Optical lenses and systems have historically been of interest to the design and simulation community due to their extensive use in a variety of applications, including telecommunications and imaging. To simulate these systems, it is often possible to take advantage of symmetry or apply physical approximations, such as ray tracing and/or beam propagation, in order to avoid a rigorous solution of Maxwell's equations. However, in cases where these techniques are not applicable, such as when feature sizes become comparable to the wavelength of interest, full-wave electromagnetic simulations are required. Unfortunately, the time constraints and simulation sizes associated with many designs render this analysis infeasible or impractical, a problem that is aggravated by iterative design flows. Hence, a numerical platform capable of handling such computationally intense problems is necessary. In this paper, we present a hardware-based, full-wave simulation platform and demonstrate the advantages of hardware acceleration for the simulation of optical applications. Specifically, we will present a diffractive optical element (DOE) lens simulation, comparing results with previously published analytic and experimental data. We then modify the basic lens arrangement to produce an optical beam splitter. Because such a device cannot be analytically described using symmetry, this example will demonstrate the unique advantages of powerful hardware solvers for the analysis of DOE applications. Finally, we discuss how hardware-based solvers are critical for iterative designs by means of a 1-to-3 beam splitter example. This simulation system represents a new era in optical engineering, enabling the design of next-generation devices today.