instance on the remote Job Service. The confirmation of the proposed SLA. CPU time usage and all other constraints described on the proposed SLA.3 Service Provider Management The Service Provider Management module allows the Service Provider to support billing and accounting functionality. This module consists of the Trade Account Service and SLA Management Service components. applications etc) and the billing amount for every use. 4. depicting the trust relationship between the client and the Service Provider.The security and access control on that point is based on the PBAC mechanism that GRIA supports. A Data Stager is created. Using the “execute job” command of the client in combination with the appropriate parameters (Service Provider URL.

. The command-line client forwards the results back to modeFRONTIER in the specified file path. The returning of the output results back to the command-line client signals the end of the Job instance lifecycle. 7. 11. Based on the values set on the SLA. The necessary input parameters are forwarded to the wrapper through the Job Service. the output results are returned to the Job Service in a zip archive mode. an appropriate amount is removed from the End User’s account balance. 12. The SimpleFoam execution starts when the wrapper script. The “Submit Job” action of the command-line client triggers the execution of the specified application on the SP’s Job Service. 9. The billing procedure for the provided service occurs in this step. is executed. After the successful execution of the SimpleFoam. Figure 6. 8. In case of execution failure the whole processed is stopped and the failure details are printed on the log file created.6. 10. The wrapper script is set properly in order to execute SimpleFoam using LAM/MPI on the SP’s cluster infrastructure. The output data returned by the wrapper are uploaded through the Data Service to a Data Stager in order to by accessed and downloadable from the End User. CFD Execution sequence diagram During the execution. The proposed SLA accompanies the Submit Job request in order to ensure the non-breaching of the constraints set. deployed on the Job Service. monitoring details are returned to the Command-line Client and a relevant log file is created.

Examples of duct parameters and extreme duct shapes. The duct is responsible for delivering air from the outside. A total of 14 geometric variables were defined in order to modify the shape of the duct. and towards the transmission. following the original work presented in [20].5. The various stages in the optimisation process are described in the following sections. Left side grill on the new Audi TT (courtesy of AUDI AG). The geometry. Figure 8 highlights two of these variables at the duct outlet. . while the later is sought to improve the convective heat transfer coefficient. two shape variations for deliberately extreme values are also depicted for demonstration purposes. The objective of the optimisation exercise was to optimise the shape of the side duct in order to (i) minimise the total pressure drop from inlet to outlet. Additionally. Figure 7. and using the multi-objective optimisation product modeFRONTIER to establish the optimal design configuration. and (ii) maximise the discharge velocity. generating a polyhedral type CFD volumetric mesh in STAR-Design.1 CAD Generation and Volume Meshing The first stage in the optimisation process was to create a parametric CAD model of the duct geometry in CATIA v5 (as depicted in Figure 3). Providing additional convective cooling is considered beneficial for the reduction in the transmission surface and oil temperatures. 5. performing a CFD analysis in batch mode in OpenFOAM using GRIA middleware for submitting and executing the job to Grid environment. is a cooling duct located in the underbonnet region of a vehicle. The optimisation process consisted of creating a parametric CAD model of the duct geometry in CATIA v5. TEST CASE: Optimisation of an Underbonnet Cooling Duct A test case is employed here to demonstrate the potential of Grid computing to solve CFD optimisation problems involving industrial applications. The former is required to increase the mass flow rate through the duct. provided by AUDI AG. through the left side bottom grill. Figure 8.

1mm respectively. and the y+ values verified for selected geometries.000 to 45. The standard high Reynolds k-ε turbulence model was applied. The turbulence intensity was set to 10%. turbulence models. An intersection check was carried out for every design using an external script for CATIA v5. 5. An upper limit of 300 iterations was specified to achieve numerical convergence. An example of a computational grid is shown in Figure 9. The size of the meshes varied from 40. The upwind differencing scheme was utilised for both velocity and turbulence. The polyhedral mesh created in the previous stage was first imported into OpenFOAM format using the ccm26ToFoam conversion tool. and post-process the CFD solutions to extract the values of the flow field variables corresponding to the objectives functions of the optimisation problem. normal to the boundary face. the static pressure was fixed at . At the duct outlet.2 OpenFOAM in Grid The open-source CFD suite OpenFOAM was deployed as a web service through GRIA to solve the flow characteristics of every duct layout in a remote Grid environment. solve the parallel CFD problem to convergence in the Grid. volume meshed in STAR-Design. read in.: apply boundary conditions. Any duct configuration that collided with other parts was automatically discarded during the optimisation process.A simplified version of the underbonnet components surrounding the duct were also considered to avoid clashes. The air flow was computed as an incompressible subsonic turbulent gas using parallel simpleFoam. A series of input text files (or scripts) were then employed to: set up the CFD problem (i. Each of these actions was automatically performed from within modeFRONTIER. thermophysical properties. The geometries from CATIA v5 were exported as step files. solver controls.013 m. was applied at the duct inlet with a value of 11 m/s.). These conditions were approximated from aerodynamic simulations and wind-tunnel data for the full vehicle at a driving speed of 250 km/h.6mm and 1.e. The meshing process was recorded in a batch script to be employed in the optimisation procedure. The SIMPLE solution procedure for pressure-velocity coupling was employed in the calculations in conjunction with the AMG solver for pressure and the BICCG solver for all other flow variables. The resulting computational grids were polyhedral with two wall extrusion layers of 0. Example of polyhedral mesh in the original duct geometry. A fixed velocity. etc. Figure 9. while the length scale was set to 0.000 cells.

The execution of each node in modeFRONTIER is described below: • CATIA v5 was run on a Windows machine via an ssh server. 5. • The Non-dominated Sorting Genetic Algorithm II (NSGA-II) [21] was selected in combination with the SOBOL DOE to carry out the optimisation process. modeFRONTIER workflow for duct optimisation. • The OpenFOAM case was set up in the local Linux machine. the objectives and the optimisation loop settings. presented in Figure 10 for the cooling duct application. The surfaces representing walls in the model were all defined to be adiabatic and no-slip stationary boundaries. Figure 10. post-processing of the simulation results was also automated so that modeFRONTIER could run the model analysis and extract the values of the objective functions. CPU x86 Intel P4 3GHz Memory 512MB RAM Disk Capacity 80GB HDD Network 1Gbps LAN Operation System LINUX Fedora core 5 CPU x86 Intel P4 3GHz . including the DOE and the optimisation algorithm. including data transfer from and to the local Linux execution server. • STAR-Design was executed on the local Linux machine. The data transfer and execution of simpleFoam were carried out through GRIA Command-line Client in an infrastructure consisting of four (4) Grid nodes running GRIA basic application services with the following specifications (Table 2): Table2.3 modeFRONTIER Workflow The main phase of the optimisation work is the workflow definition.0 Pa (relative to the operating pressure of 101325 Pa). The different components in the workflow define each of the stages in the automated CFD process. Specifications of the Computers comprising the Grid Nodes. Finally. This information included the area-averaged total pressure difference between the inlet and outlet as well as the area-weighted average velocity at the outlet boundary. the input variables.

a reduction of 20% which can be attributed to transfer times linked to internet connection speeds.7 min.The multi-objective optimisation was launched and all the applications described above were run in batch mode to perform the evaluation of each duct layout. Local executions of similar cases showed an averaged time of 6. thus confirming the evolving nature of the Genetic Algorithm and how designs improve as new generations are introduced. The results for the 369 feasible duct geometries are discussed in the following section. Starting from an initial random SOBOL DOE population of 30 individuals. Further more. generate plots and perform advanced analysis on any combination of parameters to decide on the best design. .4 Optimisation Results The input values and the corresponding results for each design tested in modeFRONTIER are kept in a database created along the optimisation process. The user can manipulate this data. a clear trade-off line can be identified along which the best designs are located. When the two optimisation objectives are plotted against each other. This boundary is the Pareto frontier described earlier in Figure 2.g. the chart also shows the design IDs.5 days uninterrupted. 5. The higher IDs are concentrated along the Pareto frontier. etc).2 min. while the overall optimisation process lasted 2. Discharge velocity vs. total pressure drop (Bubbles coloured by design ID). Of a total of 450 designs tested. solution divergence. The averaged time per calculation turned out to be 8. 369 turned out to be feasible and 81 failed due to intersection checks or problems in the CFD process (e. failed CAD or mesh. as shown in Figure 11. The latter represents a failure rate of 18%. Figure 11. represented by the colour of the bubbles. 15 generations were created by the NSGA-II algorithm for a total of 450 CFD design evaluations.

