Whenever a product manager shows me a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) package, I wonder about its potential as a Web-hosted application. A typical FEA session involves so much calculation it’s bound to put a strain on even the fastest workstation. Ideally, meshing and solving should be left to a series of dedicated servers, a high-performance computing setup. The outputs the user is mostly interested in — the color-coded screens showing how a part would fail, the animation showing how a part behaves under stress, and the numeric values associated with the action — could easily be delivered over the Web. Besides, FEA is not something an engineer does willy-nilly; it’s reserves for designs that have reached a critical phase. If I were in need of engineering analysis, I’d rather log in to a SaaS (software as a service) portal, upload my part, then collect the results.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who fancy such a workflow. The people at DezineForce, a company headquartered in the UK, are counting on this scenario becoming the norm. Dr. Peter Collins, the company’s CEO, said, “This on-demand SaaS model will enable DezineForce to reach a global customer base of small and large engineering companies alike. This solution provides high quality services to all in the market, enabling organizations both in the UK and abroad to access technology with an ease and at a cost level never before experienced.”
DezineForce offers well-known solutions from ANSYS, MSC Software, Oasys, and Dassault Systemes. Among the products you can access are ANSYS’ Fluent, MSC Software’s Pastran, Oasys’ PRIMER, and Dassault’s CATIA. The company offers yearly subscription packages: Designer (£30,000, $45,000); Experienced (£60,000; $90,000); and Ultimate (£90,000; $135,000). The differences among those packages are in the storage size and the analysis hours you get. For example, Designer comes with 0.5 Terabytes of storage and 1,500 hours, whereas Ultimate comes with 2 Terabytes and 5,400 hours.
To complement these analysis packages, DezineForce adds its own components: Workflow, which guides you through the design process and monitors your jobs, and Optimization Introduction, which lets you configure your job into a set of objectives, variables, and constraints.
In the announcement about a round of funding it recently completed, DezineForce revealed one of its investors is Steve Garnett, chairman of Salesforce.com, a SaaS pioneer. Garnett said, “There’s no doubt that the SaaS model has now reached a level of maturity and trust that sees organizations flocking to use these services. The Web now enables businesses to move away from the costly model of buying on-premises software with all the headaches of upfront investment, complex maintenance and a lifetime of IT support.”
“DezineForce has done the hard work of commission, installing, and maintaining the infrastructure,” said Collins. “What this allows you to do, is to focus on what you do best — design.”