3 Ways to Sabotage Your Systems Architecture

Professor Oliver Gao studies air quality related to automobile emissions with researcher Shuai Pan.

As the adage goes, those who fail to plan, plan to fail. This is especially true in a rapidly evolving tech landscape. Systems architecture – the strategic art and science of designing complex foundations for software, hardware, networks, and even interactions between humans and machines – is a discipline that can help organizations plan ahead for growth, scale operations and reduce costs.

“We live in a time in which we will be confronted with complexities from various systems, ranging from healthcare to transportation. Our leaders and practitioners, executives and engineers, must be equipped with the right tools to address those complexities,” said Oliver Gao, director of systems engineering at Cornell, where he is also the Howard Simpson Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Gao, faculty author of the Cornell Systems Architecture and Management program, identified three traps managers and developers should avoid to ensure their systems are successful.

1. Starting from scratch

“Systems architecture combines creativity and analytical rigor,” Gao said. “It is the most powerful way of thinking and making decisions to overcome challenges that are totally different from the challenges our ancestors faced.”

Yet, leaders do not have to reinvent the wheel. By leveraging current structures, organizations can extend the life of a system that has more function than flaws. This process can ensure that valuable data and performance is not degraded. While unproven methods for mapping form to function have higher risks for failure, building upon an established foundation can save time in development and deployment. Integrating with existing systems also preserves investments from the past.

According to Gao, a well-architected system makes an organization more agile and resilient against unknowns. To adapt and innovate faster, both engineers and team leaders should understand the frameworks already in place then make informed decisions on what can be enhanced or eliminated in response to business demands.

2. Disregarding data security

Information is the backbone of any system, but a single data breach can lead to demise: irrecoverable losses in finances, property and reputation. Interconnectivity in systems heightens the risk of leaving a door open to bad actors. Gao argues that security must be a core component of a systems architecture.

“This discipline is about thinking in systems rather than isolated components. A technical systems architecture must fit together strategically, just as every beam and wire must be positioned for stability and longevity in a structure such as a parking deck. Any vulnerability can result in significant harm to an organization, so systems need redundancies,” Gao said.

A secure system incorporates defenses against physical and digital threats, protections for proprietary data and recovery mechanisms. By taking a layered approach of encryption, auditing, training and more, Gao believes businesses can create sustainable systems.

3. Failing to future-proof

In an unpredictable digital ecosystem, solutions that work seamlessly today might not be equipped to handle tomorrow’s demands. An architecture that lacks scalability can cause costly disruptions as operational needs shift for a company. However, a well-planned architecture naturally evolves with an organization’s growth.

“It is important to listen to all stakeholders from the outset. It can’t be just the tech teams,” Gao said. “From the CEO to the finance team to the product managers to the front desk, everyone needs to be in the room to answer questions about their needs. Ignoring someone’s preferences can result in decreased productivity.”

Gao encourages systems architects to engage in a discovery process through interviews and research before starting a design to avoid wasteful allocation of budget, time and personnel resources on solutions that may not be effective or user friendly. Comprehensive understanding of organizational needs also ensures room for growth.

“Your company’s latest product offering could be quite different from earlier offerings. You might have to hire more staff. A system might not adjust to these changes immediately. If you’ve brainstormed how the future could look and tested for flexibility in the systems architecture, your solutions will be prepared to bend but not break,” Gao said.

Planning your systems architecture

As a leading expert in urban infrastructure, transportation, and environment systems analytics for smart communities, Gao has developed a Systems Architecture and Management program to help organizations understand the value of systems architecture related to performance, lifecycle cost, schedule and risk. He works directly with organizations to help their leaders examine their systems, characterize and prioritize stakeholders using network theory and more.

“Investing in systems architecture is investing in the foundation of an organization, enabling it to grow efficiently and successfully,” said Gao. “Systems architecture ensures that technology aligns with business objectives and paves the way for the future.”

The Systems Architecture and Management program is one of Cornell’s several custom live educational opportunities for corporations, nonprofits and other organizations. Learn more about the university’s enterprise programs online.

Ansys ushers in a new era of online learning with Cornell Engineering

/ Key Highlights

Ansys is transforming engineering curricula through a partnership with Cornell University to develop simulation courses, supplementing online learning
Cornell’s SimCafe tutorials will now be accessible on the Ansys Innovation Courses platform
Ansys and Cornell University’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering are transforming online engineering curriculum with new simulation-based online courses. The collaboration satisfies the increased demand for remote learning and brings simulation software to the forefront of teaching.

As graduating engineers and young professionals face demanding positions and high expectations in the workplace, Cornell and Ansys are arming them with access to world-class simulation education. Through this collaboration with Cornell, Ansys lowers the barrier for simulation education and equips a new era of engineers to succeed within advanced engineering teams, who increasingly leverage simulation to solve complex engineering problems.

