Saturday, August 20, 2011

SGI Acquires OpenFoam

OpenFoam is probably the most mature open source CFD tool available. There are plenty of niche CFD projects on SourceForge, but none that have really been able to generate the user/developer community that OpenFoam has. OpenFoam recently made the news because SGI "purchased" it for an undisclosed amount.
"Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is one of the most important application areas for technical computing," said SGI CEO Mark J. Barrenechea. "With the acquisition of OpenCFD Ltd., SGI will be able to provide our customers the market's first fully integrated CFD solution, where all the hardware and software work together."
Basically, they hired all of the developers:
The entire OpenCFD team, led by Henry Weller, has joined SGI as full-time employees and will be based out of SGI's EMEA Headquarters located in the UK. SGI Acquires Maker of Open Source CFD Software
They also created the OpenFoam Foundation to ensure the continued development of OpenFoam under a GPL license. This is a very good thing for the development of OpenFoam to really take off. The foundation means that a true commons can develop around the software. SGI is clearly using OpenFoam as widget frosting, and they are selling support. This means their incentives line up with making the open version as good as it can be rather than crippling it in deference to a paid "pro" version. Good news for open source computational fluid dynamics.


  1. Some interesting comments about this on the cfd-online forum: on export controls for CFD, on GPL and forks

  2. Hmmm, looks like SGI dumped OpenFoam:
    HPCwire reports (Paris, 12 Sept 2012) ESI Group (Paris: ESI), pioneer and world-leader in Virtual Prototyping and Virtual Engineering solutions, today announces the acquisition of OpenCFD Ltd., the leader in the Open Source Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software segment, from SGI, the trusted leader in Technical Computing. ESI Group consequently becomes the owner of the OpenFOAMtrademark, widely recognized in automotive, energy, aerospace and other industry sectors, and assumes responsibility and initiative for the further development, quality and support of the software. ESI and SGI will be expanding their partnership and go to market collaboration to improve accessibility of CFD, at affordable cost, reliable quality, and competitive performance.

    "Indeed we believe that the ‘Open source’ software model and the associated use of cloud computing will accelerate the low cost and gradual adoption of numerical simulation and, when applicable, will facilitate the further migration to the high value creation of ESI’s “End-to-End Virtual Prototyping” solutions."

    Using OpenFoam as a "gateway" to ESI's proprietary offerings makes me much less optimistic about a thriving community continuing to grow around OpenFoam. Open source as hardware icing works. I'm skeptical of open source as gateway drug.