SolidWorks n!Fuze: The Cloud Remake of PLM Collaboration?

SolidWorks n!Fuze: The Cloud Remake of PLM Collaboration?

This week SolidWorks presents the new product SolidWorks n!Fuze. The actual presentation didn’t happen yet. Today is the 3rd day of SolidWorks World. The 3rd day General Session is usually devoted to Product presentations. After that, I’m going to join the press conference with executive management of DS SolidWorks Corp. So, I hope to learn more about SolidWorks n!Fuze. What I learned so far was from SolidWorks Blog, my conversation with Rich Allen of SolidWorks and demo I’ve seen in the exhibition hall.

n!Fuze- First Impression

SolidWorks n!Fuze is a product that helps engineers to share SolidWorks data. What I specially like is the simplicity of user experience as well as the integration inside of the main user interface of SolidWorks. It means an engineer don’t need to leave SolidWorks to share data with somebody else. The core principle of n!Fuze data sharing relies on the ability to create Workspace and share data inside of this workspace. You can upload and download files from the Workspace. Basic revision mechanism allows you to provide an update to file in a workspace. Changes will be tracked using some characteristics. SolidWorks people in the exhibition hall explained me that n!Fuze can use multiple criteria, including last save date to manage versions. Earlier, I learned that version mechanism planned in n!Fuze will be very simple and not supposed to cover all possible options available in Enterprise PDM. The interesting functionality I noted in n!Fuze is the ability to leave comments about files and read the full chain of comments. This functionality reminded me DS 3DLive chat and some elements of Windchill SocialLink. If I’d use modern slang, it can be considered as “social feature”.

In addition, to the n!Fuze functionality embedded in SolidWorks, there is a separate web application. This application allows you to navigate, comment and download files. It surprised me that I cannot upload files directly from web interface, and I need to have the SolidWorks Application to load files into n!Fuze.

SolidWorks n!Fuze and Enovia V6

The important thing you learn is that n!Fuze is the first SolidWorks product using Enovia V6 functionality. Enovia foundation or server is hosted (I assume somewhere on the cloud) and support everything n!Fuze is doing. My hunch we’ll see more SolidWorks data management application using the Enovia V6 infrastructure. On the last year SolidWorks World I learned that future PDM products such as Enterprise PDM will be shifted to use Enovia V6 platform as well. You can see another sign of shared Dassault infrastructure on n!Fuze web application – swym.3ds.com beta 2011 sign on the bottom of the slide.

n!Fuze and SolidWorks Labs

SolidWorks Labs activity was a bit slow during the last year. However, I notices the use of SolidWorks Labs TreeHouse 2 application embedded into the functionality of n!Fuze. This is a good confirmation of a collaboration between Labs and SolidWorks R&D.

n!Fuze and Collaboration

In my view, n!Fuze is introducing a fresh look on PLM and collaboration. On one side, it does not create something significantly new. The concepts of file sharing remain the same for the last 10-15 years. I can see similar collaborative functionality is available in portfolios of other PLM vendors as well as in old portfolios of Dassault System’s PDM products. However, slick user interface, integration into SolidWorks and social features like discussion give a new trajectory to this type of application.

What is my conclusion? The collaboration topic in PLM is still a place where we will see lots of innovations. The attempt to remake some old concepts to a new reality is a good sign in my view. I can see “cloud” concepts, focus on usability and introducing of social elements as right steps toward converting n!Fuze into something useful. However, I have to note that some functionality of n!Fuze will create an overlap with existing Enterprise PDM features. Users have a tendency to push the limits of product can do from the functional standpoint, and I can see people can use n!Fuze as a basic PDM on the cloud. Just my thought…

Best, Oleg

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  • DavidChadwick

    Thanks Oleg for this interesting post confirming the move to the Enovia V6 platform for SolidWorks PDM/collaboration applications. Looks very interesting but I wonder how a customer could integrate their design data managed with n!Fuze with their other corporate data and processes – I see an advantage to SharePoint based applications in this area

  • beyondplm

    David, thanks for your comment. It is too early to say about n!Fuze integrates. What SharePoint advantages you see that will allow better to integrate with other corp. data? Best, Oleg

  • Sporter

    Oleg,
    It was good to finally meet you at SWW this year. I enjoyed our discussion immensely. Based on my experience with other cloud based solutions for PDM I am a little leery or tools like this. The performance seems to be an issue. I realize that bandwidth is improving but I still wonder about the viability of cloud based PDM and PLM. Did this product offer any creative solutions via caching or local file servers to address this? I couldn’t tell from you review if only the application was accessed remotely or the files as well.

  • DavidChadwick

    One example – we were just talking to a customer yesterday who has their Purchasing department using SharePoint and their Design department using Solid Edge Insight – our SharePoint based design data management system for Solid Edge CAD users. They are creating tasks and workflows in SP with both CAD data and purchasing specifications attached. They wanted a flag added to the design data so the purchasing staff could see when a part was under revision so they did not order too many of this part – easily accomplished by adding an attribute in Insight that is immediately visible to all SharePoint users.

  • Vuuch

    Oleg do you see that in this day and age file sharing is really a problem? There are so many ways today to share a file. What will be different about this one?