the discharge velocity was limited to 90 m/s in order to avoid high Mach numbers and possible sources of aeroacoutic noise. Similarly. while the total pressure drop was reduced from 932. selected using the parallel chart above. The final design (ID=354). showed considerable improvement in terms of velocity and total pressure loss when compared to the baseline duct geometry.13 m/s. Figure 13. In this range only one design was detected as shown in Figure 12. In this particular case.4 m/s to 82. Figure 12. Velocity magnitude at mid-span (Left: original duct – Right: optimised duct).8 Pa. The reduction in separation/stagnation areas is evident in the latter. Figure 13 compares the midspan velocities in the original and optimised ducts. This is typical of multi objective problems involving contradictory objectives. The discharge velocity was increased from 39. On this basis.The final design must be a compromise between pressure drop and velocity. Parallel chart for Pareto frontier designs – discharge velocity = 80 to 90 m/s. . a parallel chart was employed to highlight the designs in the Pareto frontier with velocities between 80 and 90 m/s.5 Pa to 332.

The latter remains a fundamental issue for exploiting Grid technologies at industrial level. who will deliver functionality of setting-up the problem. industrial users would be able to increase productivity by accessing Grid resources. parallel computing and powerful HPC clusters. Recent technological trends. state-of-the-art software and human expertise can be found on demand. The shape of an underbonnet cooling duct was optimised using results obtained running OpenFOAM in a remote Grid environment. CFD software vendors would be able to expand their business by providing services through the Grid. . and achieve a higher resource optimisation. including Grid execution on OpenFOAM and other licensed commercial software.6. hardware costs become high to achieve these results. The difference was attributed to data transfer and available ADSL internet connection speeds. would provide an advantage to the client. visualising data in real time as the problem is solved. CONCLUSIONS AND PROSPECTS OF GRID ENABLED TECHNOLOGIES The potential of Grid to provide access to high performance computing resources for solving CFD automatic optimisation problems were highlighted via an industrial example. Against this backdrop. and perform routine design and optimisation simulations without the need to invest on expensive hardware and/or software. and the unique features of the CFD software. but can be mitigated by relying on T3 or fiber/dark fiber OC line connections widely available for business use. The overall time per calculation in the Grid machines turned out to be 20% slower than a comparable execution in a local server with similar CPU power. CFD is a performance-oriented service with great computational demands. monitor graphically the solution. and hence very cost-effective. as well as for small research groups. Problems to be investigated often have very complex geometry and physics which require the use of high resolution computational models. They would be able to lower their operating IT costs. End-user participation from different industrial sectors. where CFD simulations is the main tool for design and optimisation purposes. such as CATIA v5 and STAR-Design. provide better service level performance. challenging applications for the assessment of the Grid-enabled CFD solvers and the use of Grid-resources to demonstrate the concept of ‘CFD on-demand’. In this sense. previously not accessible to them. Furthermore. will provide real. open source technologies could play a fundamental role as a perfect partner for solving CFD problems in remote Grid infrastructures. Grid offers itself as a unique opportunity where computing power. The process was successfully integrated in modeFRONTIER and all tasks performed fully automatically. discovering Grid resources and submitting jobs on the Grid. Similarly. The power of the Grid. As a result. respond faster to changing business. like the use of clusters of loosely-coupled Linux nodes (often called ‘Beowulfs’) are a reasonable price/performance compromise for high-performance computing in certain academic environments. but the effort of machine setup and maintenance are a deterrent for most SME and occasional users.

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