Can CAE Inspire Innovative Design?

HPC Cloud Challenge opens CAE to the masses, but shouldn’t CAE & HPC use be common-place already?

Altair has announced the opening of a new High-Performance Computing (HPC) Cloud Challenge aimed at exploring how computing can improve large-scale design exploration in CAE.

In partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Intel, the HPC Cloud Challenge is calling on anyone to submit a project idea in need of massive simulation, design optimization and computational resources. Accepted proposals will have access to state of the art resources including software, cloud computing nodes and product support throughout the duration of the project.  

With the formalities of this affair out of the way, it’s time to take a look at what this Cloud Challenge is about. It’s not about brand recognition and advertising, I swear. Whatever cool projects come from this, they will not be paraded around for Altair, AWS or Intel’s advantage.

The HPC Cloud Challenge presents an opportunity for young companies, ambitious designers and poorly funded grad-students to gain access to tools like powerful adjoint solvers (generative design), multi-physics simulators and an array of other virtual prototyping packages. I wouldn’t discount new CAE technologies being tested out (or at least proposed) during the challenge.

My thoughts are echoed by Hugo Saleh, of Intel.

“This Cloud Challenge is a great opportunity for the engineering community to experience the power of scalable CAE capabilities on the AWS Cloud,” “The collaboration with Altair and AWS brings the best of software, infrastructure, and hardware… together to enable broader use of advanced simulation and modeling techniques.”

While the HPC Cloud Challenge is an excellent opportunity for a bootstrapping organization to advance their research (and honestly, it would be a shame if BigEngineering took home the prize) it also highlights just how accessible high-performance computing is these days. With an idea, a decent IT team and a link to Amazon’s Web Services, all the computing and simulation power one could want is at their fingertips. Given the cost that it takes to run a business, harnessing that computing power for cheap is bound to be appreciated.

So I’m left wondering; are engineers and researchers taking advantage of the vast amount of computing spread around the globe? I’ve seen a few examples at conferences here and there, but are these HPC-driven projects the needles within the vast engineering haystack?

If so, that’s a shame.

I think computing has the power to show engineers new avenues for exploration and better solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Harnessing that power should be routine. Maybe the projects that come out of the HPC Cloud Challenge will help inspire engineers (both young and old) to see CAE’s potential and utilize it whenever possible.   

For more information about the HPC Cloud Challenge, visit

Proposals for the Cloud Challenge will be accepted through September 30, 2015