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

by Oleg on January 26, 2011 · 846 comments

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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