ANSYS is a global leader in computer-aided simulation software. Based near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company’s software applications help engineers solve their most complex design challenges through engineering simulations in areas such as fluid dynamics, electromagnetics, and structural mechanics. Many modern products, from smartphones to airplanes, are designed using ANSYS software solutions. With these solutions, engineers can do everything from designing more aerodynamic automobiles to building more efficient data centers. An AWS Partner Network (APN) Partner for several years, ANSYS recently became an advanced APN Technology Partner. The company earned $936 million in revenue in 2014.

For the large and small organizations that use ANSYS software, computing capacity and performance are constant challenges. “Engineering simulation is extremely compute-intensive,” says Judd Kaiser, program manager for cloud computing at ANSYS. “Our customers require a larger number of processing cores and more memory to solve ever-larger problems, but they don’t want to build data centers to support the new resources they need.” Additionally, ANSYS customers need globally deployed solutions. “Our customers are increasingly distributed around the world, so they have to have global access to consistent tools and shared data to enable collaborative engineering,” says Kaiser.

To meet these specific customer needs, ANSYS looked to the cloud. “We saw cloud computing as an enabler for our customers because we thought it could give them the scalability and global delivery they were looking for from us,” says Wim Slagter, director, HPC & cloud marketing at ANSYS. “We also thought the cloud could help many of our enterprise customers centralize their simulation assets.”

When ANSYS began searching for the right cloud technology to support its solutions, it quickly focused on Amazon Web Services (AWS). “We did a lot of industry research that showed AWS as the clear leader,” says Kaiser. “It soon became clear to us that nobody has the breadth of services AWS can offer. In addition, AWS could provide the global availability our customers demanded, and that was a critical factor.” 

After it had begun its relationship with AWS, ANSYS created ANSYS® Enterprise Cloud™, a new engineering simulation platform in the cloud that is deployed as a turnkey solution within customers’ dedicated corporate accounts. The solution, which can be managed by customers or their partners, offers complete simulation workloads in the cloud. “Using AWS, we can essentially deliver a complete simulation data center, so customers can conduct their simulations in the cloud rather than on-premises,” says Kaiser. “With this solution, our customers can do things like pre- and post-processing and interactions with 3D models, which are tasks normally done on high-end engineering desktops, as well as scale-out computing of solver jobs, traditionally requiring expensive HPC clusters on-premises.”

ANSYS Enterprise Cloud is built on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and uses a wide range of AWS instance types and services to deliver the solution, including the memory-intensive Amazon EC2 R3 family, the compute-optimized C family, and GPU-enabled G2 instances. 

The solution also uses the Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for archival storage, as well as AWS CloudFormation templates and AWS Lambda to automate the deployment and configuration of the solution.

Because it can deliver its simulation workloads to customers via the AWS cloud, ANSYS can now help its customers achieve the scalability they need to take on the most demanding simulations. “Enabling access to a cloud high-performance computing infrastructure removes a barrier to scale for our customers. When engineers get into the ANSYS Enterprise Cloud environment, they have access to unlimited compute resources,” says Kaiser. “They can access workstations that are far bigger than the ones on their desktops, with far more capacity and performance. They can get access to an environment that behaves like an interactive workstation with a GPU and up to 244 gigabytes of RAM, and then submit compute jobs to a cluster that has as many cores as they need.”

ANSYS customers also have the agility to deploy engineering resources on demand. “If an engineering organization decided it needed to give access to 100 engineers to do a job, we can have a complete simulation data center ready in the cloud in hours. Previously, that would have taken months, because the organization would have had to provision, acquire, install, and configure servers. The agility we get through AWS is unprecedented.” Customers using ANSYS Enterprise Cloud also have more elasticity. “If an engineer submits a job in the cloud, the compute resource starts, the job runs, and the resource goes away,” says Kaiser. “That’s the kind of elasticity our customers lacked. Using AWS, our customers can do more engineering faster, and they can do it earlier in the design process.”

Now, ANSYS customers have global access to simulation software when they need it. “Our customers that have geographically distributed teams can gain easy access to a consistent set of tools by using the cloud,” Kaiser says. “That means they can collaborate and manage software updates more easily.”

Also, because the cloud enables fast deployment, ANSYS has been able to decrease the time-to-market for its services. Using AWS, ANSYS was able to create its new solution, quickly bring it to market, and learn from the market through pilot programs. “It only took about six months from inception to customer-facing beta deployments,” says Kaiser. “That’s impressive because you’re talking about a solution that includes a database, archive storage, visualization nodes, high-performance compute nodes, and an auto-scaling cluster. For all of that to be engineered so quickly really speaks to the agility of developing on AWS.”

ANSYS has also benefited from participating in the AWS Partner Network. “AWS helped us find and work with other APN Partners who already had expertise running workloads in the cloud, such as Cycle Computing and NICE Software, to develop our ANSYS Enterprise Cloud solution,” says Kaiser. “And overall, our relationship with AWS as an APN Partner has been extremely productive. The APN team has been very engaged with us and instrumental in helping us engineer our system, and now we’re seeing our relationship grow as we’ve become an Advanced Technology Partner. For instance, we recently had a challenge with a file system on a customer deployment. Very quickly, AWS was engaged at the highest level and gave us access to Partner Solution Architects who helped us solve the issue.”

ANSYS anticipates driving new business growth as it heads into the future. “We are seeing a lot of interest from India,” says Kaiser. “That’s an emerging market rich in engineering talent, but it has organizations that struggle to have enough compute resources on hand. They have a real hunger for the cloud, and we think we will be able to help them get up and running quickly using AWS.” And ANSYS expects to realize more internal benefits as it expands its relationship with AWS. “Our ANSYS Enterprise Cloud team is already getting faster at making changes to the solution,” says Kaiser. “If a customer wants a cluster to use a different instance type, for example, it’s easy for us to re-engineer the architecture of instance types within AWS to make that happen quickly.”

The company will also continue expanding its use of newer AWS technologies for its customer solutions. “We are doing a proof of concept around Amazon WorkSpaces for our internal dev and test environments,” says Kaiser. “And we’re looking into the new Amazon Aurora database service, as well as scalable solutions such as the Amazon Elastic File System.” The organization is also exploring the connection of its simulation software to the Internet of Things for predictive analytics. “We will be gathering real-world data from the field and executing simulation quickly in the cloud,” Kaiser says. “As a result, we hope to have access to information we don’t have yet to make decisions that we can’t currently make. The cloud is an obvious way for us to be able to do that. With all our upcoming projects and initiatives, we’ll continue to look to AWS to help us, so we can grow and change as quickly as we need to.”

To learn more about ANSYS, visit the company's AWS Partner Directory listing