Transitioning from Product to Platform in Engineering Simulation
Stewart Bible posted on December 06, 2016 |

The meteoric rise of digital platform business models over the last decade has been called the most profound change in the global macroeconomic environment since the Industrial Revolution. Very few industries have yet to be disrupted by these new online structures that facilitate a wide range of human activities. Platform ecosystems are catalyzing radical changes in how we socialize, consume, create value and compete for profits.

Platforms are broadly defined as intermediaries connecting two or more distinct groups of users and enabling their direct interaction. Businesses that traditionally found their business advantage to be in the strength of internal resources now face competitors harnessing the expertise of hundreds of motivated users generating value-added content and network connected resources. Apple’s App Store, now boasting more than one million applications, is a particularly recognizable example of the power of platform-inspired ecosystems.

What do these digital platforms have in common? They all share the monetization of value-creating human activities.

In a recent article, we explored how the rise of cloud computing has radically reduced the barriers to use of high-performance computing in engineering simulation, primarily through the allowance for users to rent rather than own the resources they require. In that article, we touched on a few platform enterprises competing to provide software licensees with online access to cloud computing resources, including UberCloud and Rescale. It did not, however, make mention of any market participant attempts to unlock new value from spare resources and user-generated content, which is a common approach for many digital platforms.

The Report Generator from EDRMedeso is one of 106 apps available on the ANSYS App Store. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)
The Report Generator from EDRMedeso is one of 106 apps available on the ANSYS App Store. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

It is along these lines that the independent engineering software vendor ANSYS recently released the ANSYS App Store. This online platform, which the company envisions as the future hub of its partner activity, provides designers and engineers with a centralized location to access apps that advance efficiency and productivity while using ANSYS software. It also makes it easy for app developers to reach ANSYS customers worldwide.

"Over the years we've built a thriving partner ecosystem that is continually working to bring the ANSYS community innovative new tools and solutions. ANSYS is committed to technically and commercially enabling these third-party developers," said Stig Panduro, director of partner ecosystems at ANSYS. “Launching our public app store is the pinnacle of commercial enablement of our partners. We are thrilled to be working with our ecosystem on adding great apps that offer additional value to our thousands of motivated ANSYS customers."

For many years, ANSYS users and channel partners have had use of the ANSYS ACT and Workbench software development kit to create customized workflows and extend simulation capabilities. Users could then share their applications behind the ANSYS user portal.

With the public release of the App Store, the company hopes to continue the growth of this marketplace. It also promises the promotion of its Workbench software as an integrated platform that provides a set of shared techniques, technologies and interfaces to a broad set of users who can build what they want on a stable substrate.

The apps on the App Store, like this Pump Modeler app, are designed to address specific simulation needs. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

The apps on the App Store, like this Pump Modeler app, are designed to address specific simulation needs. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

Currently, the app store contains 106 apps—92 of which are free—designed to refine and build upon the native ANSYS simulation environment. Some provide additional physics models such as acoustics, diffusion and fatigue while others aim to improve workflows by integrating toolsets commonly used in niche applications or by providing one-click execution of common pre- and post-processing techniques.

While the majority of the existing applications were developed by ANSYS engineers, ANSYS believes that the true potential of the App Store will be realized once independent consultants, programmers and engineers are routinely creating and publishing apps for purchase through the App Store, creating a cycle of increased application availability and user growth.

In order to accelerate this transition, ANSYS is planning a number of initiatives, including opening up the development kitto developers without ANSYS subscriptions, encouraging developers to port existing applications currently on other native platforms and publishing a series of tutorial guides and reference materials. Meanwhile, the company is researching and developing systems that will allow this process to be as painless as possible for developers and customers while ensuring that all applications achieve a high standard of quality.

The benefits to potential application developers are numerous. ANSYS envisions developers utilizing the marketplace to expand brand awareness, promote custom software and develop close ties with thousands of ANSYS customers.  Developers of all sizes can contribute apps that provide much-needed revenue while extending the visibility of their products beyond the traditional scope and sharing their expertise and tools worldwide.

“EDRMedeso has been working with ANSYS for many years as a channel partner and application developer,” explained Marcus Oledal, vice president of sales at EDRMedeso. “The opening of the public app store represents a major opportunity for us to expand the visibility of our products, expertise and tools worldwide and acquire customers that are otherwise out of reach.”

The value that such an ecosystem offers customers is reflected in the following quote from Jakob Vernersen, senior R&D manager at pump manufacturing company Grundfos.

“The EDRMedeso report generator app has provided us with a uniform, time saving and high-quality solution for documenting FEA simulations,” explained Vernersen. “The app has increased our productivity by significantly reducing the working time needed per simulation report. More generally, the apps available from the ANSYS App Store bring additional value to their commercial software to better address our industry-specific needs.”

Unlike traditional businesses, digital platforms do not just create and push stuff out. Platforms are a fundamentally different business model. Participants such as ANSYS are seeking to connect diverse engineering simulation participants with one another and to enable them to interact and transact. I, for one, am looking forward to witnessing the new value created as the digital engineering community increasingly adopts digital platforms.


ANSYS has sponsored ENGINEERING.com to write this article. It has provided no editorial input. All opinions are mine. —Stewart Bible

About the Author

Stewart Bible is a principal engineer at Resolved Analytics. His interest in computational fluid dynamics began with his undergraduate and graduate research at the University of Kentucky, where he encountered his first commercial CFD code, CFD2000, ironically enough, in the year 1999. His current interests are in the areas of multiphysics and uncertainty quantification, with particular emphasis on medical devices, renewable energy and air pollution control systems.

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