Defining the Future of Cloud-based Engineering Simulation: ANSYS at AWS re:Invent 2016

Each year the cloud faithful converge on Las Vegas in the fall for AWS re:Invent. This year’s event delivered exciting announcements for ANSYS users interested in performing engineering simulation on the AWS cloud.

With well over 30,000 attendees, the 2016 conference was too big to be contained within the expansive Venetian hotel/Sands expo complex and it spilled across into adjacent facilities (comfortable shoes were a requirement). Wednesday’s keynote session by Andy Jassy, CEO and Thursday’s session by Werner Vogels, CTO highlighted the growing reach of AWS. The conference featured a staggering number of new features, services and some powerful new hardware.

AWS re:Invent 2016 keynote with Andy Jassy, CEO, Amazon Web Services (click to view larger)

There were more new launches this year than I could possibly cover in one blog post, but there were more than a few announcements worth highlighting for ANSYS users interested in using the public cloud for engineering simulation. These new features will no doubt power upcoming enhancements to ANSYS Enterprise Cloud

New instance types will push cloud HPC boundaries

One of the key advantages of the public cloud is the rapid hardware refresh rate. Each year brings new, more powerful virtual machines and this year was no exception. Amazon announced the general availability of the new R4 memory-optimized family of instances. At the high end, these instances double the memory, number of vCPUs and network bandwidth of the previous generation R3 instance family. ANSYS Enterprise Cloud currently uses R3’s for both high-memory interactive sessions and for the auto-scaling HPC cluster used for Mechanical simulations. Watch for an upcoming blog post on updated Mechanical solver benchmarks!

Also announced were the next-generation compute-optimized instances, the C5 family. Based on Intel’s Xeon “Skylake” processor, C5’s feature up to 72 vCPUs and 144 GiB of memory per node and ENA networking which delivers up to 20 Gbps. ANSYS Enterprise Cloud currently uses C4 instances for the auto-scaling HPC clusters used for CFD and Electronics batch solves. When the C5 instances become available, it will be interesting to update our CFD solver benchmark tests to see how high this improved performance will push the ceiling of HPC on AWS.

Powerful new features for cloud-based graphics

To take full advantage of HPC in the cloud, it’s important to support more than batch compute workloads. To enable the full engineering simulation workflow, we need to be able to work with the results in the cloud. Given that simulation workloads include complex 3D graphics, that necessitates a server-side GPU for good graphics performance. The challenge is getting a virtual machine that include the right mix of GPU, CPU and RAM.

For ANSYS Enterprise Cloud, we engineered a solution that combines a high-memory virtual machine with a separate virtual machine that includes a GPU in order to deliver a high-powered cloud-based graphics workstation experience; for that we rely on NICE Software’s external rendering feature for DCV. AWS acquired NICE Software in early 2016 and has used their technology to deliver Amazon EC2 Elastic GPUs, which allows you to attach a GPU (several size options are available) to the virtual machine of your choice.

“AWS works closely with technology leaders like ANSYS to ensure that we’re delivering the functionality needed to help customers achieve their goals. To get the full benefit of cloud-based HPC, ANSYS recognized that engineering simulation users require access to interactive sessions with both GPU-accelerated graphics AND larger amounts of RAM and made this as a cornerstone capability of ANSYS Enterprise Cloud. We’re pleased that Amazon EC2 Elastic GPUs will make this ability available to all AWS customers.”
Matt Garman, Vice President, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

Also announced was AppStream 2.0; the second generation of AWS’ application streaming service which will make it easier for ISV’s like ANSYS to deliver rich cloud-based graphics experiences right in your web browser. I was proud to join Tosh Tambe and Supreeth Sheshadri of AWS on stage at re:Invent as a launch partner during the break-out session highlighting Elastic GPU and AppStream 2.0.

engineering simulation in the cloud

ANSYS on screen (streaming from the cloud in a web browser) as Tosh Tambe presents the new launch of AWS Elastic GPU and AppStream 2.0 at AWS re:Invent 2016

Here’s the full video.

An emerging batch service

Another announcement highlighted in Andy Jassy’s keynote session was a new batch job service called, sensibly, AWS Batch. While it’s still in preview mode, this fully managed service promises to greatly simplify the process of orchestrating large-scale HPC jobs on AWS. We’ll be keeping our eye on this service as it becomes generally available and later adds support for MPI parallel jobs.

Putting it all together

So if you combine new high-performance instance types with enhanced high-bandwidth low latency networking, the ability to attach a GPU to any instance types and new services for streaming graphics sessions and managing batch jobs, it’s easy to see that AWS is getting very very serious about supporting cloud-based engineering simulation at scale. These new launches will improve performance, reduce complexity, improve user experience and drive down the cost of performing engineering simulation on the cloud.

And then… having a little fun

AWS also announced new services aimed at bringing Artificial Intelligence into the mainstream. Amazon Lex brings the engine that powers Amazon Alexa to enable developers to build conversational interfaces using voice and text (GE has already announced a lamp you can talk to).

Add to that Amazon Polly, a service that turns text into lifelike speech and Amazon Rekognition, a service that makes it easy to add image analysis to applications and we can imagine… this:

“Alexa, run a design optimization over the weekend on spot instances only if the market price stays below 10 percent of the on demand price and show me the results which most closely resemble…”

Incidentally, the conference swag this year included an Echo Dot for every attendee, so clearly Amazon wants me to be ready.

