Autodesk is quickening the pace of its cloud-computing strategy shift with what it calls the industry's first "pay as you go" simulation service. Called Simulation 360, the cloud-based subscription offering promises to slash the costs of simulation testing for mechanical engineering projects, the results of which can make or break a successful job.

"We're packing it up in three different tiers," says Grant Rochelle, senior director of industry marketing for San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk. Simulation 360 is the latest offering sincethe company launched last spring its cloud strategy and a suite of offerings calledAutodesk 360.

The software can run simulation tests for mechanical engineering disciplines such as fluid flow and thermal systems. Other engineering models are expected in later releases of the service.

Value in the Cloud

"This is the big value we see with the cloud," Rochelle adds. The firm is shifting to a software-as-a-service paradigm for its software and traditional desktop products. By applying almost infinite computing resources to simulation, cloud-based services can cut the cost of simulation testing and on-premises testing.

The prices are well below what a typical desktop workstation can cost a firm looking to do some mechanical analysis. Basic simulation installations can start at $10,000 per seat, Rochelle notes, adding, "If you want to do, say, fluid simulations, you're probably looking at $20,000." The price goes up from there for more complex simulations.

With the Simulation 360 offering, Autodesk has broken the subscription model into three tiers. The first is priced at $3,200 for a 12-month subscription period or 120 jobs (whichever comes first) and covers mechanical and computation fluid dynamic (CFD) models.

The second is priced at $7,200 and includes mechanical and CFD capabilities for an unlimited number of jobs over 12 months.

The third-tier offering is called the "ultimate subscription" and is priced at $10,000. It includes mechanical, CFD and moldflow capabilities for the 120 jobs provided in a year.

For this service, Autodesk defines a job as meshing and solving a simulation model—using Autodesk Simulation 360—for one set of boundary conditions, regardless of the size or type of the simulation model. For example, a spokesperson explains, a single simulation of a small, simple structural model or a very large, complex CFD model will consume one simulation job. There are also cases in which a simulation study might need several "jobs" to solve the issue. Three "solves" might equal three jobs, the company says.