Faculty from Cornell’s College of Engineering will design and develop courses with eCornell, the university’s external education unit, while Ansys provides support for the inclusion of real-world application examples and detailed technical write-ups of problem formulations, engineering assumptions, simulation approaches and results interpretation. The courses’ flexible format enables participants to complete the curricula on their own timelines. Courses will be offered for both students and professionals seeking to bolster their skillsets. Additionally, Cornell has chosen the Ansys Innovation Courses platform to host their existing SimCafe tutorials. Cornell will work closely with Ansys to migrate all of their tutorials to the Innovation Courses learning structure, resulting in more than 50 new Cornell courses, adding to the more than 75 existing Ansys Innovation courses.

“Simulation is a disruptive technology that can be used to transform engineering curriculum at the university level,” said Rajesh Bhaskaran, Swanson director of engineering simulation at Cornell University’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “As simulation becomes a standard feature of curriculum for teaching physics and applications, nearly every engineering graduate should be able to use simulation software effectively. Together with Ansys, we look forward to preparing engineers with the simulation skillset they need.”

“Through our continued collaboration with Cornell University, we are helping students and professionals engineer what’s ahead throughout every stage of their career,” said Prith Banerjee, chief technology officer at Ansys. “As simulation continues to revolutionize how engineering is done, the eCornell courses, supplemented by our Ansys Innovation Courses, will ensure that participants gain the experience needed to excel in the ever-changing industry.”

The Cornell courses are now open for registration. To learn more or to sign up, please visit https://ecornell.cornell.edu/certificates/engineering/fluid-dynamics-simulations-using-ansys/. Ansys Innovation Courses are available at https://courses.ansys.com/.

/ About Ansys

If you’ve ever seen a rocket launch, flown on an airplane, driven a car, used a computer, touched a mobile device, crossed a bridge or put on wearable technology, chances are you’ve used a product where Ansys software played a critical role in its creation. Ansys is the global leader in engineering simulation. Through our strategy of Pervasive Engineering Simulation, we help the world’s most innovative companies deliver radically better products to their customers. By offering the best and broadest portfolio of engineering simulation software, we help them solve the most complex design challenges and create products limited only by imagination. Founded in 1970, Ansys is headquartered south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Visit www.ansys.com for more information.

Ansys and any and all ANSYS, Inc. brand, product, service and feature names, logos and slogans are registered trademarks or trademarks of ANSYS, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States or other countries. All other brand, product, service and feature names or trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


Cornell launches online fluid dynamics simulation certificate

Cornell University is partnering with software company Ansys to create a new certificate program that allows engineers from across the world to master simulation of fluid dynamics.

The Fluid Dynamics Simulations Using Ansys Certificate program will be globally available through the eCornell online learning platform beginning July 7, and will offer a number of courses that teach students and professionals how to create and validate simulations, such as flows over a car body, cooling fan and airplane body.

While commercial software is becoming easier to use for non-experts, simulation is still complex and requires a deep understanding of mathematical models and physical principles. The new courses aim to bridge the gap between theory and real-world simulation applications, and offer a self-paced format that allows participants flexibility in going through the course content.

Ansys develops, markets and supports engineering simulation software used to predict how product designs will behave in real-world environments and has a long history with Cornell. John Swanson ’61, M.Eng. ’63, founder of Ansys, is a long-time supporter of the university. He endowed the Swanson Director of Engineering Simulation position in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering—which is held by Senior Lecturer Rajesh Bhaskaran.

“Rajesh has been very effective in using online learning to provide practical simulation education to a broad audience within and outside Cornell,” said Swanson, who is the recipient of the 2021 Cornell Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award. “I am happy to see his impact expand further through the eCornell simulation courses.”

Simulation is increasingly being used in the workplace to solve complex engineering problems and is becoming an important aspect of an engineer’s skillset. Bhaskaran has helped introduce industry-standard simulation tools into Cornell courses covering fluid mechanics, heat transfer, solid mechanics, and numerical analysis. This has shown students how theoretical concepts can be used to solve practical problems involving complex geometries while also helping them secure jobs and internships.

“We are increasingly leveraging the power of engineering modeling and simulation, seamlessly, in the development, delivery and support of our products and services,” says Dan Newman ’83, chief engineer of advanced vertical lift at Boeing. “We rely on our knowledgeable and motivated workforce of well-rounded system-level thinkers to maximize the capability of engineering simulation to ensure and enhance quality, safety and affordability for all stakeholders throughout the product life cycle.

The new eCornell simulation certificate builds on Cornell’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), A Hands-on Introduction to Engineering Simulations, which recently surpassed 200,000 enrollments. The course is one of the most popular free MOOC’s offered by Cornell and was developed by Bhaskaran pre-COVID-19, when online learning wasn’t as common as it has become today. He saw online learning as a good platform to learn a tech-centered skill and wanted to reach a wide audience.

“Simulation is a disruptive technology that can be used to transform engineering curriculum at the university level,” said Bhaskaran. “As simulation becomes a standard feature of curriculum for teaching physics and applications, nearly every engineering graduate should be able to use simulation software effectively. Together with Ansys, we look forward to preparing engineers with the simulation skillset they need.”