People use computers for a wide variety of purposes. The computer you have in your home can perform a variety of tasks. You can surf the web, play video games, and (unfortunately) get some work done. The job most of us do comes down to a collection of documents, or perhaps working with multiple Excel spreadsheets. You can even create small content like video editing.
The average modern home computer can do all of this to one degree or another. Then there are dedicated workstations. Professional grade devices that are used for everything from professional sound recording to complex scientific and engineering simulations.
After all, these desktop workstations can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, they end up paying off for their work, but it can take a while – with a significant upfront cost.
But now there may be an alternative way to gain access to serious computing power – cloud computing.
What is cloud modeling?
What is cloud-based simulation?
Most of us already use cloud computing services on a daily basis. If you use Gmail, DropBox, or Office 365, you gain access to the resources of the remote computer. This form of cloud computing is known as SaaS or Software as a Service.
This is one of the ways to use cloud computing. You can also rent time on the vast array of powerful computers that make up cloud data centers. Then launch any software.
Cloud modeling is available as SaaS offerings. Think of it as cloud-based versions of software that you could run on a powerful engineering or scientific workstation. You can use a regular computer or mobile device to access the interface of this software.
You program a simulation or load your data, and then hundreds of processors are turned on for a short amount of time to compute the numbers. In a few seconds, or perhaps minutes later, the simulation results will be available.
Cloud Modeling Examples
Examples of cloud-based simulations
Cloud modeling services are gaining popularity and it seems like every few months we hear about a new service. While the question of which service is potentially right for you is beyond the scope of this article, there are some striking examples that well demonstrate the diversity and breadth of this new technology application.
The SimScale pictured above is used by engineers, scientists, and designers. From a virtual wind tunnel to fluid dynamics and mechanical stress tests. You can do it all from your tablet, and their server farms take over the hard work.
AutoDesk offers cloud-based versions of its standard CAD software CAD workstations are a staple category of professional computers, but with a cloud solution you don’t have to worry about, for example, having an expensive GPU for your workstation.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of incredible computing power that will soon be available to almost everyone.
Pros of a local workstation
Domestic workstation pros
Using a cloud-based simulation solution instead of using a local professional computer is not yet the best idea for everyone. Indeed, only a few key categories of professional users are best suited to migrate to the cloud now.
So why would you use a local workstation? The first major benefit of this approach is data privacy. If you use any third party computing tools, your data will be out of your hands. Therefore, if you are working on something very important, you must be 100% sure that the security measures and privacy policies of the service provider are in compliance.
Another great advantage of the local workstation option is that it can run a wide variety of software. Workstations have been the dominant solution for decades. So most of the support is still there. The point is, your niche professional software suite may not be in the cloud yet.
Pros of Cloud Modeling
Pros of cloud simulation
When it comes to cloud modeling, there is a lot to be said for this new method of solving complex problems with hot computing hardware.
First, cloud modeling does not have a large upfront cost. You pay only for what you use, or for a fixed subscription that includes a certain amount of use. In any case, costs can be kept to a minimum. Think of it as electricity. You flip a switch and you’re billed for your power consumption.
When you use local computing power, you have to pay for all hardware, maintenance and upgrades, without using the machine 100% most of the time, and perhaps needing it to deliver more than 100% at critical times.
Mobility is another important factor. Almost any device with an internet connection and a modern web browser can use the cloud service. This means you don’t have to lug around a large workstation-class laptop or portable desktop computer. It’s amazing that an engineer can get an iPad on the spot and run a simulation at will.
The cloud is not for everyone
The cloud is not for everyone
Of course, there are also disadvantages. For example, the reliability of a service is entirely in the hands of the service provider, which makes important service level agreements important. For individual users, this means that you must plan for unavoidable outages. Even if a service has 99% uptime, it will fail at some point.
You will also need a fair amount of internet bandwidth to move this data around, and you can rest assured that the company will protect it when it gets in their hands. If that doesn’t seem to be a problem to you, then instead of updating these workstations, it might be time to sign the dotted line.