EarningsAdd together acquisitive leanings and the trend to all things cloud, and what do you get? ESI yesterday announced that it has acquired Ciespace, which appears to have figured out a way to get around performance , scalability and real-time collaboration issues to create a CAE-in-the-cloud platform.

It’s an interesting add-on to the other recent announcements (Picviz for big data, CIVITEC for automotive controls) and to ESI’s traditional product lines which are aimed squarely at the largest automotive OEMS. A cloud-enabled offering lets ESI target smaller companies via attractive pricing and a lower cost of sales; its large customers will also benefit from on-demand surge offerings. Could ESI have developed this technology itself? Arguably, yes — but with Ciespace struggling on its own, the acquisition makes sense.

Ciespace has been many things over its life (remember the company’s really cool BubbleMesh?), but in this case, its platform that was created in the late 2000s specifically to serve CAE apps to users via the cloud. As far as I know, its main app is OpenFOAM (the open source CFD app) backed by Ciespace’s own collaboration and pre-processing solutions. Ciespace always intended to add other apps but, I think, was stymied by vendors trying to do their own cloud-enablement.

ESI gets a lot with this deal: a jump-start in enabling a full SaaS version of its legacy suite, new price points and ways of interacting with customers and prospects, and a top-notch R&D team that can continue to develop this delivery mechanism. It’s not clear, however, that Ciespace brings with it any real revenue; it had great potential but was never really able to find its niche.

The Ciespace platform has all of the buzzword-y aspects of cloud covered. Ciespace said it was built on a scalable High Performance Computing (HPC) multi-tenant architecture, with an open application framework that supported real-time collaboration, browser based visualization, and, of course, addressed security concerns. So there.

What I like most about this deal, however, is the future potential. ESI says that the acquisition will “enable a new way to develop and deliver cost-effective and reliable digital modeling for CAE solutions. The value of Ciespace’s technology and its collaborative approach will accelerate the democratization of CAE to all engineers and designers and gradually to non-technical users in both small and large enterprises.” Notice the key words: new, cost-effective, reliable, collaborative, non-technical users. The intent is clearly to create technically correct solutions, served in new ways to new users.

Ciespace CTO, Dr. Sanjay Choudhry joins ESI, saying “[b]y leveraging ESI’s worldwide distribution and development network, Ciespace’s technology will be expanded and spread worldwide and in many new industrial sectors. We are confident numerous customers and prospects will appreciate the tremendous added value that will come from this combination of best in class physics, modeling and Cloud platform.”

ESI also disclosed a little of its plans for rolling out a SaaS-enabled offering, starting with selected (but not named) solvers and advanced modeling tools: “The objective will be to seamlessly deploy on-demand CAE modeling, enabling customers to access High Performance Computing resources and post-process results so they can complete analysis and iterative improvement with minimal development and investment effort.”

On the business front, ESI will initially use current sales channels to introduce the Ciespace-enabled offering to its OEM and Tier 1 customer base. Over time, however, ESI plans to address smaller companies and Tier 2 and 3 suppliers with a new business strategy predicated on its SaaS solutions.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but we do know that Ciespace raised at least $4 million in venture funding over the years. It’s also not clear if CEO Tom Curry, an industry veteran with MSC and LMS experience, or Dr. Kenji Shimada, the inventor of BubbleMesh, are joining ESI.