Ansys to acquire OnScale

Apr 13, 2022 | Hot Topics

Do you do your simulation in the cloud? Do you want to? Ansys is betting you do …

Ansys just announced that it is acquiring OnScale, providers of a cloud-first simulation platform that, according to OnScale CEO Ian Campbell, “combines the limitless compute power of cloud supercomputers with an intuitive web-based front end, making simulation accessible to anyone. Knowing that OnScale’s technology will now run simulations using Ansys’ industry-leading technology is incredibly exciting for me and my team. We are thrilled to be joining the Ansys family.”

No financial details were announced about the transaction. It’s an interesting buy because OnScale is about both technology and business model.

Ansys currently sells Ansys Gateway (Amazon AWS) and Ansys Cloud (Microsoft Azure) on which customers can run their favorite Ansys simulation solutions. It sounds as though these stay, and that “[t]hese capabilities and emerging new applications will now be strengthened by the addition of a cloud-native framework from OnScale that will support a user-friendly, web-based UI.”

I’m not sure what that means — we may learn more when Ansys announced Q1 results in a few weeks — but OnScale has been a hub for pay-as-you-go simulation via its OnScale Solve offering. Users could sign up, then do CAD model repair and meshing, pick the solver of their choice (from a limited set that the company has developed, mostly based on open-source the last time I checked), set up the simulation, and then send it off to on a tuned HPC cluster somewhere in the cloud. Free users had some number of CPU hours; a Pro license was something like $500 and pricing went up from there. [UPDATE: Jeremy Theler, a Solver Developer at OnScale, commented that “Our solvers are not open source. We’ve developed them from scratch.” Apologies for getting that wrong.]

OnScale Lab is more a collaborative environment, based around simulation workflows. I am less familiar with it so check here if you want more info.

OnScale’s pricing was/is based on compute time — more complex solves take longer and therefore cost more. That’s more or less the inverse of how CAE was typically priced: in the olden days, you bought a license and a lot of hardware and it sat around until you used it. OnScale …. scales, while traditional CAE was a fixed cost and very difficult to scale up or down.

The OnScale users I’ve spoken with liked the service, were confident in the results of its solvers, and intended to keep using OnScale BUT many were at the free or lower-priced tiers. Analysts from the larger companies tended to use OnScale as an overflow or backup resource if their in-house capacity couldn’t cope with a sudden rise in workload. Everyone liked the one-price model, with a single transaction covering both software and hardware.

It’ll be interesting to see if Ansys adopts any of these licensing concepts or if this was purely a technology buy.