How Much Does CFD Software Cost?
It seems you can go online and find the price of almost anything these days. You want to know the price of a Mercedes, just visit their website and there it is. If you want to know the price of a Honda, same again - it's easy. However, if you want to know the price of commercial Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software then you are out of luck. I guess it's a case of 'if you have to ask, you can't afford.' Symscape is one of the few exceptions - if you happen to stop by our Caedium product pages you'll see how much our CFD software costs - what an innovation, actually publishing CFD software prices!
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By all accounts the pricing of CFD software must be tricky, what with the secretive pricing policies practiced by most vendors - why else would the vast majority of commercial CFD vendors not publish prices on their websites? What's to hide? The fact is that commercial CFD software has remained stubbornly expensive and prices are not publicly available due to the sticker shock you would suffer if you saw them.
Another sore point amongst CFD users is the standard practice of charging per parallel CFD process. In the not too distant past (1990s) CFD was the domain of the large automotive and aerospace companies. They could justify expensive multi-processor machines (e.g., 16 processor SGIs circa 1994 costing $100,000s) with equally expensive multi-processor CFD licenses. Thanks to Moore's Law today you can buy a CFD-capable $1,500 laptop with 8 cores, however there has been no equivalent reduction in per-process CFD pricing to allow small businesses and hobbyists to join the CFD party. Users are essentially being asked to pay high, inflation-adjusted 1990's prices to run CFD software in parallel on what amounts to relatively standard multi-core computers. Clearly CFD parallel pricing is rooted in the past - 'if you want parallel CFD, then it's going to cost you.' You'll hear that some CFD vendors now offer unlimited parallel processes as an alternative to per-process pricing, but at what cost? No one knows thanks to their secrecy, but it's easy to guess that it won't be cheap.
OK, so commercial CFD software is relatively expensive, with a few exceptions, but surely it's because the software is that much more capable than the cheaper alternatives. This may be so, but as with most feature heavy products there's a good chance that 80% of users need only 20% of the available features. For example does a Formula 1 aerodynamicist really need the capability to perform combustion simulations? This seems like an opportunity to offer the 20% of features that appeal to those 80% of users and in so doing discount prices accordingly.
High Price = High Quality?
Fine you say, but the more expensive the software the higher the software quality, so offering CFD software at a fraction of the cost of traditional CFD vendors must mean the software is proportionally that much more buggy. Just hold on a minute though, price is not always linked so simply to quality. The price of a Mercedes C-Class is $10,000 higher than the price of a Honda Accord. However, according to J.D. Power Honda has a higher Overall Dependability (quality) than Mercedes.
So go on - be a rebel, try to find affordable commercial CFD software with straightforward published prices, without per-process parallel licensing restrictions, with 20% of the features that 80% of users need, and reliability comparable to any other modern software - you might even like it!