MSC.Software Invokes Consistency

Although it has historically been considered a provider of "analysis" software, msc is going well beyond that.


MSC.Software (Santa Ana, CA; is moving away from the term "analysis." Why?

The product line now goes beyond analysis software. Nowadays, MSC is positioning itself as a provider of "virtual product development" (VPD). Consequently, the company has rebranded its universe of software products into three lines: SimOffice, SimDesigner, and MSC.SimManager.


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What do these lines include?

SimOffice is MSC's stand-alone VPD environment for building, testing, and analyzing virtual models of parts, assemblies, systems, and so on. Over a dozen analysis tools fall under the SimOffice moniker. These are MSC tools you've been using all along, such as MSC.Dytran, MSC.Easy5, MSC.Marc, MSC.Nastran, and MSC.Patran.

SimDesigner products are primarily CAD-embedded simulation tools that are accessed through the user interface of a third-party CAD system. No extra data translation is required.

MSC.SimManager consists of MSC's product/process data management tools, including a materials management database. MSC.SimManager was formally called "MSC.Simulation Data Management" (MSC.SDM).


Is there more than new nomenclature?

In the case of SimOffice, the big difference is that all of these tools are interoperable through a common data architecture, translation utilities, and a common interface. To reinforce this integration and to further invoke consistency, MSC simultaneously released at the end of 2003 revisions of the eight core products that make up the bulk of the company's revenues. All of these were released in one box. These revisions included a plethora of enhancements. For example, MSC.Patran 2004 now has a convenient way to store result display settings in a database so consistency of results can be enforced throughout an organization. Users can now define all of the possible plotting information up front (pertinent load cases, iterations, and other changing boundary conditions) in a new spreadsheet tool. These "plot sets" can be used to automatically create simulations quickly and repeatably, saving time in the long run.

Another enhancement, this in MSC.visualNastran for Windows, is a fully integrated FEA capability for analyzing 3D contact and nonlinear problems based upon MSC.Marc. In addition, MSC.SimManager supports IBM's WebSphere Application Server, DB2 database, and the AIX 5L operating system; supports Red Hat Linux on Intel-based servers; and includes a new Web-based report generator.


What's the licensing like?

Tying all this together is MSC.MasterKey, a token-based, pay-for-use licensing system. In the past, MSC made this available only to its "strategic" customers, primarily in the Americas. Now any customer, anywhere and of any size, can use MSC.MasterKey to "check out" a software tool as if it were a library book. (MSC.MasterKey also applies to over 90 third-party products.) The token count is not based on per-seat per se, but on software usage. When an engineer is done using the software, the tokens are returned to the pool for others to use.

Users can access all of MSC's tools through one centralized licensing system—a single, consistent user interface approach—on a trackable, pay-for-use basis. Tokens are free roving; no more worrying about licensing software on a per-engineer/per-seat basis. Better, users no longer have to worry about paying more to try new software. The usage of that new software is incorporated in the cost of the MSC.MasterKey for the user company. Granted, more usage increases the cost of the MSC.MasterKey. (MSC is betting this approach will lead to more revenues through more usage of more software tools.)


What else?

About a year ago and as part of SimOffice, MSC announced MSC.Fatigue 2005 to help engineers evaluate the durability of mechanical components and systems. Among other capabilities, MSC.Fatigue accounts for the flake-like shape of graphite in gray cast iron on its mechanical properties. (Graphite flakes may cause localized plastic flow at low stresses and initiate fractures at higher stresses.) Another capability is that the software uses logic based on available memory to break up large models.


Position of the product?

"Ultimately it's a process thing," says Todd Evans, spokesperson for MSC.Software. "It's ‘how do we reduce design time?' One way is to do more simulations in the same amount of time. The other way is to do fewer simulations by reusing what you've already done if it's something that's going to work. This is why we think the next step is a move toward the better management of simulation resources, both the data and the intellectual property."