Here is why CAD in the cloud is more than mainframe terminal

Here is why CAD in the cloud is more than mainframe terminal

CAD-IBM-mainframe-term

Cloud is one of the topics that I’m following on my blog for a long time. I can see lots of changes that happened in CAD / PLM world for the last few years with everything that related to cloud. I’m sure you remember very turbulent announcement about SolidWorks future in the cloud made during SWW 2010. Since then, I was looking how CAD/PLM vendors were taking different cloud approaches based on their customer base, long term vision and strategy. Here are some of my previous posts speaking about vendors and different cloud strategies – Dassault is going to support all PLM cloud options by 2015; PLM cloud switch and PTC final click; Siemens PLM analyst event PLM public cloud strategies; Cloud and IaaS options; PLM/PDM Why Cloud? Wrong question…

I read Siemens PLM blog  post – Is it time to revisit CAD in the cloud?  by Matt Lombard. The article raised many question and concerns in my head. So, I decided to share them with you to compare our notes about cloud strategies. My attention was caught by the following two statements:  1/ Cloud has nothing to do with CAD. It is IT;  2/ Cloud in the cloud will send us back to manufacturing/terminal arrangement. Here is the passage from the post about that:

The cloud has nothing to do with CAD, really. The cloud is all about how you deliver the software, and/or about how you store the data. It’s IT. There was a time when all CAD software was delivered across a network to individual terminals, and the data was stored centrally. People about my age who remember this sort of thing generally refer to that as the “bad old days”. Working on terminals that had to log in to a mainframe was inconvenient. If the mainframe was down, no one could do anything.

The personal computer (PC) revolution was such a big hit because it gave you more flexibility. Everyone had their own computer. It took us out of the collective, and made us individuals again. In the mid 90s, along with Windows NT, this meant that we could start using our technical engineering applications on PCs, which were far less expensive and restrictive when compared to mainframe setups.

“CAD in The Cloud” promises to send us back to the mainframe/terminal arrangement. Whether it’s a local cloud, on your company’s LAN or a public cloud on Amazon or IBM, or a private cloud you access over the internet, it’s the same idea as the mainframe/terminal. But is it a good thing, or a bad thing? 

These two statements made me think again about completely different approach companies can take in terms of cloud adoption. You can consider cloud as “yet another server” located elsewhere and managed by somebody else (not by the IT of your company). From a very narrow point of view, it is true. However, think for the moment about potential elastic computing power. You might rethink your position.  The ability to bring brute computing force will allow you to speed up design and analysis. You can compare variants, visualize your design and re-use early projects in a completely different way. It can change design and decision process completely.

Another aspect is related to collaboration and data access. By moving your PDM server into cloud can gain some benefits. It mostly around IT cost and global access. However, you can achieve much more by allowing people to communicate across departments and extended value chain. It opens many opportunities in communication, business optimization and analytics services.

Another interesting point made by Matt is related to desktop tools. Matt comes with the explanation about relationships between SolidEdge and cloud. Here is the passage from the blog:

For all of these reasons, I like the approach that Siemens PLM has when it comes to the cloud. Solid Edge does not appear to have any cloud aspirations at this time, but there are versions of enterprise software that will allow for local cloud set up. Giving the customer the choice and the control without coercing them is the right thing to do.

I like the way Matt put the connection between SolidEdge as a desktop software and so called “enterprise software that will allow for local cloud set up”. I reminded me TechCrunch article – The Return Of The Desktop Productivity App. What I like is the role desktop applications play in the triad of desktop-web-mobile. All together, these applications become part of connected cloud platform. Think about Evernote for a moment. You can use desktop version of Evernote and transparently switch to mobile and web version depends on the situation and need. Your notes remain captured and available to view, edit and collaborate. This is a big deal. This is how we will use software tomorrow. Desktop CAD applications will be seamlessly connected to cloud platforms providing backbone for communication, collaboration and storage.

What is my conclusion? Think about web and cloud as a new platform. It will bring a completely new paradigm of design and engineering. As a first step you can think about it as an old “mainframe/terminal” or “yet another server located elsewhere”. However, cloud trajectory will take us much further. It will bring new connected platforms that will change the way we communicate and collaborate. Elastic computing platforms will help us to find optimal design solution and intelligently use customer data for analysis. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

The photo courtesy of computerhistory.org

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  • scottmoyse

    Nice write up Oleg! I personally think the best example of Web/Mobile/Desktop combined so far is Microsoft Office 365. That service is truly brilliant. OneNote, Excel, Word & Outlook all hooked up via OneDrive and SharePoint backbone is epic. You data is sync’d reliably between the cloud and your desktop, in Windows 8.1 you have be selective about what is available locally, but it’s all visible all the time locally, even if its only available online. That is where I would have no issue seeing CAD data being managed… assuming wide spread availability of high speed internet with bags of bandwidth. Autodesk 360 so far… unfortunately it falls so far short of O365 and other cloud enabled syncing tools, it’s embarrassing.

  • Scott, I have to agree that the Microsoft Office 365 is a pretty slick implementation, with some issues here and there but overall very nice.

    The thing I like most about it is that it was not disruptive to my workflow and just naturally got incorporated into my routine without me doing anything extra. For example I just started using the sharing feature to allow external team member to edit several documents. There was no pre-setup I had to do. I just simple decided one day that I want to share my document, click share and voila they had access to the document without the need of Office on the other side.

    It does seem most people talk about cloud vs. desktop but I do think the ideal solution (at least today) is a hybrid solution. I have to say when I travel overseas I am very happy that I have a cached version of the files on my computer.

  • Youhey

    Nice Post Oleg! In my opinion, this is the heart of your post:
    “You can use desktop version of Evernote and transparently switch to mobile and web version depends on the situation and need. …. This is how we will use software tomorrow.”

    P.S.: Do you know, why I don’t receive your posts in my email anymore since last week?

  • beyondplm

    I will check about email subscription. It looks strange indeed. I’m using Google Feedburner for years…

  • beyondplm

    Scott, thanks for this example. Yes, Microsoft is doing pretty good job in connecting their different Office options.

  • beyondplm

    Denis, you are spot on… offline (cached) version is absolutely must have thing.