Engineering Software: Move to the Cloud vs. Born in the Cloud?

Engineering Software: Move to the Cloud vs. Born in the Cloud?

I’m not attending AU this year. My end of the year schedule included too many trips, so I wasn’t able to attend Autodesk show in Las-Vegas. However, thanks to my blogging and twitting friends and colleagues, I’m getting almost real time updates about what Autodesk is presenting. The notion of Infinite Computing presented during AU by Carl Bass and Jeff Kowalski made me think about some interesting trends I can see in introducing of cloud computing in engineering software.

Re-thinking Paradigms

I can see a fundamental difference between software moved to the cloud and software born in the cloud. Cloud as a function of delivery cannot change some basics characteristics of software. Lots of engineering software – desktop tools, data management, collaboration tool, etc. was originally designed with “desktop” or “IT” state of mind. I can see two parallel activities now. One is to change a delivery model and move an existing software to the cloud. Another one is to produce new paradigms of using software on the cloud.

Move To Cloud Early Experiments

The early cloud experiments made by CAD/PLM companies, in my view, had some negative impact. Almost a month ago, I was listening to Jim Happelman talking about PTC and cloud options. Cloud is not exciting PTC these days, in my view. It presented as the utility or delivery option when a customer asks. I think, it reflects some early experiments PTC did together with IBM by hosting their Windchill products. Another “move to the cloud” experience was done by Arena Solutions introduced their OnDemand offering almost a decade ago – back that time people were afraid to put their credit card number on the internet.

The Power of Existing Platforms

CAD and PLM platforms are complicated products developed many years with a lot of legacies. I can see a definite interest of kings of Engineering software market to leverage their platforms on the cloud. I think, Dassault is taking a leading role in this movement game by planning to introduce their ENOVIA V6 based cloud applications. Does it mean we are going to see a massive move of existing platforms to the cloud? Dassault will be probably the first to prove it.

Born In The Cloud

What about unique experience coming from the cloud-based services? I can see an opportunity not to see the cloud as the delivery platform only. Autodesk presented an interesting option to use cloud as an additional source of computational power. It can change paradigms in design software usage. Autodesk experimented a lot with different applications for the last year, which shows me that Autodesk is trying to bring a new paradigm born in the cloud rather than move an existing platform to be delivered from the cloud.

What is my conclusion? Cloud turns on some additional opportunities we have never seen before. However, the process is long. It is not only about software delivery. It is about shifting paradigms. However, to make a paradigm shift is not a simple task. Speaking about the cloud for almost a year a half, I can see a lot of false starts and promising options. After all, I can see only experiments and no commercially available system.Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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  • Oleg — Your posts are great reading and often very insightful, but as Arena’s co-founder and CTO I have to offer a correction. Arena Solutions was very definitely born in the cloud (as bom.com — we re-branded as Arena later). And, we’ve been delivering commercially successful engineering software from the cloud since we launched our SaaS BOM and change management application in 2001.

    I do agree with your point that success in the cloud requires original thinking and a new approach to traditional problems, particularly for engineering software where datasets are generally complex and relatively large. Still, given the tremendous benefits of a cloud-based solution for our customers (and for Arena as a software provider), I’ve been surprised that engineering software companies in general have been so slow to “get” the cloud.

    While I have to correct the record in this case, thanks for writing — I do read and enjoy your perspective on the industry.

  • beyondplm

    Eric, Thank you for your comments and insight! In my view, what was definitely innovative in BOM.COM is the ability to run data management application in a multi-tenant mode over the internet. At the same time, it was too early and company were not ready for such a software configuration. This is explaining why manufacturing is not running fast on the cloud. This is also explaining the strategic decisions of all big players on the market. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg