What cloud CAD data management is right for me?

What cloud CAD data management is right for me?


The amount of data created in the cloud and transferred to the cloud is growing. You probably noticed few of my last blog posts about cloud CAD – The stage for cloud CAD competition and How CAD vendors “murdered” PDM business. CAD vendors are moving to the cloud, but the truth the competition between other cloud vendors are heating up for the ability to generate content and manage it in the cloud. The following article caught by attention over the weekend – Dropbox is working on a new note taking applications. Together with few other larger and smaller vendors, the dynamics of getting our data up to the cloud is increasing.

This is probably a good time to ask a question – what are products that can help you to organize and manage your engineering data in the cloud. Few years ago, I’ve been sharing some of my thoughts about CAD file sharing in my public discuss with Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD. You can navigate to my old post here – Debunking the cons to CAD file sharing tools.

Today I want to take a short review of tools that became available since that time and focus primarily on managing engineering and CAD data in the cloud.

Generic cloud data (document) management tools

Yes, there are many generic cloud data management tools. Most of them are coming from vendors focused on cloud data storage. Google, Microsoft, Dropbox. There are few other tools. These tools can give you a way to put you files in the cloud without much focus on what is there (3D models, drawings, specifications, etc.)

A bit outstanding, but still a generic tools is BOX. You can learn from the website about BOX focus on industries. I shared some of my thoughts about that here – Can BOX become a platform for PLM?

Another interesting recent development is Adobe Document cloud.

Cloud CAD data management tools

New cloud CAD systems are coming with solid data management foundation. Two examples here – Autodesk A360 and Onshape data management. Both systems are capable to manage CAD data coming from multiple CAD systems.

You probably heard and seen Autodesk Fusion360. In fact Fusion360 runs on top of A360 – backbone and platform to manage data and collaborate socially about projects and changes. Project collaboration approach is a central concept of A360. You can read more here. A360 is a platform to create, collaborate and compute in the cloud. And it is capable to manage different CAD files from Autodesk and other CAD vendors. More about features and what you can do is here.

Onshape is providing core data management capabilities around Onshape documents. In of my experiments with Onshape, I’ve learned that I can upload other CAD files into Onshape documents, manage their versions and translate it into native Onshape data too. You can find this approach a bit different from A360 project. However, we can only guess where future Onshape product development will go. I found the concept of Organization management in Onshape, which can be developed in the future.

Cloud PDM tools

GrabCAD Workbench is probably one of the earliest cloud CAD data management tools. Workbench can give you an option to put multiple CAD data into cloud and manage versions. It is combined with GrabCAD Open Engineering community that allows you to leverage CAD data openly shared by about 2 millions of GrabCAD community members.

Kenesto Drive is another product you might pay attention too. After few product pivots, Kenesto came with a simple concept of “Drive” – a place where you can synchronize engineering data (including CAD files, of course) and keep using this data with your desktop tools.The following video gives you some overview of what Kenesto Drive does.

What is my conclusion? Growing interest to upload, share and manage data in the cloud will require better tools and probably new concept of data management. Customers won’t be happy with “double PDM tax”. I’m sure, the idea to move existing complexity of CAD data management in the cloud won’t excite users. My hunch customers won’t move into 100% cloud environment and we will be using both cloud and desktop in parallel for some time (I even don’t want to predict for how long). So, new paradigms will be developed to manage and collaborate heterogeneous CAD and engineering data in both cloud and desktops. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of watcharakun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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