Pay-Per-Use Becomes Mantra for Altair Engineering

By Michael Feldman

January 18, 2008

To most people, developing the complex software that powers HPC systems is the “rocket science” that makes technical computing so hard. But perhaps an equally challenging aspect for software vendors has been devising a viable licensing model for the era of multicore processing and utility computing.

In general, as computing systems became more powerful, the software vendors charged a premium since less software per platform is required to do the same job. The traditional response to multicore hardware by ISVs has been to either charge by the socket or by the core. Usually though, a complex price bracketing scheme based on the total number of processor cores, processor type and even system memory size is imposed to try to reconcile the growing gap between hardware performance and software use. But since a lot of software doesn’t take complete advantage of additional cores and other hardware improvements, software licensing such as this confers a real cost penalty unless the hardware and software are superbly balanced. Hardware manufacturers see these licensing schemes holding back system sales because the cost of moving the software to the newer platforms has become a disincentive for users.

To address this, Altair Engineering has developed a unified pay-per-use licensing model across their entire product line — HyperWorks (CAE applications), PBS GridWorks (workload management) and HiQube (business intelligence analytics). The model is designed to circumvent some of the limitations of hardware-based licensing. Essentially what the company sells are license tokens that are only drawn when an application is running. Tokens are dispensed from a central license server when an application is executing and returned to the token pool when the application is finished. The model allows these application licenses to be shared across a system, a LAN, or even a wide area network.

The idea originated with the company’s original HyperWorks product line, where the token-based scheme was first introduced. Last summer, Altair converted their PBS GridWorks licensing model to the HyperWorks model. Prior to that, the GridWorks products were employing a more traditional licensing mechanism that treated each type of hardware platform differently. With the introduction of the PBS Professional 9.0, a single “license” uses three GridWorks tokens to run a single job on a single processor core. In the U.S., each GridWorks token costs $4.50, which works out to $13.50 per license per year, or about 1/4 the price of the previous licensing scheme.

By isolating the software licensing requirements from the hardware platform, users are able to use the hardware more flexibly. This is an especially important distinction when multicore processors and utility computing environments are involved, since it provides a more equitable model for sharing hardware resources with other software running concurrently on the same platforms.

While license tokens are the common currency across all Altair products, the denomination of tokens used for GridWorks products is different from that used for HyperWorks products: 1 HyperWorks token unit = 100 GridWorks token units. Also, different Altair applications may draw different numbers of tokens. For example, HyperMesh (a CAE HyperWorks application), draws 21 HyperWorks tokens independent of the core count, while PBS Professional uses three GridWorks tokens per job per core. If the job needs 4 cores, GridWorks would draw 12 tokens from the pool. Once execution completes, those tokens are available for other applications. So the 21 HyperWorks tokens used to run a HyperMesh application during the day could be used to run 175 simultaneous PBS GridWorks jobs (using four cores each) at night.

For codes that run 24/7, such as some solver applications (e.g., RADIOSS used at Ford for crash simulations), they would use dedicated licensing, where the tokens were statically locked to specific hardware. In this case, the tokens could be returned to the pool, at least temporarily, if for example, the hardware is taken down for maintenance.

According to Michael Humphrey, VP of the PBS GridWorks product line, the whole model is especially valuable if a company can maintain a continuous computing level. “The biggest companies — the Boeings, the Fords, the GMs of the world — get the most value out of their HyperWorks units because they use the most applications and they share them globally,” explains Humphrey.

One of the things Altair has going for it is an integrated product set of engineering software, business intelligence and workload management. The company provides an extra incentive to bundle their products through a patented licensing scheme called “leveling.” For example, if you have three different Altair apps running concurrently, the license manager will only draw the number of tokens used by the most expensive application. So if you buy a pre-processing app, a solver and a post-processing app, you really end up only paying for the more expensive solver if you run the three in tandem. This also encourages customers to try out additional Altair software without having to immediately purchase more licenses. Of course Altair is hoping the customer likes the product enough to use it more, requiring the purchase of additional license tokens.

