Can Frame make cloud CAD & PDM irrelevant?

Can Frame make cloud CAD & PDM irrelevant?

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Few months ago, I discussed Frame – a technology to bring your existing CAD and maybe PDM / PLM environment into the cloud. My earlier post is here – Frame and bridge to CAD / PLM cloud. The advantages of Frame are clear – same software, no need to change and re-architecture things. However, it comes with price. In case of CAD, users will keep existing paradigm of file storage. It will require some additional effort to enable collaboration between users (feature that usually comes natively with cloud CAD platforms today). I can see some opportunity for PDM vendors to run existing PDM/PLM platforms using Fra.me. However, the architecture of such deployments as well as customization / configuration can be tricky.

I raised a question about PDM cloud installation using Frame environment on Design & Motion blog few months ago. I was happy to see that my question caught an interest. Michael Thomas is sharing his experience about installing and configuring AutoCAD and Autodesk Vault using Frame for Business. Blog is here – it has a very good technical coverage of what do you need to do, including some potential pitfalls.

Here is my favorite passage from the blog:

This proves that Product Data Management(PDM) is possible “in the cloud,” at least within Frame. I was expecting much more effort to make this work, but there wasn’t, it was not different than setting it up in the office. Other than enabling the Utility Server and capturing my desired App Persistence, I did not require Frame Support… all the hooks were already in place. This is a real testament to the robustness of their offering.

I think, it creates an interesting dilemma for users. As an individual  engineer or small design or manufacturing firm, I can install existing software (for example Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault) using Frame and move to the cloud (hopefully) without much pain. At the same time, Autodesk is providing “cloud” native configuration of of integrated CAD software – Autodesk Fusion 360, which includes PDM functionality. AutoCAD 360 is available as well integrated with Autodesk A360 for data management. So, which one is preferable? And the most important is what are benefits of new cloud development if problem can be solved using technology like Frame?

While thinking about how to answer on that question, I came to Develop3D article – How is design software changing? It is a commentary on recent Al Dean’s presentation at Techsoft3D event in Munich. Al’s presentation is not publicly available, but the name – Design and the Cloud: Same Soup (Reheated) speaks for itself. Read the following passage:

The premise was that, looking at the systems I’ve personally used over the last twenty years, a theme emerges. If you break those systems down and compare them to what is considered ‘state of the art’ today, there’s not a huge difference. Parametric modelling, surface modelling and yes, simulation, are all common factors of the old and the new. Yes, in the ‘old’ days, you could generate associated drawings. And yes, you could connect to data wherever you were — although it was a lot less quick and easy than it is today. Essentially, my thesis is that the only real difference is cost — both in terms of the software/service itself and the hardware we run it on.

If I look from Al’s perspective on a dilemma of choosing between Inventor/Vault and Fusion360, the question would be only cost. I use Autodesk products as an example, but similar thing can be said about Solidworks and SolidEdge CAD/PDM bundles too. I guess usability and functions are important. While old desktop UI can be not obvious choice especially if you try modern mobile/ touch devices, it can be perfectly fine to operate using laptop and desktop.

However, cost is a very tricky thing, especially when you want to compare cloud software service with sales of licenses and software CDs . Operation of cloud service can be costly. Installing and running virtual desktops and especially PDM servers with low utilization can become costly too. Which makes a comparison between native cloud services and old client server environments deployed using virtual machines not simple as you can think from the beginning.

What is my conclusion? It is hard to make “apples to apples” comparison between new native cloud tools and virtual cloud environment using existing cloud-server CAD/PDM bundles. My hunch – Frame doesn’t change much in the way future cloud technologies will evolve. However, it can stress the economical points and efficiency of new cloud developments to compete with “bridge solutions” between CAD desktops and full-cloud CAD. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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  • Peter Yodis

    Oleg, I like the article and your conclusion. One step further… There needs to be a way to bridge legacy file based PDM and newer Full Cloud native systems… otherwise there is that pesky double PDM tax that you mentioned before.

  • beyondplm

    Pete,

    Thanks for your comment! I think, double PDM tax is a problem of new cloud CAD openness. In other words, 2 cloud CAD systems (Fusion360 and Onshape) will run two PDM backbones. It is probably okay if these systems will interoperate seamlessly with cloud PLM systems. Otherwise 2 PDM backbones will be painful to run in parallel.

    Getting back to Frame story, it is a bit different. Onshape and Fusion are coming integrated with PDM. But Solidworks and Inventor requires their own PDMs. For cloud deployment, I’d prefer to run Solidworks and Inventor from Frame and integrate data directly into Onshape or Fusion360. Today Frame allows you to put data into Box or Dropbox. Will Onshape be open enough to play as a backbone storage from desktop CAD system running from Frame and similar cloud desktop environments?

    Best, Oleg

  • Peter Yodis

    I can see potential customers of the new cloud systems being hesitant to move to them if they can’t somehow incorporate their legacy data. As I currently oversee legacy data within legacy PDM file based systems, I would need to see a path forward before committing to create a lot of data in a new system. In that regard I would be interested in seeing what frame and others cook up. Interesting topic.

  • beyondplm

    Pete, thanks for this comment! Legacy data is a huge problem and effort for many PDM/ PLM projects..

    To migrate legacy data into a new system is usually very complicated project and (unfortunately) not managed well for most of systems today. Essentially, vendors are leaving it to SI for large PLM implementations. For MCAD/PDM, I can see it a bit different (note – PDM is a tool to manage CAD files in this context). Usually it separated into 3 areas – catalog parts, last projects and history. Catalog is usually #1 priority. Without that, you have tough time to start. Last project can be export / import via working folders. History can take time and in many cases left behind in many projects.

    Cloud systems have an additional complexity of data migration to the cloud. I haven’t seen any production system today that can do it for CAD files. But I know that problem is well-known and companies are working on possible solutions. Companies might have lot of data to move the cloud. I speculated around Amazon Snowball usage for that purpose. http://beyondplm.com/2015/10/13/will-manufacturing-companies-put-cad-files-in-aws-snowball/

    Best, Oleg

  • Peter Yodis

    Thanks for your thoughts Oleg! I hadn’t seen your post on Snowball. Sounds like it was conceived in a place like Boston last winter. Snowball looks like it first solves the problem of uploading massive amounts of data to AWS, correct? Beyond that there is the issue of making that legacy data relevant in new systems, both in how you might use legacy applications to interact with new systems AND in how you might use new systems to interact with legacy data.

    I’ve migrated data twice from PDM systems into “newer” ones. You’re right. It’s no fun.

  • beyondplm

    Pete,

    You are right. AWS Snowball solves the problem of how to ship data to the cloud :). Then it is up to the software. I had a bit of experience of crawling for CAD data in file directories and PDM systems in the past. It is a very hard problem to solve.

    The problem is known in non-PDM space too
    http://beyondplm.com/2013/08/20/who-will-take-on-plm-legacy-data/

  • Peter Yodis

    As always you are ahead of the game…

  • beyondplm

    Thank you Pete!

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