Ping Golf Innovates with HPC and Intel® Processors

With Intel® technology-based HPC infrastructure, Ping helps golfers hit the ball farther, faster, and with more control.

At a Glance:

  • Ping is a family-owned company with a big footprint in the world of golf—and a well-earned reputation for innovation. The Phoenix-based company was founded in 1959 when Karsten Solheim, a former GE engineer and legendary innovator, created a new type of putter.

  • Altair's HyperWorks appliance powered by Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors accelerates Ping's time-to-insights and supports their advances in golf technology.

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Executive Summary

Known for its history of innovation, golf equipment leader Ping needs powerful HPC capabilities to advance its broad product line. With its previous servers approaching end-of-life, Ping deployed an Altair HyperWorks Unlimited (HWUL) physical appliance powered by Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. The appliance delivers results up to 4.5 times faster than Ping’s previous HPC system while doubling design efficiency in some cases.1 When the coronavirus compelled employees to work at home, Ping used the appliance’s flexible design to quickly convert its physical infrastructure to a private cloud.

Challenge

Ping is a family-owned company with a big footprint in the world of golf—and a well-earned reputation for innovation. The Phoenix-based company was founded in 1959 when Karsten Solheim, a former GE engineer and legendary innovator, created a new type of putter. He named his company after the sound of the club hitting a golf ball. In 1962, a Ping golf club earned its first win on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour.

Flash forward nearly 60 years, and Ping continues to lead the golf equipment industry. As of July 27, 2020, players using Ping drivers had won more tournaments on the 2020 PGA Tour than any other brand. Ping’s Turbulator Technology—inspired by design features on airplanes and semi-trucks—helps pros and duffers alike hit the ball farther, with greater velocity and control. Dragonfly Technology, based on the science of biomimicry, helps the company deliver ultra-thin, ultra-light crown heads (the top surface of a golf club head). These heads increase forgiveness and help compensate for swings that hit the ball off-center. Even Ping’s golf bags are highly engineered—rugged enough to be stacked in a hot car trunk and left for hours.

Ping’s breakthroughs require similar consideration of design optimization tradeoffs that go into developing cars and spacecraft. Developers use a range of HPC-enabled simulation and analysis software to help. They rely on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to reduce aerodynamic drag and optimize airflow over a driver. They use finite element analysis (FEA) to build durable, high-quality clubs and bring them to market faster. They use materials analysis to aid in developing innovative materials. And they run acoustic analysis to make sure design changes have not affected the desired pinging sound when the club strikes the ball.

As Eric Morales, senior simulation engineer at Ping explains, “We don’t do gimmicks. We do science. We’re constantly working to innovate within narrower and narrower limits, and to stay on schedule. If you’re late getting a product to market because you didn’t identify a problem’s root cause, the cost of rework and lost revenue can be staggering.”

Solution

Ping began using CAE tools on Intel® processor-based desktops to support its drive to innovate. By 2005, the company knew it needed the performance and capacity of an HPC system. Ping deployed a 12-core Cray XT supercomputer powered by Intel® Xeon® processors that year. In 2013, the company upgraded to a custom-built, 48-core platform based on Intel Xeon processors. Both systems ran Altair CAE software.

When the custom system was nearing obsolescence, Ping selected another platform based on Intel Xeon Scalable processors. After 15 years of experience with Intel HPC technologies, Morales says the choice of an Intel processor-based solution was an easy one. “Intel processors integrate seamlessly into everything we’re trying to do, and they are so reliable,” he says. “They give us a strong foundation—a solid backbone for everything we do.”

Ping chose Altair’s HyperWorks Unlimited (HWUL) physical appliance, a fully managed, preconfigured HPC appliance based on a Dell EMC platform with Intel® Xeon® Gold processors. These processors offer high memory speeds and large memory capacity to deliver excellent performance for Ping’s demanding CAE workloads. Altair’s developers used the Intel® Math Kernel Library (Intel® MKL) and took advantage of Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 512 (Intel® AVX-512) to optimize performance for their demanding applications.

The Intel technology we use has been of tremendous value to Altair. … We can build out a system with confidence that the customer will achieve great performance with our software tools. We can confidently deploy the system, knowing it will perform well for years to come without causing a tremendous support burden.” —Rick Watkins, Director of Cloud and Appliance Solutions, Altair

In addition to Intel Xeon Gold processor-based resources, the HWUL appliance has a head node based on the Intel® Xeon® Silver processor. This node hosts the Altair Access web portal, handles workload scheduling and hardware provisioning, and acts as the storage controller for the cluster’s dedicated storage. The head node also runs visualization tools that let users start post-processing simulation results as soon as a simulation is complete.

The Altair HWUL appliance makes HPC easier for small and mid-sized companies such as Ping. “The hardware is well suited to our work,” Morales says. “We have the performance to run other analytics in the background. We have the flexibility to expand the appliance by adding capacity to the server. We have access to all the Altair software, plus a growing number of third-party applications. We also enjoy cost benefits from Altair’s all-inclusive licensing model.”

