3 challenges to develop cloud storage and collaboration tools for engineers

3 challenges to develop cloud storage and collaboration tools for engineers


For the last few years, we’ve seen a number of attempts to develop specialized CAD data collaboration tools by leveraging cloud technologies. GrabCAD was probably the most successful one. More than one million engineers joined GrabCAD. In addition, before acquisition by Stratasys, GrabCAD developed cloud PDM tool – Workbench. Few years ago, I had a chance to discuss CAD collaboration topic with Hardi Meybaum, founder and CEO of GrabCAD. You can catch up on my discussion with him here.  Few other small and large vendors jumped to the engineering collaboration domain. You can read more about it in my last year blog – The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive.

Things are changing fast in cloud development these days. One of them, cost of cloud storage is going to be zero very soon. It appears as a problem for vendors planned to leverage cloud collaboration. The competition is getting tough and they are thinking how to develop ways to differentiate solutions. Dropbox is a good example. Started as a pure consumer tool, it is actively moving into business domain. My attention was caught by Techcrunch article – Dropbox lays out an updated enterprise playbook. Navigate here to read more. Here is my favorite passage:

And the biggest tool the company unveiled was an enterprise tool set called Dropbox Enterprise, which includes some additional tools above its Dropbox business product. It’s essentially giving IT managers more tools to onboard employees to a corporate Dropbox account and have visibility into their collaboration processes, and also gives those managers a dedicated customer service representative.

The competition is very much heating up in this space. Both Box and Dropbox have to basically sell their services not as a bucket of storage, but as a set of powerful collaboration tools that sit on top of that service.

So, Dropbox, Box and other cloud storage and collaboration vendors will push to deliver tools on top of their cloud storage platforms. At the same time, these vendors will invest into additional security and other technologies to convince business customers to use their services. Box platform is another example – How Box platform will compete with PLM vendors.

This trend made me think about challenges that can experience large and small vendors developing special “dropbox for engineers”.

1- Engineers in companies are already using Dropbox, Google Drive or similar tools. So, tools from CAD vendors and startups will have to become an additional tool, while portion of data is already managed by Dropbox-like tools.

2- The interplay and integration between specialized engineering collaboration tools and Dropbox can be a challenge and an additional level of complication. Who wants to think about syncing files between Dropbox and other collaboration tool?

3- Cost of CAD collaboration tools is relatively high, so the barrier for engineers and very small companies can be too high and value proposition too small to use them.

What is my conclusion? Cloud storage providers have to bring more business value to justify their cost and compete in the environment where “cloud storage” becomes a commodity. It will create a problem for all engineering cloud collaboration tools. The barrier to entry is high and companies are already using cloud collaboration tools from Google, Dropbox, Box and other companies. It is hard to convince a company to use multiple cloud storage collaboration tools. So, the only opportunity to CAD and PLM providers I can see is to develop specialized business functions to justify their existence. An alternative to integrate with products provided by Dropbox, Box and others. Tough choice. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of kibsri at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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