Airbus innovates with high-performance computing.

The aircraft manufacturer flies with IT innovation, from HPC to RFID.

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I’d give aircraft manufacturer Airbus high marks for IT innovation. Like Wal-Mart did for the retail industry, Airbus has been blazing RFID trails in the aviation industry. It’s also blazing high-performance computing (HPC) trails.

As for RFID, the manufacturer, headquartered in Toulouse, France, has stipulated that its suppliers tag parts that will be put onto aircrafts so they can be tracked from cradle to grave. For example, in 2007, Airbus kicked off a project at one of its assembly plants in Germany to test how well RFID could be used to track the metal frames used to transport aircraft sections between manufacturing and assembly facilities. The tests proved successful and an implementation was completed in 2008; Airbus continues to expand its use of RFID today.

Multiple tier-one global suppliers for the for Airbus A350 XWB are starting to use RFID technologies to create birth records and updating repair maintenance histories. As part of that effort, all of Airbus' new A350 XWB wide-body aircraft are being built with most flyable parts tagged with high-memory EPC Gen 2 RFID tags for maintenance-tracking purposes. Each A350 is expected to have 3,000 tagged parts, the company reports, 2,000 of which will be fitted with high-memory tags. The planes are expected to be put into service in 2013.

For what it’s worth, Airbus is no small operation and thus has the lift necessary to sway industries. It captures about half of all commercial airliner orders. It has about 52,500 employees, with fully-owned subsidiaries in the United States, China, Japan and in the Middle East, spare parts centers in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Washington, Beijing and Singapore, training centers in Toulouse, Miami, Hamburg and Beijing and more than 150 field service offices around the world. It has network of some 1,500 suppliers in 30 countries.

So what about Airbus’ HPC and data center initiatives? Well, this week, HP announced that the aircraft manufacturer is doubling its usable supercomputing power with containerized HP Performance Optimized Datacenters (PODs). This is the final phase of a four-year HPC deployment.

According to a press release from HP, Airbus has taken delivery of two HP PODs, which HP says make this the world's largest industrial HPC system and one of the first confirmed commercial HPC container contracts. This deployment is the 29th biggest computer in the world according to the official TOP500 Supercomputer list published on June 20, HP says.

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