Humphrey thinks the new PBS GridWorks licensing strategy will put a lot of pressure on its competitors, in a number of industry sectors. Even prior to the licensing changeover, he says PBS had become the dominant player in the manufacturing, government and academic sectors. In the automotive area, Altair went after the suppliers first, and then proceeded to the automotive OEMs. In aerospace, they managed to capture Platform Computing business from Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

The incorporation of the pay-per-use licensing strategy will provide additional leverage for PBS Professional to expand accounts in manufacturing, where HyperWorks is already entrenched. “For some of these big companies, their HyperWorks annual renewal is generally two, sometimes three, orders of magnitude (in dollars) bigger than what it would cost to put PBS [Professional] on the entire infrastructure,” says Humphrey.

Because of the price differential with Platform LSF, he contends that in the next two years, Altair will push Platform out of manufacturing almost entirely. However, in the financial services and EDA sectors, where DataSynapse and Platform Computing, respectively, are very strong, Altair has much less penetration.

In the oil and gas sector, Altair is making some headway. They recently won a PBS Professional deal from a top Houston-based oil and gas company, which is using a utility computing model for some of their seismic processing workloads. The Houston company has a large datacenter of their own, but rents an HP datacenter to offload peak computing demands. In this case, the license tokens are consumed and returned transparently to the application, just as if it were being run locally.

Intel has been a customer for some time, using PBS Professional for its benchmarking center. According to Humphrey, prior to switching to the pay-per-use model, Intel wasn’t all that pleased with the static licensing model, wanting a more dynamic arrangement to deal with the constant hardware reshuffling. The new pay-per-use model allows Intel to use and reconfigure the benchmarking systems more flexibly without having to deal with licensing issues.

In general, both chipmakers and system vendors are likely to be supportive of Altair’s pay-per-use model since it doesn’t penalize users for moving up to the next generation of hardware or for using a utility computing setup. But Altair will still have to adjust their token model when chip vendors add more cores on the processor in order to keep software costs from creeping up.

“What we’ve done historically when a new technology rolls out is to adjust our pricing in a negative direction,” says Humphrey. “But remember we’re not selling licenses, we’re selling GridWorks units. So the way we adjust our pricing in the future is not by changing the price of a GridWorks unit, it’s by changing the draw of how many tokens are required each time you run a job.”

That means at some point the company will likely be compelled to reduce the three-token ($13.50 U.S.) cost for a single core job to just two tokens ($9.00 U.S.). In the short term, Altair is planning to expand the functionality of PBS with additional modules and features, allowing them to hold the line on the tokens/job ratio through the quad-core era. But when 8-core processors are introduced, the company will probably have to reduce the tokens consumed per executing job. Beyond that, they may have to reduce the token price itself.

At a time when many ISVs are rather shy about publicizing their licensing model, Altair has positioned its pay-per-use model as an industry innovation that is a key differentiator for its software products. The company has received support from hardware vendors like Intel, AMD and SGI, and has garnered favorable analyst reviews. The real validation for Altair will be if other software vendors, competitors and otherwise, adopt a similar type of licensing model.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Multiverse Targets ‘Quantum Computing for the Masses’

January 19, 2022

The race to deliver quantum computing solutions that shield users from the underlying complexity of quantum computing is heating up quickly. One example is Multiverse Computing, a European company, which today launched the second financial services product in its Singularity product group. The new offering, Fair Price, “delivers a higher accuracy in fair price calculations for financial... Read more…

Students at SC21: Out in Front, Alongside and Behind the Scenes

January 19, 2022

The Supercomputing Conference (SC) is one of the biggest international conferences dedicated to high-performance computing, networking, storage and analysis. SC21 was a true ‘hybrid’ conference, with a total of 380 o Read more…

New Algorithm Overcomes Hurdle in Fusion Energy Simulation

January 15, 2022

The exascale era has brought with it a bevy of fusion energy simulation projects, aiming to stabilize the notoriously delicate—and so far, unmastered—clean energy source that would transform the world virtually overn Read more…

Summit Powers Novel Protein Function Prediction Work

January 13, 2022

There are hundreds of millions of sequenced proteins and counting—but only 170,000 have had their structures solved by researchers, bottlenecking our understanding of proteins and their functions across organisms’ ge Read more…

