On a bright sunny Friday, I ventured out to San Francisco’s South of Market District (SOMA), to locate the office of Rescale in the cluster of start-ups that dot the neighborhood. Somewhere between GreenCitizen Inc. and Kate O’Briens Irish pub, I found the buzzer to Rescale’s door.
Sunny Manivannan, Rescale’s VP of business development, popped his head out to identify the entrance. (I had already overshot the floor and was half way up another flight.) “The floor labeling system isn’t the best here,” he said.
Rescale is already up and running. You haven’t heard much about the company because, according to Sunny, it has only had a “soft launch.” It’s tiptoeing into the cloud-hosted simulation market, but with a twist. The company provides a platform — a layer of software sitting on top of high-performance computing (HPC) hardware — that lets you create and run customized, repeatable, multi-solver simulation and optimization cycles.
Let’s say, in a standard design exploration, your engineers usually begin with a structural analysis in Dassault Systemes SIMULIA. Afterward, they might use the results to run thermal analysis with MSC Nastran, and then perform additional calculations on certain parameters in MathWorks MATLAB. This entire loop from start to finish could be specified in Rescale’s web-hosted interface, to run on Rescale’s hardware.
“The types of jobs our customers want to solve are pretty compute-intense,” said Joris Poort, CEO and cofounder of Rescale. “So all the management of the cluster in the back end is taken care of by us.”
If one software can take advantage of the GPU, but others perform better on CPU cores, Rescale’s back-end infrastructure can balance the load and core distribution in a way that makes the most sense. Rescale is not a software reseller; however, if you need to acquire more licenses to run your simulation (for example, more HPC licenses so you can use additional cores to compute your job faster), Rescale will handle the license negotiation.
“We can run [the simulation] using the customer’s existing licenses, or we can run it using on-demand licenses — weekly, monthly, depending on the vendor,” said Joris.”That’s a big part of what we help solve for our customers. We tell them not to worry about the licensing issues. We work with vendors — Dassault, MSC, ANSYS, and others — to figure out the best licensing plan for our clients.”
“We all believe more simulation leads to better products,” noted Sunny. “But the problem that you run into is, maybe you don’t have the compute power. The second problem is, it’s not easy to build a simulation pipeline that’s scalable for all the software involved.”
Rescale’s hardware-software combo platform is the outcome of Joris’ experience at Boeing, where he worked for four years as a structural and software engineer on the 787 program. For a firm of Boeing’s size, HPC resources wasn’t the problem; the problem was integrating many different software packages into one comprehensive simulation cycle. Rescale’s hosted software, which functions like middleware, addresses the integration.
The company is targeting mostly large enterprises and some midsized businesses that need to run HPC-powered simulation. Rescale’s business model is a good fit for manufacturers who need to run complex simulation and optimization jobs, but don’t necessarily want to invest in the HPC hardware required. (This would be the case if such simulation exercises are critical to the business, but not activities they must undertake routinely.) Rescale’s on-demand platform could also augment manufacturers with peak simulation demands that their in-house IT infrastructure cannot cope with.
Many businesses are looking to cloud computing to augment their existing resources or reduce their IT overhead. Rescale recognizes that, with simulation software, access to cloud-hosted hardware is just one part of the solution — and not even the most important part. The true value Rescale offers is a cloud-hosted HPC platform that scale up or down according to peak-time and low-time demands, along with a browser-based workflow designer to specify and set up your commonly executed simulation exercises.