ANSYS held its bi-annual user event in Pittsburgh last week – Pittsburgh in late August? -for
roughly 800 customers, staff and investors from 30 countries. Quick take: ANSYS
customers do cool stuff, use cool tools and are excited about the possibilities the next
product release (R12) offers. Michael Phelps was not in the house, although swimsuits very
like the one he wore were prominently displayed. At least while I was there, no one modeled
;-)

Jim Cashman led things off, giving an overview of the company, its 50,000-foot-level strategy
and reiterating the company’s commitment to investing in R&D. He then handed the podium
to a team led by Dipankar Choudhury that went over the changes, features and
enhancements in R12. Far too much detail in far too short a time, but the users sitting
around me definitely took notice when the team got to significant user interface and
interoperability enhancements planned for Workbench 2.0, especially the integration of
Fluent and CFX meshing from within the project space.

The ANSYS team also introduced Zoltan Cendes, former Chairman and CTO of Ansoft and
now leader of the Ansoft business unit within ANSYS, who gave an excellent (if brief)
overview of what Ansoft products do — and why. The ANSYS users sitting around me were a
bit puzzled (all mechanical designers in the automotive supply chain) about Maxwell’s
Equation. Concerns over how ANSYS plans to cross-sell its Ansoft and traditional ANSYS
products certainly still remain since not one of the people sitting near me said "The guy who
sits in the next cubicle can use this stuff!" — but ANSYS’ track record of taking the best of
acquired technologies buys it the time to sort this all out.

The user keynotes ramped up the excitement. Willem Toet, Head of Aerodynamics
for the BMW Sauber F1 Team spoke compellingly about the team’s use of Fluent to make
critical design decisions in very little time to gain milliseconds on the race track. Jerry
Young, Director, Materials and Structures Technology, Boeing – Phantom Works talked
about the difficulties inherent in simulating something like an airplane wing from "atom to
airplane" – meaning that a "full" analysis requires not only information about airflow around
the wing but a view of how a composite material might change should that plane be hit by
lightening. He had terrific parting thoughts for the analysts in the audience: "Your answer is
worth the most at the point the question is asked. Always have the answer. Refine the
answer as you get more information." — the implication being that having no answer is not
acceptable. David Scott, Director of High-End High Performance Computing Systems at Intel
Corporation then talked about the progress processors and compute hardware have made —
highlighting the forthcoming Nehalem family of processors and their performance
benchmarks.

Then ANSYS spirited all of us financial and industry analysts away to our own lunch and an
afternoon of briefings, highlighted by Jim Cashman’s birthday cake. Actually, the cake was
nice but the real stars of the afternoon were Ahmad Haidari and Thierry Marchal, who spoke,
respectively, about how ANSYS products were used in the hunt for alternative fuels and
biomedical applications. Both are clearly passionate about the benefits ANSYS’
technologies bring to their industries — and had lots of interesting user cases to pass on.

While I definitely wish I had had more time to attend user presentations, it’s clear that the
ANSYS staff is very much engaged with its user base, intent on delivering value and not
afraid to take on all comers — and why should they be? 50-odd quarters of success back
them up.