Q-Ctrl – Tackling Quantum Hardware’s Noise Problems with Software

January 13, 2022

Implementing effective error mitigation and correction is a critical next step in advancing quantum computing. While a lot of attention has been given to efforts to improve the underlying ‘noisy’ hardware, there's be Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

shutterstock 377963800

New – Amazon EC2 Hpc6a Instance Optimized for High Performance Computing

High Performance Computing (HPC) allows scientists and engineers to solve complex, compute-intensive problems such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD), weather forecasting, and genomics. Read more…

Nvidia Defends Arm Acquisition Deal: a ‘Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity’

January 13, 2022

GPU-maker Nvidia is continuing to try to keep its proposed acquisition of British chip IP vendor Arm Ltd. alive, despite continuing concerns from several governments around the world. In its latest action, Nvidia filed a 29-page response to the U.K. government to point out a list of potential benefits of the proposed $40 billion deal. Read more…

Multiverse Targets ‘Quantum Computing for the Masses’

January 19, 2022

The race to deliver quantum computing solutions that shield users from the underlying complexity of quantum computing is heating up quickly. One example is Multiverse Computing, a European company, which today launched the second financial services product in its Singularity product group. The new offering, Fair Price, “delivers a higher accuracy in fair price calculations for financial... Read more…

Students at SC21: Out in Front, Alongside and Behind the Scenes

January 19, 2022

The Supercomputing Conference (SC) is one of the biggest international conferences dedicated to high-performance computing, networking, storage and analysis. SC Read more…

Q-Ctrl – Tackling Quantum Hardware’s Noise Problems with Software

January 13, 2022

Implementing effective error mitigation and correction is a critical next step in advancing quantum computing. While a lot of attention has been given to effort Read more…

Nvidia Defends Arm Acquisition Deal: a ‘Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity’

January 13, 2022

GPU-maker Nvidia is continuing to try to keep its proposed acquisition of British chip IP vendor Arm Ltd. alive, despite continuing concerns from several governments around the world. In its latest action, Nvidia filed a 29-page response to the U.K. government to point out a list of potential benefits of the proposed $40 billion deal. Read more…

Nvidia Buys HPC Cluster Management Company Bright Computing

January 10, 2022

Graphics chip powerhouse Nvidia today announced that it has acquired HPC cluster management company Bright Computing for an undisclosed sum. Unlike Nvidia’s bid to purchase semiconductor IP company Arm, which has been stymied by regulatory challenges, the Bright deal is a straightforward acquisition that aims to expand... Read more…

SC21 Panel on Programming Models – Tackling Data Movement, DSLs, More

January 6, 2022

How will programming future systems differ from current practice? This is an ever-present question in computing. Yet it has, perhaps, never been more pressing g Read more…

Edge to Exascale: A Trend to Watch in 2022

January 5, 2022

Edge computing is an approach in which the data is processed and analyzed at the point of origin – the place where the data is generated. This is done to make data more accessible to end-point devices, or users, and to reduce the response time for data requests. HPC-class computing and networking technologies are critical to many edge use cases, and the intersection of HPC and ‘edge’ promises to be a hot topic in 2022. Read more…

Citing ‘Shortfalls,’ NOAA Targets Hundred-Fold HPC Increase Over Next Decade

January 5, 2022

From upgrading the Global Forecast System (GFS) to acquiring new supercomputers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been making big moves in the HPC sphere over the last few years—but now it’s setting the bar even higher. In a new report, NOAA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) highlighted... Read more…

IonQ Is First Quantum Startup to Go Public; Will It be First to Deliver Profits?

November 3, 2021

On October 1 of this year, IonQ became the first pure-play quantum computing start-up to go public. At this writing, the stock (NYSE: IONQ) was around $15 and its market capitalization was roughly $2.89 billion. Co-founder and chief scientist Chris Monroe says it was fun to have a few of the company’s roughly 100 employees travel to New York to ring the opening bell of the New York Stock... Read more…

US Closes in on Exascale: Frontier Installation Is Underway

September 29, 2021

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, held by Zoom this week (Sept. 29-30), it was revealed that the Frontier supercomputer is currently being installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The staff at the Oak Ridge Leadership... Read more…