Intel technologies also deliver value for Altair as a solution developer. “The Intel technology we use has been of tremendous value to Altair,” says Rick Watkins, director of cloud and appliance solutions at Altair. “Its consistent performance and strong integration with other requisite technologies such as Intel® Message Passing Interface and Intel AVX-512 are valuable for us and our customers. We can build out a system with confidence that the customer will achieve great performance with our software tools. We can confidently deploy the system, knowing it will perform well for years to come without causing a tremendous support burden.”

Simulation creates better products. … We reduce design risk and variability in product performance, because we have more time to iterate and improve quality and innovation without delaying time-to-market. The performance and capacity of the system and the predictive capabilities of the tools add value to every product we develop.” —Eric Morales, Senior Engineer, Ping Golf

Results

Ping’s appliance is helping the company continue bringing innovative, high-quality products to market quickly. “Simulation creates better products,” Morales says. “The new appliance has the same number of compute nodes as our previous HPC system, but more than twice as many cores. With that performance, we’re able to get simulation results up to 4 or 4.5 times faster for a single job. We can run multiple jobs simultaneously and get those results faster. We reduce design risk and variability in product performance, because we have more time to iterate and improve quality and innovation without delaying time-to-market. The performance and capacity of the system and the predictive capabilities of the tools add value to every product we develop.”

Morales observes that the system is fostering creativity and throughput. “We’re experimenting more now that we have access to this larger system,” Morales says. “With the performance and the simulation tools on the appliance, we can run different types of simulations and multiple types of analysis at the same time. We don’t have to wait until another job has completed, so we’re getting much more throughput. We’re seeing faster feedback loops for the engineers, and we’re getting a whole lot more done with the same human resources.”

Bubba Watson, two-time Masters champion, plays the new PING G425 driver.

The ability to perform pre- and post-processing on the head node adds to the system’s impact. “Being able to do visualization and other post-processing without having to first move large datasets to a workstation can save hours each day,” says Morales. “We can feed the results to the developers and designers immediately, and they can iterate their designs more quickly. It is having a very positive impact on our engineering productivity, improving design efficiency by as much as 50 percent in some cases.”

The appliance and its CAE tools are helping improve product quality through virtual prototyping. “Our first physical prototype is actually version 7 because of all the virtual prototyping we do,” Morales says. “We can eliminate errors before we get to that first physical prototype, so it’s rare to see issues related to structural engineering in the physical prototypes.”

When you see a product that says ‘Intel Inside,’ you know a lot of hard work and advanced technology have gone into making it. We want our customers to feel the same way about us. Simulation is what drives Ping’s new club technologies, and Intel and Altair technologies are part of every one of them.” –Eric Morales, Senior Engineer, Ping Golf

By using the appliance and simulation tools, Morales says Ping has streamlined its entire product development pipeline. “We reduce design risk because we can optimize the design right the first time,” he states. “The time we save by not having to re-optimize a design is time we can reinvest into future innovation. We improve time-to-solution and time-to-market, and we have more resources for innovation. We can’t even put a dollar value on it.”

When COVID-19 disrupted businesses, the appliance helped Ping maintain engineering productivity. The HWUL systems were already set up for engineers to submit jobs remotely from their desktops to the server. As a result, the transition to working from home went smoothly. The on-premise HWUL system is now being leveraged as a private cloud system for those working from home. “We literally had to do nothing,” explains Morales. “The appliance sits behind our firewall, and we use our VPN to remotely connect and the HWUL GUI to run jobs.”

Intel® technologies give Ping a strong foundation for adopting further advances in HPC tools and applications in the future. “FEA and HPC have become so commonplace in our day-to-day work that we forget what our business looked like without them,” Morales says. “As the tools evolve, so will the innovation of our products. As we learn how to ask more intelligent questions, things like machine learning will help us optimize our designs faster and continue to innovate.”

Beyond specific benefits, Intel technologies reinforce Ping’s brand promise of solid products backed by industry-leading innovations. “When you see a product that says ‘Intel Inside®,’ you know a lot of hard work and advanced technology have gone into making it,” says Morales. “We want our customers to feel the same way about us. The vast majority of Ping’s new technology features are supported by a foundation of Intel and Altair solutions.”

PING’s new G425 driver has already contributed to multiple victories worldwide.

Ping’s robust solution is an outgrowth of longstanding collaborative relationships among Altair, Dell EMC, and Intel. “Powered by the latest Intel Xeon Scalable processors, the Altair appliance provides higher compute performance in a turnkey solution,” says Kirti Devi, Intel director of HPC global alliances. “It combines the right capabilities for faster product development and time-to-market. It is exciting to see companies like Ping apply our innovations to accelerate time-to-insights and gain such impressive business value.”

Solution Ingredients

  • Dell EMC PowerEdge servers
  • Intel Xeon Gold 6226R processors for compute
  • Intel Xeon Silver 4214 processors for head node
  • Intel MKL
  • Intel AVX-512
  • Altair HyperWorks Unlimited physical appliance
  • Altair OptiStruct, Altair Radioss, and other analytics software
  • Altair PBS Works for HPC scheduling and workload management
  • Warewulf for cluster administration

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1Estimate provided by Ping Golf.