  • beyondplm

    Stephen, It was a pleasure meeting you last week in San-Antonio. I agree, infra not always can support cloud-based solutions. I don’t think n!Fuze is doing something about local cache etc. I think Enovia V6 supports a mechanism that can put FCS (file server) in different locations to optimize traffic. I think, cloud “misunderstood” today in terms of deployment. Personal, Private, Public. Most of people automatically are thinking about Public one. However, private cloud can be even more successful in a short term. Best,Oleg

  • beyondplm

    David, thanks for the example! It makes sense. I think we need to ask SolidWorks engineers. My assumption that systems need to be able cross reference resources. Getting back to your example, can you refer SolidEdge CAD data in insight in TeamCenter? Does it work that way, or you need to use SolidEdge Insight only, since it supports SharePoint? Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Chris, File share isn’t a problem. However, to make it in a ‘usable way’ is still a problem. For example, if I’m an engineering in SolidWorks, I need to use Pack-n-Go, extract all files, place them somewhere (even on a simple dropbox). It is possible, with no collision, but “why to make engineering think?” – this is needed to be a key question to ask. A potential value of n!Fuze (in case it will be successful) is exactly in following “don’t make me think” paradigm. Just my opinion… Best, Oleg

  • Sporter

    Oleg,

    My understanding of a private cloud is that it is still hosted offsite so the bandwidth issues still apply. Is your interpretation that a private cloud can be internal and if so I am not sure that I agree this is really a cloud. I have been told by some IT professionals that fiberoptic technology is being distributed in a manner that allows some WAN connections to perform at speeds close to internal bandwidth but the proximity of the data center and the client have to be pretty close geographically.

  • Milt

    This is exactly the point Oleg. There are tons of solutions to share files. The issue is that CAD data management is much more complex than file management. CAD data is almost always contained in connected files that exist in context of configuration data, process state and application settings. It is entirely insufficient to lob a CAD file onto a simple sharing service and call that a solution.
    While I don’t know anything about the n!Fuze solution, it is clear that they are leveraging their technology base to handle the complexity of managing CAD data in the cloud in a way that is cleaner for customers. Having to manually do “pack and go” kinds of things in order to use a cloud service is silly. Your cloud platform should understand the data (and your apps) well enough to keep track of the complexities of CAD data.

  • Babely

    Oleg, One of the areas I see is a problem for a number of companies including where I work is the lack of a complete peer checking process. It seems to me that this would be a good application for n!Fuse as well. Thoughts?

  • DavidChadwick

    Oleg, there is a possibility to share single files between Solid Edge Insight and Teamcenter but this is not a request we see from our customers. Solid Edge Insight users typically find their data management needs are met by Insight and SharePoint, Teamcenter customers can use Teamcenter Community for SharePoint based collaboration.

  • beyondplm

    Stephen, You are right. Bandwidth is still an issue. Private cloud is not an internal one. Private cloud is still sitting in a data center, but you have a full control over physical devices (servers) and not share it with other customers (privacy!). And bandwidth will be still an issue. As I mentioned before, files can be located in GEO-located data centers to improve performance. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Milt, Thanks for commenting! Agree with your position. The trend for simplification is clear to me. Please, take a look on my new post – http://beyondplm.com/2011/02/02/plm-projects-tasks-and-social-productivity/. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Bebely, I’m sorry, can you explain what do you mean by “complete peer checking process”. I’m not sure getting this… Thanks for joining the conversation!, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    David, Understood. Thanks for this explanation. However, how it may work in case of a supply chain? What is the recommended deployment schema? Best, Oleg

  • Babely

    I’ll try. Basically we should always have “another set of eyes” review our designs, models, drawings etc. This used to be handled by a checking department. But to save cost these positions have mostly eliminated. So most companies have turned to a peer checking process. One of your colleagues looks over your design and documentation. This has to be done by checking in the latest files and then the colleague usually copies out these files and performs the peer check. (I usually preint out the drawings since I find it easier to check that way.) Hope this helps.

  • beyondplm

    Babely, thanks for sharing this info! I can imagine an intensive exchange of information during this process. What kind of tools do you think can help you to do it more efficiently? Best, Oleg

  • Babely

    This is why I was asking if you thought n!Fuse would be a good application for checking.

  • beyondplm

    Babely, I have a concern if n!Fuze will be a right tool for such a type of work in case files are centralized (i.e. Shared file drives). n!Fuze assumption is to get data in a separate space to share with somebody. Solidworks folks told me the focus is the exchange between people in different companies. In my view, if you start using it in the kind of scenario you presented, it creates lots of data duplications. It can be reasonable in case you work completely on your desktop computer and share files with your peers. Does it make sense to you?

  • Babely

    That’s too bad. We use the limited aspects of SmarTeams PLM and I was hoping I could use n!Fuze to broaden the tool for Product Design Reviews, Checking and a few other ideas until we can replace V5 with SolidWorks V6 or another PLM. Thanks for the info.

  • beyondplm

    If you are familiar with SmarTeam, there is a product called SmarTeam CommunityWorkspace which has almost identical functionality to n!Fuze (http://www.3ds.com/he/products/enovia/portfolio/enovia-v5/enovia-smarteam/all-products/domain/User_Roles/product/CMT/?cHash=b8dada1a2519eb24193bfb868e20b7af). However, I’d expect the level of n!Fuze integration with SolidWorks as well as usability to be on a completely different level.