Autodesk Simulation Flex: An Evolution of the Cloud

It’s no secret, Autodesk believes in the cloud. We’ve spoken about the benefits- computation, collaboration, storage, access etc. No other team has embraced the paradigm shift as much as the Simulation Group. We have been releasing, learning, tweaking our products to leverage the cloud over the past three years. We’ve witnessed first hand the birth of a new way of thinking about computing. As with anything new there have been some ups and downs. Let’s take a look at some of the things we learned along the way.

First, we started with what is now Inventor Optimization. We wanted to tackle a problem that plagued the design community. We wanted to create a solution that was super easy, almost automatic and allowed us to test the power of computation that the cloud brought to the table. What we delivered was a purpose built plugin that sits directly inside Inventor that allows non-experts to quickly setup a parametric optimization and leverage the power of infinite computing to identify the optimum design.

Next came along Project Cumulus. We wanted to up the stakes a bit and take what we learned from the design community and extend it to the Moldflow analyst community. We picked something a bit bigger and a bit heavier in computational requirements. The team connected our Design of Experiments (DOE) technology and the power of parallel solves via the cloud to provide a unique offering that has been bottle necked historically by computation time.

Two experimental projects that served two very different communities but they both had one thing in common, the need for computation. Taking what we learned, we wanted to broaden the circle and see if we could apply it in a more general purpose form.

Enter the launch of Simulation 360. This was a first of its kind. We took the family of Simulation desktop products that we had (Moldflow, Mechanical, CFD and RSA) and connected them to the Autodesk 360 cloud. Above is a fun video we put together to show you the offering in action (“I just saw a helicopter”). The service was offered on an annual term basis with “cloud credits” that you burned whenever you used the cloud for computing. Similar to a mobile phone plan.This provided a unique business model that customers didn’t have to heavily invest in numerous licenses for Multiphysics simulations and the additional expensive hardware required to run them. You could simply subscribe and pay for what you used. This model has been widely adopted by the community and we have had well over 200,000 simulation jobs run on the Autodesk 360 servers. Although we were pleased with the results, we also learned some things along the way.

One of the biggest takeaways was that the needs of the Community varied substantially. Some were heavy users, some used it occasionally and some used the cloud for burst computing. It became clear that we were in the early stages of a paradigm shift in computing, but in order to satisfy the needs of our customers, we needed to be flexible. We spent a better part of two years traveling around the world visiting customers, observing how they used the tools. The result, we tweaked the offering and changed the name to Autodesk Simulation Flex. It has all of the similar features as before but adds the ability to solve local. We found that small quick experimental jobs, quick tests of boundary conditions were better suited for local solving and the larger, heavier lifting was better left to the cloud. This hybrid service gives you the best of both worlds, allowing you to leverage the cloud when you need it but also not restricting you from getting your job done when you are traveling or away from an internet connection.

I believe the market as well as the technology will evolve over time. Right now, we are working and living in a hybrid world. This will likely be the case for the time being. But, it seems inevitable that we will all evolve as the tech evolves.

Curious what you think?



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