The post-event press conference just finished for the first Analysis, Simulation, and Systems Engineering Software Summit (ASSESS 2015). I thank the organizers for allowing me to listen in.
ASSESS grew out of an idea broached at 2014’s colocated NAFEMS World Congress and Collaboration and Interoperability Congress; the idea being that an event dedicated to discussing issues pertaining to the use of simulation software in engineering design was warranted.
Cyon Research’s Brad Holtz and intrinSIM’s Joe Walsh proposed ASSESS and were overwhelmed by the positive response from the simulation community. Very shortly they found that interest in the summit was exceeding the capacity of the event site. In the end, 41 ambassadors from across the simulation world were invited for a full day dedicated to assessing the challenges we collectively face.
Top 9 Challenges Facing Simulation
Through a process that began with 104 topics contributed by the ambassadors, subsequent collation and consolidation into 24 topics for voting using a 7-point system, the resulting top 9 topics are (in reverse order):
- software licensing models
- myriad technical issues labeled “unsexy” [meshing has to be in here]
- achieving adequate turnaround for a desired level of fidelity
- use of heterogenous models
- knowledge capture and re-use
- web, cloud, and mobile
- ease of use, usability, user experience
- design-centered workflows
- conducting simulation with pre-CAD (i.e. conceptual design)
So to be clear, use of simulation during conceptual design was considered the top issue. This dovetails with an answer Joe Walsh provided during the Q&A in which he said the group has the sense that simulation is at an inflection point where the number of designs is exploding and physical testing is proving inadequate by itself.
In response to another question during the Q&A, Joe Walsh identified other so-called hidden challenges (i.e. ones that arose only after the ambassadors had spent some time working through the other list as opposed to the ones everyone brought with them).
- Software vendors are challenged by the ability to keep pace with next generation computing hardware; the computers that will introduce major programming paradigm shifts.
- Usability issues that require close collaboration between users and vendors and have to be solved often before the ROI is known.
- Vendors find it difficult to fund large, long-term deep research efforts – the kinds presumably needed to make substantive progress on these big issues.
Commonality with NASA’s CFD Vision 2030 Study
At first glance there are a couple of places where the summit’s top issues overlap those of the CFD Vision 2030 Study (about which I’ve written copiously).
First, the need to be able to fully exploit advanced computing architectures when they become available for production use. Since it’s hard to predict the future, perhaps the best bet is to architect our software products in a way that anticipates the need to change algorithms in the future.
Second, the need for improved usability. I find a parallel with the study’s labeling of mesh generation as “onerous” and the desire to make it invisible. Obviously, meshing is just the tip of the iceberg [or is it the huge part below the water?] when it comes to simulation usability but I think everyone recognizes the need to eliminate as much of the manual burden as possible.
There will be a 2-hour, special session in advance of COFES 2015 at which “we’ll present an overview of the summit, present many of the top items raised at ASSESS, and which will lead to a discussion of the issues.” COFES is a for-fee, invitation-only event but the fee will be waived for those interested in attending only this special plenary session. Contact Brad Holtz if interested in an invitation.
Also, acknowledging that the ranking of issues by the summit’s ambassadors may be skewed toward the software vendor viewpoint, the organizers plan to put the list of 24 issues up for ranking by non-vendors and see how, if at all, things change.
P.S. To be explicitly clear, I did not attend the summit, only the press conference. I have already registered for COFES 2015 and look forward to the follow-on discussion. Any inaccuracies, misunderstandings, or outright errors in this article are entirely my fault for taking poor notes during the press conference; after all, it was my first.