Simulation in the Cloud is Becoming Mainstream
John Hayes posted on September 24, 2013 |
With new solutions available, is it time you looked at online solvers?

In this post you’ll see an overview of Simulation applications hosted in the Cloud, a new type of offering that kicked off a year ago.  That’s when Autodesk announced Simulation 360, thereby firing the proverbial starter’s gun in a race to create the dominant online simulation tool kit. 

The field is getting a lot busier now.  In the last few months we’ve written about cloud-based offerings from Simscale, Cydesign, Ciespace and materials simulator Sentient

This image from Ciespace

Why does cloud-based simulation make sense?

1.       Simulation requires processing horsepower, so accessing more powerful computers in the cloud makes the work go faster

2.       Simulation is highly iterative, so being able to run simultaneous simulations (try saying that out loud) can lead to better designs.  Again, the processing power of the cloud helps here.

3.       Simulation software is expensive.  Some of these hosted applications meet that challenge by offering an as-needed or pay-as-you-go model. 

4.       Cloud-based apps are accessible from multiple locations.

5.       Simulation models on the Internet lend themselves very naturally to collaboration

Who are the most likely users of Simulation in the Cloud?

As you may have experienced, the size of the company does not dictate the complexity of the problem.  External vehicle air flows, for example, are not a terribly complex simulation problem to solve, but they are critical to large automotive companies.  Other applications in the automotive supply chain are tougher to solve.  Unfortunately, the mid-market manufacturers who form the supply chain in many cases have been locked out of CAE because of the entry cost of the software, hardware and maintenance.  Cloud-based apps change that.

And then there is the useability factor.  Should you really need to be a PhD to run a simulation?  I grant you that this is not a cloud vs. desktop question, but the cloud-based apps are simplifying their user interfaces to make them more useable by engineers early in the design cycle.  Whether or not that’s a good idea was the subject of an excellent debate on Tech4PD recently.   

Is collaboration the most important byproduct?

You may have heard of GrabCAD, a collaborative engineering design community that has grown to 800,000 members by openly sharing designs.  This year they introduced a collaborative workspace called Workbench that allows sharing and collaboration around all CAD file types.  This is a natural evolution for simulation-based cloud offerings too. 

Already newcomers Simscale and Ciespace are calling their hosting environments “platforms for simulation” rather than applications.  The distinction is that neither company claims to have the best simulation solution.  Instead they hope that other simulation developers will use port their applications into their hosted environments to provide users with a more complete solution. 

Further, they hope that collaborative communities will emerge around simulation much as the design community has been built around GrabCAD. 

So is it time to try a Simulation in the Cloud tool?

All of these offerings are pretty new, so you may not find a fit for your needs.  But if you do, the cost of entry makes it worth a try.  You can read more about the various offerings and access free trials through these articles on 

Simscale: Cloud-Based Simulation

Autodesk Simulation 360 announcement:Autodesk Simulation 360 Now Available - Cloud Reality is Upon Us

Autodesk Simulation 360 trial offer:Completing the Circle | Autodesk 360

CyDesign: CyDesign Labs brings Simulation to Concept Design

Sentient: Predicting mechanical failure = the “L” in PLM

Ciespace: New Cloud-Based CFD Simulation Toolkit

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