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Making the Best Choice for High-Performance Computing (HPC) for Engineering Simulation

There are a lot of options for HPC to boost simulation performance. TotalCAE offers solutions for both cloud-based and on-premises HPC.

There are a lot of options for HPC to boost simulation performance. TotalCAE offers solutions for both cloud-based and on-premises HPC.

TotalCAE offers options to run HPC anywhere. Images courtesy of TotalCAE.

There are many choices for adopting High-Performance Computing (HPC) to reduce simulation times from clusters to the cloud and from doing it themselves or partnering with a solutions provider. Clients often need help knowing where to start with all the available options.

This article is to help clients with the pros and cons of the available options for adopting HPC.

On-Premises Build vs. Buy Options

For buying HPC hardware on-premises, the two choices are:

1. BUILD a general HPC cluster from a vendor like Dell, HPE, or Lenovo and try to integrate, update and manage the system and your CAE software.

2. BUY a completely managed turn-key TotalCAE HPC Infinite Appliance that gives you an on-premises managed cluster solution for the HPC and CAE applications

Cloud Build vs. Buy Options

On the cloud, the options are 

1. BUILD a cloud system using cloud toolkits from AWS or Azure and manage the system, security, billing, management, and CAE software yourself.

2. BUY a completely managed turn-key SaaS solution for your engineering applications that live in your cloud subscription, like TotalCAE on Azure or TotalCAE on AWS.

3. BUY your vendors' CAE cloud solutions, such as CONVERGE Horizon, or Ansys Cloud.

The following section will dive into the pros and cons of these choices.

Option 1:  Buy On-Premises Hardware from a Hardware Vendor

Historically, one could buy a general-purpose HPC cluster from any hardware vendor. HPC clusters are complex systems that require a high level of expertise to assemble and maintain, like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. These systems are generally not pre-integrated with your CAE apps.

Hardware vendors may leave you with something initially working, give you a 5-minute tour once the cluster is deployed, and then leave you on your own to figure out how to use your applications. Some might check in on you a few times a year, but you need an active IT partner in your daily success of using the system for your engineering.

Something will eventually go wrong at the worst time if the system is left unmanaged. Invariably, something will eventually go wrong at the worst time, causing the engineer to miss their deadline.

IT issues frustrate the engineer as they want to focus on engineering and need help understanding all the HPC IT and application complexity to solve their problems. Many clients trying a DIY build scenario end up with a system that is unreliable, untrusted, and often difficult to change for new business requirements or application updates because it may destabilize the system.

Option 2: Buy a TotalCAE Managed HPC Infinite Appliance On-Prem

TotalCAE makes turn-key HPC cluster systems that are purpose-built for your CAE applications. TotalCAE does not drop off the system and leave. TotalCAE manages your owned or leased HPC cluster using a managed subscription for the system's life. For any issue, TotalCAE is proactively working on the HPC system to ensure your engineers keep working productively.

A single point of contact for any issue.

The TotalCAE Infinite HPC Appliance includes everything you need for job submission, scheduling, monitoring, and reporting. All CAE applications are pre-integrated on delivery. The appliance allows us to respond to your unique business challenges with a system designed and created by TotalCAE for engineers.  

Getting started is incredibly easy with TotalCAE University making it quick to onboard engineers on how to use their favorite applications on HPC. If you need additional help, it is just an email or phone call away with our 1-hour support response times.

Option 3: Do It Yourself on the Cloud

Clients often assume that using the cloud will make HPC easier and is more straightforward than on-premises to adopt HPC, but they quickly realize cloud makes the complexity worse if you do it yourself, cloud HPC requires even more “CAE IT Ninja” skills for operation compared to on-prem.

Cloud systems from AWS and Azure provide programmable blocks to develop HPC platforms as a base, but what to do with these blocks still needs a HPC CAE IT expert. There are very few IT teams that can, in a reasonable time frame, develop and build a turn-key SaaS HPC environment from the ground up with the required infrastructure, job and project billing, CAE application integration, the mix of on-demand, reserved, and spot access, license-aware scheduling, and have it be reliable and production worthy after a proof of concept. 

Option 4: Buy TotalCAE on AWS or Azure  - Fully Managed in Your Cloud

With TotalCAE, the engineer does not see cloud complexity. Engineers upload their models, push a button and receive an email when the results are ready. Everything else on the cloud is handled automatically by TotalCAE in just a few clicks.

You can get started with a complete working system in typically less than one-day enabling engineers to focus on engineering, not IT. The TotalCAE Portal makes it simple to submit, run and manage hundreds of CAE applications out of the box, and TotalCAE easily integrates custom applications.

Simple to use TotalCAE Portal for HPC job submission and management.

TotalCAE hosts the entire environment in your cloud subscription, which has the following benefits over alternatives that host in their cloud subscription instead of yours:

  • Simplifies access to existing CAE licensing.
  • Enables faster downloads over existing AWS Direct Connect or Azure ExpressRoute.
  • Offers the lowest possible wholesale infrastructure costs paid directly to your existing cloud vendor.
  • Keeps your engineering data under your IT control and governance for improved security.
  • TotalCAE supports the major cloud providers, including Azure, OCI, and AWS.

Option 5. Use the CAE Software Vendors' Cloud

Today nearly every major CAE software vendor will host their software in their cloud that they run on top of Azure/AWS or their hardware. 

TotalCAE offers a compelling advantage over single vendor point solution clouds:

  • TotalCAE supports hundreds of applications with one interface, so you have one solution and an IT group responsible for all your CAE simulation tools from multiple vendors, including homegrown tools.
  • TotalCAE manages both your on-prem and cloud environments.
  • TotalCAE hosts in your cloud subscription, so you don't have to send your data to a 3rd party.
  • You will pay the lowest possible wholesale infrastructure costs by directly paying the cloud costs to Azure, Oracle, and OCI instead of having the software vendor mark those up.
  • TotalCAE enables you to run in your ITAR Azure Government or AWS GovCloud.


Many factors go into your company's decision-making process when reviewing the options for HPC build vs. buy, on-premises, or in the cloud. The wealth of HPC and cloud technologies available today are powerful building blocks for assembling HPC simulation environments. However, they require additional software and IT support like TotalCAE to make a stable, easy-to-use HPC environment for engineers.

By leveraging best-of-breed on-premises HPC and Cloud, while hiding the complexity, TotalCAE provides a low-risk, high-reward solution for engineering departments that want to take their HPC simulation to the next level without any of the IT hassles, cheaper than they can do it themselves. TotalCAE is one of the only companies that give you the maximum flexibility to choose between on-prem, cloud, or both, with a single vendor supporting your HPC needs.

If your company is looking to adopt HPC on-premises or cloud for your engineering simulation goals, contact us at, and we can put our 17+ years of HPC, CAE, and Cloud experience to work for you.

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