Why Do Supercomputing Records Even Matter?

Some world records are the stuff of legend. The official land-speed record is 763 mph.  The tallest man living measures 251 cm. The fastest ball bowled by any bowler is 100.23 mph and the heaviest vehicle pulled over a level, 100 ft course weighs 68,090 kg.  Compared to these feats, records for supercomputing can seem a little flat. However, they are no less impressive and indeed, and stand to have a far greater impact on our day-to-day lives. Continue reading

SGI and ANSYS Achieve New World Record in HPC

Looking back at the past couple of years of extraordinary joint engineering projects SGI and ANSYS have undertaken, it is clear to me that when a synergetic hardware and software partnership is established you, our joint customers, are the clear beneficiary. To that end, I would like to walk you through four such examples.

The first example was outlined over a year ago in my ANSYS guest blog, “Solving the Impossible Electromagnetic Simulation with HPC” where with a “grand challenge” benchmark we jointly demonstrated that the SGI® UV platform and ANSYS HFSS software could solve very large, high frequency electromagnetics problems like cosite analysis and radar cross section (RCS) analysis, as well as allow multiple frequency sweeps to be run without running out of computer system memory. Continue reading

Maximizing Engineering Throughput with Pay-Per-Use Simulation in the Cloud

My colleagues Steve Del, Giovanni Petrone and I often discuss the benefits of moving engineering simulation to the cloud, marshalling greater computing resources and faster processing on high-performance computing (HPC) solutions. While most companies would find this compelling, budget-conscious companies are concerned about the costs. The missing piece is a pay-per-use simulation business model, where  you use what you need, when you need it, and only pay for what you use.

Well, now that piece is in place. Last week’s release of ANSYS Enterprise Cloud adds support for ANSYS Elastic Licensing™, enabling you to fully leverage the pay-per-use business model on the public cloud for both hardware and software. Continue reading

BorgWarner Goes Full Speed with ANSYS HPC Parametric Packs

It doesn’t matter what car you drive — it could be a snazzy Ferrari or a humble FIAT Punto — ultimately what we’re all looking for is a car that performs well and maybe saves us a little money at the pump.

The upcoming joint ANSYS-ESTECO webinar on September 15th will discuss just how important a single component, in this case, a tensioner arm, can be. Chain tensioner arms may not be as well known as pistons and gearboxes, but, by maintaining the correct amount of tension on the chain at all times throughout its duty cycle, they are important for reliable operation of the accessory chain drive system. The chain tensioner also helps protect other components, such as the alternator and water pump, from undue stress and premature failure. A well-designed chain tensioner can also help boost engine performance and efficiency. Continue reading

How to Greatly Reduce HPC Costs for Engineering Simulation on Cloud

Most simulation engineers with a hunger for high performance computing (HPC) have looked longingly to the cloud. Cloud computing has the potential to provide virtually unlimited access to HPC, enabling larger simulations and more design variations to be done in less time, since many machines working in parallel can solve even very large problems quickly. While the cloud offers much more than unlimited computing power, it’s those HPC resources that provide the strongest pull to the cloud. The question we seek to answer here is, “is it possible to get cloud-based HPC at very low cost?” Continue reading

Scaling ANSYS-Related Workloads to Increase Performance

Manufacturers are under intense pressure to create and introduce new products on a consistent basis in order to remain competitive. Those that can conceive, develop, test and bring products to market quickly stand to realize improvements to overall business performance and profitability.

Computer-aided engineering (CAE) streamlines the product development process and drives faster time-to-market by helping manufacturers resolve design challenges, forecast real world product performance and test fewer prototypes.

Best-of-breed CAE software like ANSYS can nurture design innovation and enable faster delivery of more successful product offerings, but only if IT can scale to support a wide range of CAE applications and workloads. Continue reading

Getting Faster, Cost-effective Simulation on the Cloud

To get the most value out of engineering simulation, ANSYS customers often take advantage of high performance computing (HPC). In simple terms, HPC enables you to apply a group of computers running in parallel to solve larger problems and/or reduce the solution time for a given problem. Unlike “embarrassingly parallel” applications like genomics or graphics rendering, all of the compute cores involved in a single Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation need to communicate with each other during the solution process. That places significant demands on the network fabric used to connect the machines. Cloud computing can certainly provide computing capacity at a vast, global scale, but can it provide the desired HPC performance? Continue reading

Cloud Offers Much More Than Unlimited Computing Power

enterprise cloud solutionsAre you considering moving to a cloud solution for your engineering simulation needs? The chances are that it’s your hunger for high-performance computing (HPC) that’s making you consider the cloud. While the cloud can deliver computing infrastructure on an unprecedented scale, but by focusing exclusively on CPU cycles, you might be failing to consider some other significant benefits. An engineered cloud solution like ANSYS Enterprise Cloud can put your organization on the fast track to using a mature, enterprise-grade engineering simulation environment that rivals those used on premise by industry leaders who have worked closely with technology providers and pioneered the use of simulation to deliver world-leading products. Continue reading

Cloud Computing Best Practices for Engineering Simulation Pt.2

In the first part of this two-part post, I already addressed four of the eight cloud computing best practices that are fundamentally related to simulation data and end-user access. Now I’ll address best practices that are associated with licensing, HPC workloads, and business support for cloud deployments. Continue reading