AMD Launches Milan-X CPU with 3D V-Cache and Multichip Instinct MI200 GPU

November 8, 2021

At a virtual event this morning, AMD CEO Lisa Su unveiled the company’s latest and much-anticipated server products: the new Milan-X CPU, which leverages AMD’s new 3D V-Cache technology; and its new Instinct MI200 GPU, which provides up to 220 compute units across two Infinity Fabric-connected dies, delivering an astounding 47.9 peak double-precision teraflops. “We're in a high-performance computing megacycle, driven by the growing need to deploy additional compute performance... Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Nvidia Buys HPC Cluster Management Company Bright Computing

January 10, 2022

Graphics chip powerhouse Nvidia today announced that it has acquired HPC cluster management company Bright Computing for an undisclosed sum. Unlike Nvidia’s bid to purchase semiconductor IP company Arm, which has been stymied by regulatory challenges, the Bright deal is a straightforward acquisition that aims to expand... Read more…

D-Wave Embraces Gate-Based Quantum Computing; Charts Path Forward

October 21, 2021

Earlier this month D-Wave Systems, the quantum computing pioneer that has long championed quantum annealing-based quantum computing (and sometimes taken heat fo Read more…

Killer Instinct: AMD’s Multi-Chip MI200 GPU Readies for a Major Global Debut

October 21, 2021

AMD’s next-generation supercomputer GPU is on its way – and by all appearances, it’s about to make a name for itself. The AMD Radeon Instinct MI200 GPU (a successor to the MI100) will, over the next year, begin to power three massive systems on three continents: the United States’ exascale Frontier system; the European Union’s pre-exascale LUMI system; and Australia’s petascale Setonix system. Read more…

Three Chinese Exascale Systems Detailed at SC21: Two Operational and One Delayed

November 24, 2021

Details about two previously rumored Chinese exascale systems came to light during last week’s SC21 proceedings. Asked about these systems during the Top500 media briefing on Monday, Nov. 15, list author and co-founder Jack Dongarra indicated he was aware of some very impressive results, but withheld comment when asked directly if he had... Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Lessons from LLVM: An SC21 Fireside Chat with Chris Lattner

December 27, 2021

Today, the LLVM compiler infrastructure world is essentially inescapable in HPC. But back in the 2000 timeframe, LLVM (low level virtual machine) was just getting its start as a new way of thinking about how to overcome shortcomings in the Java Virtual Machine. At the time, Chris Lattner was a graduate student of... Read more…

2021 Gordon Bell Prize Goes to Exascale-Powered Quantum Supremacy Challenge

November 18, 2021

Today at the hybrid virtual/in-person SC21 conference, the organizers announced the winners of the 2021 ACM Gordon Bell Prize: a team of Chinese researchers leveraging the new exascale Sunway system to simulate quantum circuits. The Gordon Bell Prize, which comes with an award of $10,000 courtesy of HPC pioneer Gordon Bell, is awarded annually... Read more…

The Latest MLPerf Inference Results: Nvidia GPUs Hold Sway but Here Come CPUs and Intel

September 22, 2021

The latest round of MLPerf inference benchmark (v 1.1) results was released today and Nvidia again dominated, sweeping the top spots in the closed (apples-to-ap Read more…

Three Universities Team for NSF-Funded ‘ACES’ Reconfigurable Supercomputer Prototype

September 23, 2021

As Moore’s law slows, HPC developers are increasingly looking for speed gains in specialized code and specialized hardware – but this specialization, in turn, can make testing and deploying code trickier than ever. Now, researchers from Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois at Urbana... Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

Top500: No Exascale, Fugaku Still Reigns, Polaris Debuts at #12

November 15, 2021

No exascale for you* -- at least, not within the High-Performance Linpack (HPL) territory of the latest Top500 list, issued today from the 33rd annual Supercomputing Conference (SC21), held in-person in St. Louis, Mo., and virtually, from Nov. 14–19. "We were hoping to have the first exascale system on this list but that didn’t happen," said Top500 co-author... Read more…

TACC Unveils Lonestar6 Supercomputer

November 1, 2021

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is unveiling its latest supercomputer: Lonestar6, a three peak petaflops Dell system aimed at supporting researchers Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire