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The Implications of the Cloud for Simulation

The Implications of the Cloud for Simulation

by Chad Jackson, President and Principal Analyst of Lifecycle Insights

Is the cloud that big a deal for simulation anymore? I mean, we basically know what it means. Run simulation sin the cloud. Leverage all that compute horsepower up there. Get lots of results way faster. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Right?

Well, that's where I disagree. Bigger changes for simulation in the cloud are hidden just below the horizon.

Undercutting that Beautiful Dream

All that compute power is enticing, right? It's a great story. But there's just one big problem: getting your simulation model into the cloud. And that wouldn't be a problem if these simulation models weren't quite so humongous. I mean, you wouldn't need all that compute power if these simulations were easy to solve, right?

For me, this along with concerns about intellectual property have been the factors limiting the success behind the vision of performing simulations in the cloud. But interestingly enough, this will soon be changing.

The First Domino is Falling

What if you never had to get your simulation model in the cloud to start? Let me explain.

Back in December 2012, Autodesk announced their intent to launch Fusion 360, a cloud-based CAD tool. Here's my take on it. Then in January 2013, Dassault Systèmes announced Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual. And here's my take on that one.

So, why is this a big deal? Well, it's important to simulation because of one of the side capabilities. I detailed in my post The PDM Revolution is Upon Us, Brought to You by CAD in the Cloud. Essentially, because CAD is creating design data in the cloud, there is absolutely no reason to download it to your desktop and then check it into your on-premise PDM system. Just manage it with the PDM capabilities that is part of the same CAD-in-the-Cloud application. Both Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual and Fusion 360 offer this as part of their integrated offerings.

The Next Move

So that's why its important. If your CAD design data is already in the cloud and managed there, then what's the next step for simulation in the cloud?

Do you really want to do simulation prep on the desktop? Absolutely not. There's no reason to download it, prep the model and then upload it back into the cloud for a solve or design of experiments study. That simply just won't happen.

So what's the next app to move to the cloud? Simulation pre-processors. Once there and prepared, it literally becomes bush-button to solve or run other improvement studies.

But that's not all that needs to happen. If you have CAD design data the cloud, you need to have PDM functionality in the cloud. Likewise, if you have simulation data in the cloud, well, you see where I am going. You need simulation data management capabilities in the cloud as well.


Will every simulation software provider move in this direction? No. Some companies are going full bore with the cloud. Others are focused on other improvements. So what does that mean for you, the simulation analyst? Well, realize that some of the design data you are going to receive will come from the cloud. So get ready.

Summary and Questions

Let's recap.

  • A stumbling block to leveraging simulation in the cloud is the fact that networks choke or significantly lag on large simulation models. A fundamental issue is getting the simulation model to all that compute power.

  • The first domino is starting to fall, however. Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes both announced CAD in the Cloud offerings that provide integrated PDM functionality. No need to download and check in to a on-premise system.

  • The next move for some of these software providers is to extend their cloud offerings into the simulation realm. This includes a pre-processor, the solver and simulation data management. The rationale matches that of CAD and PDM in the cloud.

  • Such changes have implications for simulation analysts. You need to think about where you design data and simulation data will travel in such a model.

OK. Your turn. What are your thoughts? Is the cloud worth it for simulation? Sound off.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.