A $500 million shopping spree has left the biggest CAD vendor in the world with a wealth of CAE tools. Autodesk, known for design software such as AutoCAD and assorted vertical apps (Inventor, Revit, Civil3D and the like) now also has to figure out what to do with Algor (general purpose FEA), Moldflow (mold flow analysis) PlassoTech (FEA, again), Solid Dynamics (kinematics) and Blue Ridge Numerics (fluid dynamics). It is as motley a collection of CAE tools as there ever was. Each product has brought with it a unique interface, developers and code base…and user base.
While PlassoTech and Solid Dynamics will not go forward as products (Autodesk says their technology will find its way in other applications), faithful adherents of Moldflow, Algor and Blue Ridge products need not fear that their trusted apps will die of neglect, lost in a huge company.
In fact, there is a formula for each product’s future, says Autodesk’s Bob Williams, who is representing Autodesk’s newly assembled SIM Squad, a loosely linked group whose purpose seems to be to evangelicize CAE products, individually and collectively, to the public and internally to the company. Such a group within a larger company seems like the way to go, in contrast to a monolithic leadership which may not have the necessary time and energy to assure the ongoing success of varied and various products despite the initial commitment of money and effort expended in their acquisition.
Remember Visio? Yeah, that’s my point. Swallowed by Microsoft, never to be heard of again.
But along with the full attention of Autodesk will come changes.
In the first stage, the various CAE products will exist with their previous identity intact, says Bob. In the second stage, they will share the same interface – including the ribbon toolbar. Ok, maybe they will all look kind of like Inventor, Bob concedes. I suppose you have to start somewhere. Finally, they will share the same code base.
Bob also tells me the SIM products will be CAD-agnostic.
Hmm. How CAD-agnostic would they be, exactly? Moldflow was in use as an add-in not just for Inventor, but also for Pro/E. Bob vows to they will not be cutting off support of competitive products.
If done properly, Autodesk’s clout could make the CAE products as ubiquitous for analysis as MS Office is for general use. I can see a CAE suite just over the horizon. It won’t matter if each application is best of breed. They will work similarly. They will share data. They will be bundled at a price too low to ignore. Maybe a few ANSYS devotees may eventually do a last stand. Remember Lotus before Microsoft rolled over them?
ANSYS may be best equipped to make the last stand, itself having built up a coterie of varied CAE tools and covering so many types of analyses that they now refer to themselves as purveyors of multi-physics – a term that would seem to encompass all everything under the sun and beyond.
But I am getting ahead of the story. For now, I’d have to say don’t bet against Autodesk as it seeks to establish itself in the world of CAE.