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Overcoming Limitations with an On-Demand Cloud Solver

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As indicated in another blog post, there are many benefits to use cloud hosted applications to over-come business constraints. While that post was more focused on cloud applications in general, this one focuses on the limitations of engineering consultants using CFD tools. It looks at the engineer's constraints in terms of competing, growing, and cash-flowing their consulting projects. 

The EXN/Aero CFD Solver is innovative in the way that it reduces simulation times by 10-20x (cost normalized) which enables engineers to run larger, higher resolution, and more complex simulations for a lot less cost. The second way it is innovative is how you can access the solver on-demand via our cloud host, and only pay for the time you use (on top of a nominal monthly subscription fee). This article explores the various challenges of engineering consultants, and how EXN/Aero On-Demand can help you overcome these limitations.

Competing

With the rise in popularity of consultant directory sites like Upwork, Outsourcely, Freelancer, and Guru, providing a unique and competitive service offering is increasingly critical. Many CFD consultants do this by offering services in niche simulation areas, but often that is not enough. It is straight-forward to become more competitive simply by changing the scale at which you operate, however doing this in the CFD world can be quite costly with traditional commercial tools and traditional compute resources. 

To overcome these issues, our users used the on-demand tool to:

  • Upsell existing clients on larger or more complex models
  • Offer a higher through-put of simulations to prospective clients
  • Offer shorter turn-around times on simulations
  • Upsell existing customers on high resolution models (DES/LES)
  • Supplement their existing CFD workflow using the on-demand tool for additional or more challenging runs
  • Include CFD services in marketing materials, then activating it if they secure the contract
  • Bid lower on projects

An recent example of this is an engineering firm providing a standard coarse simulation as part of a bid on a major service contract. EXN/Aero enabled them to run an LES simulation on the fly, which gave the prospective client a much greater understanding of their problem. This helped them secure the contract. 

Growing

Growing an engineering consulting practice can be costly and risky. Bidding on larger projects without having the compute resources in place can cause issues for service delivery if the client has timely expectations. Alternatively, if a client's needs increase suddenly, it can be difficult to get the simulation resources in place quickly to turn that work around. 

Faced with these issues, our users often:

  • Bid on larger simulation projects outside their compute resource capacity
  • Upsell their existing clients on more challenging simulations
  • Provision compute resources on the fly to scale with customer demands
  • Test out simulations on new applications 
  • Propose the use of simulations on jobs where it was normally cost prohibitive

One of our users has client work that fluctuates often. He subscribed to our on-demand solver ($250/mo) and when client needs sharply jumped he would provision compute resources on the fly. He could start-up many simulations simultaneously to help him handle the heavy workload. 

Cash-Flowing

Cash is king in any business, but is especially true in the consulting world. Investing $30,000-$60,000 in software licenses and additional cash for compute resources can be the difference between an engineer's ability to offer CFD services or not. Open source software is a good option, but it lacks urgent technical support and isn't a high performance solution. Operating on more than 4 CPUs can become very expensive, with some vendors charging upwards of $1,000 per additional core. Many of the commercial solvers who offer "on-demand" solutions still require an annual license subscription. 

To get beyond these limitations, our users:

  • Use the on-demand model to protect their cash flow (paying for usage only every 30 days with no annual license)
  • Increase their simulation throughput without purchasing additional license seats
  • Avoid the maintenance fees and overhead expenses associated with managing a cluster

One of our customers wanted his team of engineers to offer CFD alongside their FEA services. The on-demand tool enabled her to package that as an offering as part of their regular services without setting up additional compute infrastructure or purchasing licenses. As soon as she signed her first CFD contract, her team was able to launch right into the simulations without waiting for compute hardware. 

Conclusion

Combining a powerful CFD solver with the ability to access it on the cloud and the ability to pay only for what you use enables you to compete, grow, and better manage your cash-flow. Many users run a test case to get a sense of the interface, workflow, and speed up, if you are interested please click here

2017-04-7 | Categories: CFD, Consulting