I keep following new cloud software outfit Fra.me. Few months ago, at Siemens PLM conference, I’ve seen how SolidEdge runs in the cloud using Frame infrastructure. You probably noticed my blog – Fra.me and bridge to the cloud earlier last week. Another article about Frame by SolidSmack is bringing a news about the availability of two Frame plans – Personal and Business. Here is the passage from the article:
Today, company CEO Nikola Bozinovic has just sent word to SolidSmack that Frame is now available in two distinct plans – Frame Personal and Frame for Business – for both individuals and teams to install, manage, and share their desktop applications using nothing but a browser. Among other reasons why the platform has been of interest is because it will allow users of CAD software offerings that aren’t currently Cloud-supported – such as SolidWorks or Solid Edge – the ability to work from any internet-connected device in the world without being tethered to a particular workstation.
So, maybe Fra.me is that magical “single click” solution that will solve all problems of engineers to move their work into cloud environment? The idea sounds very appealing- create your cloud computer, which will make all your existing desktop top available via just browser.
At the same time, it made me think about basic checklist you do before jumping into Frame nirvana.
1- Does my CAD license valid for cloud?
I know, legal stuff is boring. Some of you might remember Autodesk eBay lawsuit. As a user, you can check small letters in your CAD EULA document. It is a good idea if Fra.me will publish some clarification about licensing on their website. From tweet chat with Frame CEO Nikoa Bozinovic, I understood that he is aware about licensing issue.
2- How to bring my existing CAD project library to Fra.me?
Engineering work is rarely done from scratch. It is usually about re-using existing projects, using standard library of parts, etc. Sometimes, existing libraries are large and to move them into cloud environment can take time and cost money. At list this problem exists for many cloud based environments. Will Frame provide services like Amazon Import/Export? Frame is addressing speed of data exchange between Frame computer and Dropbox, but I didn’t find any information how to import file.
3- How to share data in a team?
For many years of desktop CAD software use, customers developed many best practices about how to share data. It starts from well known “z-drive” concept and also use of more advanced techniques and software such SharePoint. So, how my z-drive library will be available on Frame?
4- How to use PDM tools together with Frame?
The usage of PDM is growing. Many CAD users found the real value in managing their CAD data using PDM systems. PDM systems today are bundled with many mainstream CAD systems. What will happen with my PDM installation? How to move it into Frame environment? Does it mean I need Frame IT option to do that?
5- How to escape Frame (in other words how to get my data out)
The last, but also important – how to escape from Frame in case something goes wrong or company will move into another solution. Nobody likes data lock-in these days. The idea of Google takeout is very appealing and I wish it will become part of CAD data liberation. It is not clear how to handle export of data from Frame computer. It might be simple, but can take time and money like import of data.
What is my conclusion? It takes time to bring cloud tools such as CAD, CAE, CAM to the level of maturity available in desktop systems today. Cloud providers are pushing forward to develop new tools and re-use existing components. However, in many situations, existing desktop tools have better support for needed functionality and complete workflows. Frame is digging into an interesting opportunity to take “desktop world” to the cloud. The short term value proposition is clear. In my view, existing CAD / PLM vendors can be interested to use technologies like Frame to prolong existing solution lifecycle into cloud time. My hunch, it can influence the speed of early cloud adopters to move into full cloud solution. Cloud companies should watch it closely. Just my thoughts…
Frame CEO Nikola Bozinovic kindly agreed to provide answers on my questions and publish them on blog.fra.me. Meantime, don’t miss Frame white paper which is specifically focused on “Frame for CAD” that can be downloaded here.
I captured few interesting passages that can give you ideas about Frame strategy to provide value proposition of running existing desktop CAD and PDM/PLM system in the cloud using Frame virtualization environment.
Previous to Frame, adopting the cloud for CAD workflows primarily had to do with moving to cloud-based file storage. This essentially meant splitting up your workflow and spending a lot of time downloading and uploading files. While some CAD options exist as native cloud apps, these options don’t have anywhere near the feature set of established Windows-based CAD tools. So, in the past, cloud options created an inefficient and fragmented CAD environment. With Frame you can continue to use the tools that you’re used to, the way that you’re used to using them but get all the benefits of being able to access them through the cloud including seamless integration with cloud storage.
Focus on being a CAD expert, not an IT expert. Managing desktops and laptops used for CAD, license servers and PDM systems can be a pain because they are generally distributed across multiple locations, owned or managed by different departments and configured in different ways which lead to different behaviors. With Frame, every element of CAD management and administration is centralized. License servers and PDM systems can be installed on Frame utility servers to make them accessible from anywhere and by any department. Similarly, CAD software only needs to be installed and setup one time and then can be accessed by any number of users from the Frame Launchpad in a browser.
I captured the following architecture diagram from Frame for CAD white paper:
Cloud storage is required in case you want to store your files and data. Frame white paper recommends to use services like Dropbox (the only released support) and Box (in beta) or Google Drive (in beta). The installation and configuration is not exactly “single click”. White paper provides instructions and recommendation how to setup and configure environment. Frame confirmed several CAD systems already on-boarded to Frame environment – Dassault Systems Solidworks, Siemens’ SolidEdge and NX, PTC’s Creo, Vectorworks and ANSIS). I guess more to come. It is notable that none of existing Autodesk desktop systems are not tested for the moment. For some installation and configuration related topics Frame white paper recommends to contact Frame directly.
Stay tuned for more information.
Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Fra.me