Altair solidThinking Moves to the Cloud Starting with Inspire
Shawn Wasserman posted on September 21, 2016 |
Altair solidThinking announced Inspire Unlimited at CONVERGE 2016. The software will bring its topology optimization and generative design software to the cloud through a web browser. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Altair solidThinking announced Inspire Unlimited at CONVERGE 2016. The software will bring its topology optimization and generative design software to the cloud through a web browser. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

While at the CONVERGE 2016 conference, Altair and its subsidiary solidThinking announced that its topology optimization software will be making the leap onto the cloud with Inspire Unlimited.

The term Unlimited is more than just a branding name; it refers to the cloud platform that will be hosting the lightweighting tool and more computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools in the near future.

The platform is cloud-based collaborative software that can host various CAE tools on a web browser.

The platform will also give engineering design teams version management tools and on-demand, scalable high-performance computing (HPC) for when models become large and overly complex.

Present and Future of Unlimited, Altair’s Cloud-based CAE Collaboration Platform

The seeds of Altair’s Unlimited platform were sown when  its flagship CAE tool HyperWorks got the cloud treatment. While at the CONVERGE 2016 conference, Altair representatives noted that more of Altair and solidThinking’s portfolio will be moved onto the cloud. They even noted that third-party CAD and CAE tools both inside and out of the Altair Partner Alliance might also be available on the cloud platform.

Unlimited tools will be cloud enabled with the same UI, scalable HPC, collaboration tools, cloud licensing and secure file storage. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Unlimited tools will be cloud enabled with the same UI, scalable HPC, collaboration tools, cloud licensing and secure file storage. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
“The way the Unlimited platform was developed, it’s very generic. Inspire is the first product to be launched on top of the platform,” said James Dagg, CTO of modeling, visualization and math-based solutions and strategy at Altair. “The goal in the coming months is to release other products like Evolve for industrial design; the manufacturing suite like Click2Cast, Click2Form and Click2Extrude; and the math solutions like Activate, Embed and Compose.”

How Will the Unlimited Workflow Affect the Topology Optimization Tool?

Changing a parameter in the cloud will feel similar to the desktop version. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Changing a parameter in the cloud will feel similar to the desktop version. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

The Inspire user interface (UI) will not change much once it is onboard the Unlimited platform. Changing loads and parameters affecting the design space and moving through the workflow will feel familiar.

“Our goal is to keep the core workflow the same so the user can move seamlessly between the desktop and web versions,” said Dagg.

However, moving the topology optimization software to the cloud will come with quite a few new features outside of its internal workflow.

“We’ve added features that are only available through the web for sharing models,” added Dagg. “There is a gallery that users can publish models to, which can then be shared with the team or the public.”

Additionally, Sam Mahalingam Srikanth, CTO of cloud computing and HPC strategy at Altair, notes that the cloud also opens up the possibility to scale up HPC requirements for complex topology optimizations.

 “One of the reasons why we moved to the cloud is to make sure that you don’t need in-house HPC,” said Mahalingam. “When you have a complex model to solve, then the cloud nodes will be used as HPC nodes with a lot more memory and cores so your models solve faster. So you will definitely see a performance increase in terms of how the optimization runs.”

Users can employ the gallery to share models with colleagues and the public for collaboration and version control. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Users can employ the gallery to share models with colleagues and the public for collaboration and version control. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Jaideep Bangal, senior application engineer at solidThinking, explained how Unlimited’s collaborative functions will work.

Once a user uploads or creates a model into the model gallery, they can set up a team that can access the file. Each member of the team can have different access to the file—namely, editing, viewing and ownership. This will help to ensure that the right people on the team will be able to give input into the product’s design.

Users are able to create a team of people working on a product to have access to the models. These teammates can have viewer, editor or owner rights to the model. (Image courtesy of Altair.)
Users are able to create a team of people working on a product to have access to the models. These teammates can have viewer, editor or owner rights to the model. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

The viewer allows users who have view-only rights of a model to look at it. Users will not be able to edit the model. The tool is used to improve collaboration with nontechnical members of a team. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

The viewer allows users who have view-only rights of a model to look at it. Users will not be able to edit the model. The tool is used to improve collaboration with nontechnical members of a team. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

These models will be stored within a gallery. From here, users can open up the file in a viewer or within Inspire depending on their usage rights.

Users can create multiple versions of a design so the engineer can safely play around with the shape of the part.

“The transfer speeds are pretty good, especially when you have a decent Wi-Fi connection,” said Bangal. “You won’t feel the difference. The solver will be run on the nodes of the cloud so you won’t feel anything there. Functionally, there is nothing different to Inspire’s desktop.”

Currently, Altair’s solidThinking is partnering with Microsoft Azure for its collaboration platform. The reason for this selection was due to an overlap of multiple enterprise account customers. The hope is that this overlap in customers will help to speed up the adoption of the CAE software.

For those hoping to use Unlimited with a cloud service other than Azure, Mahalingam pointed out that the technology can be expanded to on premises or other cloud services using a single tenant bring-your-own-license (BYOL) option. The Inspire Unlimited cloud offering will be on Microsoft Azure as the customer should be infrastructure agnostic.

Altair’s User Experience Unification Trend

Users will note that the software has a similar look and feel to the desktop version and other Altair products that have had recent UI changes. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Users will note that the software has a similar look and feel to the desktop version and other Altair products that have had recent UI changes. (Image courtesy of Altair.)

Altair solidThinking enthusiasts will also note that the cloud platform fits very nicely into the company’s trend to unify much of its portfolio to have a similar look, feel and workflow.

This unification comes with a standardized UI first seen in Inspire. These UI facelifts were most recently seen in Altair’s CAE tools HyperMesh, SimLab HyperXtrude and HyperWorks Virtual Wind Tunnel during the HyperWorks 14.0 release.

“The workflows will be similar between the products,” explained Dagg. “As we integrate them, you can do things like script code in Compose to drive Evolve or Inspire and flip seamlessly between the editor and debugger driving the commands. So the products are on a convergent path so users can move back and forth between them.”

This unification of user experience between various products is a growing trend in the CAD and CAE world. This trend often is linked to the cloud.

How Will a Multi-CAE Tool Licensing Model Work with Unlimited?

The Unlimited tools will all be under a common licensing model that will likely be reminiscent of Altair’s HyperWorks Units (HWU) for its Altair Partner Alliance products. The difference is that the HWU tokens will not just be used for software; they will also likely be used for specifying the computing power from the cloud required for a task.

It is not known at this time how the licenses will work if a user wishes to move between the cloud and desktop versions of the software.

“What we realized was that the part of the product design phase where Inspire will be used is usually in the first few months,” said Mahalingam. “[Therefore,] a lot of small and medium customers want to buy licenses through monthly subscription. So we felt that moving onto the cloud where you don’t need additional hardware and software installed can be easily leveraged … [with] a monthly subscription model.”

Though many hints were dropped as to how the licensing would work, the information wasn’t as forthcoming when it came to pricing. As a result, it is hard to predict at this time how much Inspire Unlimited or any other product on the cloud platform will cost.

To learn more about Inspire, follow this link.

Altair has sponsored ENGINEERING.com to write this article. It has provided no editorial input. All opinions are mine. —Shawn Wasserman


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