Cloud is one of my favorite topics. Back, two years ago, on SWW 2010, SolidWorks made a broad statement about the future of SolidWorks on the cloud and SolidWorks technological experiments in that space. I can see lots of changes happened since that time. Cloud computing is clearly going mainstream. It takes companies to understand what and how they should behave on the cloud. I wanted to put some thoughts about SolidWorks, cloud computing, and product data management. Until now, SolidWorks didn’t make any new announcement related to “cloud products”.
SolidWorks Users and PDM
As I mentioned yesterday in my post, SolidWorks keeps the status quo in PDM. Enterprise PDM remains the mainstream PDM story for SolidWorks and as I can hear from many people at the conference, the adoption of EPDM is growing. At the same time, the overall PDM adoption in SolidWorks community is relatively low. My very conservative assessment is that about 70-80% of SolidWorks customers today have no product data management solution. The problem of these customers to adopt PDM solution mainly related to two major factors: complexity and IT resources.
SolidWorks introduced first (and for the moment, only one) cloud data management product – SolidWorks n!Fuze. The initial kickoff of this product wasn’t very successful. Some mistakes were made in terms of product usability as well as pricing. It was mentioned during the Q&A session with SolidWorks VP R&D Gian Paolo Bassi. I’ve heard the same opinion from others’ people, including SolidWorks product managers and R&D people. Version 2 of n!Fuse is expected to come later this year. I’m expecting to see improvements in user experience. Maybe some changes in pricing will be done as well.
Cloud and SolidWorks opportunity
Back in SWW 2010, cloud topic raised lots of debates. However, if I analyze them in a detailed way, most of criticism was about taking SolidWorks CAD to the cloud. At the same time, I was able to hear that use of cloud to improve data-sharing capabilities and collaboration can be a very interesting option. Today, it is even clearer to me. The opportunity to improve product data access and data management using cloud technology is huge, in my view. Two major showstoppers for EPDM adoption – complexity and IT resources can be removed by cloud. Even very small teams and individual engineers will be able to access CAD models, drawings and other product data inside the company and beyond using mobile devices.
What SolidWorks competitors are doing?
In my view, the opportunity is well understood by competitors and the community. Few years ago, PTC introduced Windchill Product Point. PTC tried to leverage SharePoint to address problem of complexity and IT resources. In my view, it didn’t work and PTC retired ProductPoint. Autodesk is clearly coming after the opportunity by focusing on smaller manufacturing companies. At the same time, it is not clear how Autodesk Nexus PLM will address the need of “PDM-less customers”. Autodesk announcements clearly stated a combination of Autodesk Vault on premises and Autodesk Nexus PLM on the cloud as two main components of the solution. From my conversation with Autodesk people, I understood that they are aware about the potential of PDM-less customers and thinking how to address that. I can see potential for Autodesk Cloud (introduced few months ago), but in my view, it suffers from similar problems you can see in SolidWorks n!Fuze.
What is my conclusion? Cloud is a game changer. The ability of cloud products to solve the problem of complexity of deployment and IT resources with a combination of low-cost and availability cannot be missed. The opportunity is well understood by both SolidWorks and Autodesk selling products to smaller manufacturing companies. I can see everything that was done, until now, as “trials”. It will be interesting to see next steps. The simplicity is hard to address, and we all know that. I will be heading to SolidWorks 3rd day general session in few hours, which is traditionally focused on product announcements. Maybe some news will be coming from there. Stay tuned…