BMW reduces costs with Intel's Nehalem

BMW car

The latest Nehalem products from Intel are helping BMW reduce its testing costs and business overheads.

Speaking at the CERN lab in Geneva, BMW's IT group manager Axel-Knut Bethkenhagen explained how servers using the new Nehalem EP and EX the latter is still to be released has helped the car maker cut costs.

Bethkenhagen explained his chief information officer's mantra is to "run IT as a business" to get more cars produced, more quickly, at less costs.

The firm has 6,000 servers around the world, and runs Linux and Windows systems, as well as virtualised ones using ESX and XEN.

High performance testing

While its existing systems are certainly robust, BMW has been moving to more virtual modeling and parallel car projects, and therefore needs more computing performance.

"First of all, parallel car projects increased during last five years tremendously," he said, adding the firm's been using "more and more virtualisation, in terms of crashing cars and in terms of virtual reality."

As well, legislation is putting the squeeze on how the company operates. "We have regulations which are very important in some markets," he said.

On top of these challenges is the increasing data coming from testing the cars themselves. BMW's tests used to create 1kb of data per rev of a car now they create 10kb. It might not sound like a lot, but it adds up.

He said using the Nehalem EP from April this year has saved the firm costs, as the multithreading technology lets it cut the number of servers it uses, while still boosting performance.

"It's a tremendous price/performance optmisation," he said, noting it's benchmarks showed two Nehalem servers running eight threads had 30 per cent more performance than eight of BMW's previous Woodcrest servers.

That also helped cut licensing costs no small thing for the company. "Licensing cost is by factor higher than machine cost," he explained.

"The price of machine compared to licensing is neglectable," he added.

Saving with virtualisation

BMW is also set to switch 1,000 servers to the yet to be released Nehalem EX. For the refresh of two- and four-socket Xeon platform servers, the firm compared EX servers to other suppliers.

"From that, what we got is a smaller energy footprint of four socket with Nehalem than with the existing platform," he said.

He added the EX lets BMW double its virtualisation ratio, from 10 to 15 virtual machines per server to 20 to 30.

"We think we will order bigger servers in future years as virtualisation is key for our data centre as we have the same power problems," as faced by many, he said, adding that virtualiation and other efficiencies with Nehalem EX cuts consumption by a third saving 100,000 euros a year on power use alone.