What is the right cloud CAD storage?

What is the right cloud CAD storage?

Cloud technologies are trending. But engineers are still on the fence to decide about how to move to the “cloud future”. Last week at Solid Edge University in Boston, I was learning about Siemens PLM approach in cloud and how Solid Edge is developing complementary cloud features to their desktop software.

My attention was caught by GrabCAD blog written by Mike Payne, CEO and founder of Kenesto –Six Benefits of Storing Your Data in the Cloud. Mike doesn’t need an introduction in the world of CAD software.

A prolific technologist, Mike has co-founded technology companies, including PTC, SOLIDWORKS, and SpaceClaim, each of which has changed the way the things we use everyday are designed and manufactured. Now, Mike has turned to revolutionizing the concept of Document Management, Cloud Storage, Project Collaboration and Execution with Kenesto.

My favorite and the most interesting passage from the article about cloud and security. Just few years security was #1 concern for manufacturing companies adopting cloud solutions. The situation is changing, but I guess question is still here:

When discussing engineering use-cases with clients large and small, several positive aspects of our product, Kenesto, and GrabCAD come to mind. Because users are concerned about security we can ensure the absolute integrity of their data. Data encryption is the highest priority on the list and includes both the file name and path. Permission settings on files and folders are probably second on the list, but as importantly, how quickly a service provider can lock a user out of their login should that be required for any number of reasons. The critical idea behind using the cloud is the ability to lock your IP in a safe black box location that not everyone can access unless needed.

The main point in the article – bring CAD files to the cloud storage managed by GrabCAD or Kenesto and you will be all set to manage CAD versions, checkin/out process and security. While I can see a rational to place CAD files into cloud storage, customers might be asking – what are alternatives? Especially when it comes to storage and PDM, companies are concerned not only about security, but about many other things – cost, sustainability, integration with existing solutions and many others.

Few years ago, I discussed what are the options for engineers to storage and collaboration with GrabCAD co-founder Hardy Meybaum. Check for my article here. According to Hardi back in 2015, files were still a primary thing people are working with, technology is no issue, Go to market and price is a challenge, user experience is the key and PDM is not a solution to collaborate outside of engineering.

Does GrabCAD or Kenesto can be a solution? Probably yes, but… if not – what are alternatives? I want to bring few possible options.

Onshape has a radical solution for solving CAD cloud file storage and securing data. The name of the solution – “no files”. I blogged about Onshape many times before. Onshape is indeed beautifully engineered cloud system provide you a way to collaborate in the browser and forget about cluttered folders with CAD files.  I can see Kenesto and Onshape are in full alignment about cloud storage security – cloud is more secured.

Here is a link to Onshape blog – Is Cloud really more secured than my company server? by Neil Cooke

One of the biggest problems with file-based CAD systems is that they are non-stop copy machines. Every time you send a file as an email attachment, you’re making copies. Copies in your outbox and copies in your recipient’s inbox. Every time you use an FTP site or a service like Dropbox, you’re churning out additional copies of your IP that you no longer have control over. You don’t know where your IP will go next (is your recipient’s cybersecurity solid?) or who can look at it.

For this reason alone, your IP is safer in Onshape, a modern CAD system that unites advanced modeling tools and your designs in one secure cloud workspace. There are no copies and you have strict permission controls over who can view or edit your master design – as well as who no longer needs access.

By thinking about alternatives, it is obviously right time to speak about Cloud File Storage platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive and others. These vendors are paying great attention to security. Each of these services has business version with advanced security layers and features. And what is mostly important – I’m pretty sure, any company already store some data using one of these services. When you think about disruption – it is an important element of your strategy.

Companies are providing integration with cloud storage systems like Google, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box and others. If you followed my blog and news, Autodesk created partnership with Dropbox and even provide a viewer for DWG files (It is not clear to me if MCAD viewer will be provided). Another example of CAD and cloud file storage integration is OpenBOM (disclosure- I’m CEO and co-founder). OpenBOM has an integration with multiple cloud storage file solutions (e.g. Google, Dropbox, Onshape, Autodesk, etc.) to store CAD files and link them to bill of materials.

I have to mention also Autodesk Fusion 360 (Forge) and Siemens Solid Edge Portal. Both are capable to store CAD files and provide viewer for collaboration. Their data management capabilities are different from the functional level provided by GrabCAD and Kenesto. I didn’t name all vendors, so if you believe, your solution is an option, please comment and send links to me – I’d be happy to mention it.

What is my conclusion? The trajectory of 3D CAD cloud storage, data management and collaboration is very interesting. It is obvious to everyone that cloud is the way to improve communication and collaboration. However, we can see how painful for many engineers to disconnect from their existing desktop solutions and jump into cloud future. Painless browser based solution like Onshape has obvious benefits – no files and no problems. But if your CAD files already in one of cloud file storages (like Dropbox, Kenesto or GrabCAD), integration can be an interesting options as well. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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  • HRISHIKESH KURHEKAR

    One point is missing in this article is the Performance of the CAD data when accessed from the cloud. This is a major concern since I can see none of the cloud product offers a great visualization experience in any of their platform. Overall I liked the security aspect since it the foremost concern but 2nd to that is performance.

  • beyondplm

    Hrishikesh, thanks for your comment! Are you talking about viewing performance? Or editing performance. How it can impact CAD systems such as Fusion360 or Solid Edge storing data in the cloud? At the same time, CAD viewers in the browser are operating long time and pretty much mainstream. Maybe you reference CAD systems working in a browser? I don’t know many of these… Onshape is probably the best example. Do you see visualization problem in Onshape or any other CAD?

  • HRISHIKESH KURHEKAR

    Thank you for your reply ! I was talking about both, since there is no good example of accessing/transacting large graphics files (with/without Metadata) such engine assembly, final automobile/aircraft assembly into the browser for editing, representation or explosion purposes. I worked on cloud PLM systems and I didnt find none of the existing Cloud PLM (Fusion Lifecycle/Arena/Aras) offers great visualization experience as compared to traditional one. We posed this feature to customers and their concern is the performance. Large transactions in cloud has a performance problems given its nature. It may be suited for SMB customers with limited user seats but for the big customers it is not ready. Technology will evolve so does this aspect too ! IMO.

  • beyondplm

    What is your definition of the large transaction? Can you quantify?