Cloud and conservative CAD users

Cloud and conservative CAD users

Long time ago I found an interesting statistic about Dropbox usage by engineering departments. It was the time when PLM vendors just started to introduce their cloud PLM ideas to manufacturing companies. Navigate to my old blog – PLM cloud concerns and Dropbox reality for engineers. Here is the chart:

The original GigaOM article is still alive here. I didn’t find an updated data points about Dropbox and Engineering departments, but some other stats I found online convinced me that situation is probably did not changed for the last 5 years. Here is s reference to Forbes article speaking about 500M Dropbox users and continues growth.

Here is another data point about SMB and cloud storage stats from Clutch.co – SMB cloud storage trends.

Last month at AU2017, Autodesk announced about their partnership with Dropbox. Navigate here to read more. Here is an interesting passage:

With more than 1.5 billion .DWG files stored by our users, Dropbox has built one of the largest collaboration networks of AutoCAD design files in the world. To ensure the best experience possible for the many people using AutoCAD with Dropbox, we’re partnering with Autodesk to build deeper integrations and provide architecture, engineering, construction, and manufacturing professionals with new, innovative features.

I found Cadalyst article written by Robert Green summarizing CAD management trends based on the conversation with more than 600 CAD managers at AU2017. According to improvised pool organized by Robert Green using Facebook, CAD managers are against anything that says “cloud CAD” together. At the same time, he admited that “cloud” is the reality of IT and it will eventually come to CAD users and managers as well. Here are few interesting passages I captured in the article.

About Dropbox collaboration:

Dropbox — one of the few cloud software utilities I see widely adopted — received big attention as Autodesk announced close collaboration with the file storage provider. By supporting direct Save To and file preview imaging from inside AutoCAD, Dropbox is clearly trying to embrace Autodesk users’ needs more fully. And though the announcement only pertained to DWG-based tools, the clear implication from employees in the Dropbox booth was that more would be coming in the future. Finally, since many other CAD tools also write out DWG files, it is safe to assume that Dropbox may become a more frequently used utility in many CAD departments.

Autodesk will influence cloud decisions. This is a great news for everyone who is working on cloud-based software:

As goes Autodesk, so goes the industry (usually). Like it or not, Autodesk is a big company that strongly influences standard industry practices. Things like product evolution, cloud implementation strategies, licensing, and IT management structures from Autodesk tend to show up in other software platforms over time, so studying them at AU makes sense.

More software is coming and cloud will be part of it:

Prepare for a software deluge. CAD tools, coordination tools, rendering tools, plug-ins, cloud-based tools, you name it — you’re going to have to support it, no matter what platform it runs on. And while it would be great to only worry about a few known software products, the reality seems to be that more software is coming your way.

Cloud is a challenge for CAD managers’ IT skills:

IT skills are increasingly required. When CAD tools start moving to the cloud, or files are stored on mobile devices, security and file control become big concerns. Guess who needs to understand how these tools will be controlled? You! And who will you need to explain all this to IT to get everything running right? You! Simply put, you’ll need to know more about IT than ever.

Cadalyst article made me think about how trajectory of cloud software for engineers and more specifically for CAD users. Here are my thoughts:

1. CAD managers will be losing their control of users and management environment in cloud-based environment. So, don’t expect them to be friendly and welcome cloud-CAD future. To find a way to incentivize (or neutralize) CAD managers is one of the issues cloud CAD vendors, marketers and sales should think about.

2. Cloud storage and collaboration platforms will play a significant role in cloud CAD adoption because it will make a use case to share engineering data and collaborate across departments and users. After all, existing designs are in files. AutoCAD, Solidworks, others… Whoever will be able to move these files to a cloud environment, will be able to rule the future industry transition to the cloud.

3. Cost and, most importantly, unique value proposition of cloud CAD systems will play a key role and influence cloud CAD adoption. I have hard time to believe that users will move to the cloud to do more/less the same for about the same price. Unique value combined with right price will make a deal for CAD users.

4. It is not about cloud CAD only, but about “solutions” that customers will buy. Switch from desktop CAD system to cloud-based software will trigger a question about other software integrated with desktop CAD systems today – PDM tool, BOM spreadsheets,  simulation, CAM packages and others. To integrate these tools together with cloud CAD as well as to provide a bridge to existing desktop environment.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is slowly making a dent in minds of engineers. However, it will take more than just replacing CAD package to move engineering department and manufacturing companies to the cloud. It is about combination of tools and infrastructure that will create a unique value proposition for manufacturing companies to explore cloud CAD alternatives and move to cloud solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.

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  • Lou

    Regarding thought #3, the value proposition is already baked in for cloud-CAD. Companies that have already invested heavy capital $$ in on-premise licenses and servers will milk those investments as long as possible. Younger and smaller companies are already giving cloud CAD serious consideration.

    Onshape will break through next year, and Graebert could start making waves on the 2D side with viable cloud product as well. Solidworks still looks 2-3 years away from their cloud solution, but maybe that can be accelerated. As cloud CAD options become refined, CAD managers will be forced to at least consider solutions that do not require capital expenses (or carry the overhead of resellers and IT). Expecting more moving and shaking with cloud CAD next year.

  • beyondplm

    Thanks for sharing your insight!