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The future of free PDM

by Oleg on February 11, 2015 · 0 comments

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Free is an interesting trend. As we always said, there is no free lunch. But, last decade introduced us to a new way of thinking about FREE. I recommend you to read a book – Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. Free trend is interesting and has many opportunities. It is, of course, not a silver bullet to solve any problem. I can define two main use cases for free service or software: 1/ multi-level business schema in which monetizing is enabled by free product. The best example is Google. More generic use case is any ads selling in social networks; 2/ freemium model in which free product used to increase market share and product reach. Despite many discussions about significant potential of freemium models, it didn’t change the grand business schema in PDM/PLM. Most of “free” examples are coming into option #2 I mentioned above. PLM is a system that must be “sold” opposite to other products that can be “bought”. However, PDM is a bit different. Last 2-3 years indicated some shifts in PDM development. The value became more clear, the functionality is more standard and cloud file sharing and storage tools gave some vision for the future of PDM. In parallel, CAD/PDM integration became more integrated and customers are often assume that it must be provided by CAD vendors.

Today was a big day for customers looking for PDM solutions. First news came from SolidWorks World 2015. Here is the news – I picked it up from #SWW15 tweet feed – SOLIDWORKS 2016 package will include Standard PDM.

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Second news came from GrabCAD. A short email from GrabCAD this morning informed me that GrabCAD Workbench is now completely free. According to Hardi Meybaum, GrabCAD CEO here is why GrabCAD decided to make Workbench free.

…the reason is a focus on growing the community. “Our goal with this change is to reach more people. Returning to the free model of Workbench will increase the speed of adoption and support uninhibited product design collaboration.”

These two events made me think about future trajectories of PDM value proposition and pricing. Few interesting data points – if you are listening to companies developing cloud CAD solution, you can get the message – future cloud CAD won’t require PDM. More specifically, PDM will be a fundamental part of cloud CAD allowing people to collaborate on design. Even more, it will be much more transparent and intuitive than today. On the other side, generic cloud file sharing and collaboration tools are getting much more smarter and can quietly become ready to manage CAD files. Last, but not least – the complexity of CAD / PDM integration is well know fact. The trend towards simplification of integration and an attempt to re-imagine the way PDM can be integrated with PDM gain some support from both software vendors and customers. It might end up by removing check-in/out commands or tight bundling of CAD/PDM solutions coming from CAD vendors.

What is my conclusion? Everyone needs to manage CAD data, but nobody wants to implement CAD data management. My hunch, GrabCAD decided to give away Workbench to reach more customers and learn more future potential of GrabCAD business models. SolidWorks is trying to gain more market share from own customers without PDM solutions before they will implement free cloud PDM from other vendors.  SolidWorks customers will get standard PDM package for free, which is a good news for large amount of companies having 2-3 SolidWorks seats. It looks like we are in the beginning of PDM market disruption. I can be wrong, but users are winning and this is what mostly important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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The race towards CAD in the cloud is getting more interesting every day. I’ve been watching SOLIDWORKS World 2015 live streaming this morning. Overall SOLIDWORKS show was very impressive, as usual. I look forward to keep watching it following days.

However, what caught my special attention today is a presentation of a new cloud product – SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design. Couple of interesting facts about new product  - works on top of Dassault 3DEXPERIENCE platform (in many aspects, think about it as ENOVIA V6); focus on free design with no traditional CAD constraints; leveraging cloud approach for social connection between users and collaboration. And… it is complimentary for SolidWorks users. Demo of product presented few scenarios in which design flow went between new cloud product and old SolidWorks connected by 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Sounds like a big deal.

The story about new SOLIDWORKS/3DEXPERIENCE product took me back to my comparison of Onshape and Autodesk Fusion360 visions few days ago – Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD. In my view, changes in design world towards distributed teams and ability to work effortlessly on any device without installation and manual upgrades are two main driving factors behind new cloud solutions. The story about Autodesk Fusion360, Onshape and SOLIDWORKS made me think about interesting priorities all creators of cloud CAD are thinking about. It was well articulated during SolidWorks World 2015 first day keynote –  supporting any device, information is up to date all the time, users are connected (see picture above).

It makes a perfect sense to me, since it is a great reflection of modern cloud paradigm you can see well developed in products such as Google Apps, Office 365 and others. However, this is a place where complexity of CAD data requires from cloud products to be more sophisticated. Traditionally, CAD project is combined of multiple files – assemblies, parts, drawings, etc. As you start making changes you very quickly end up with a complexity of many-to-many relationships between different versions of parts, assemblies and drawings. Move it to the cloud – the complexity won’t disapear.  Therefore, you can see both Autodesk Fusion360 and SolidWorks Industrial Design are trying to solve. I had no chance to see Onshape product yet, but my hunch Onshape will try to solve this problem too.

Autodesk Fusion360: revision control, branching and collaboration

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SolidWorks Industrial design: 3DEXPERIENCE collaboration, branches, revision merging

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What is my conclusion? In a traditional CAD world, the problem of file revisions, collaboration and data control was part of PDM solution. Historically, CAD vendors were reluctant to solve PDM problems unless it became absolutely necessarily. PDM was complex, required services, special pre-sale process, etc. However, cloud is creating a new demand and constraints for new CAD in the cloud paradigm. With the absence of file system exposed to end user, cloud CAD system will have to solve a PDM problem first. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Cloud computing is changing a world around us. CAD and engineering applications are not exception. It has been already five years since SolidWorks team at SolidWorks World 2010 announced about developing of CAD and mobile applications. I found Cadalyst articles – SolidWorks World 2010: Clouds, Macs, Movie Making, and More which speaks about capability of cloud computing to change CAD and design world as somebody was able to think about it back in 2010.

“This is designed not for flash, but to solve problems and make your life easier,” Ray said, adding that the technology has been in development for three years. Cloud computing overcomes the challenges of software installation and maintenance and, according to the company, keeps data secure. It is multiplatform by its very nature, meaning it is accessible to users regardless of operating system, and it can accommodate touch-based modeling and finger and pen interaction — that is, any wireless-connected device from anywhere could link the user to the full functionality of the 3D software. Now you can use a Mac to model in SolidWorks, Ray told the audience, which reacted with cheers.

Cloud computing facilitates collaborative modeling because there is just one source of data and one version of a file and model updates take effect immediately, and it better facilitates data sharing and legacy data reuse. On the cloud, users can employ traditional search to locate legacy files quickly and minimize the need to create design sketches from scratch. “[This data] can be your own data, others’ data, or template data from SolidWorks,” Ray said. Cloud-based design can be more flexible as direct 3D editing is based on window selects, and the increased power of cloud-based servers can speed design and rendering time and decrease system crashes. Even if a system does crash, you never lose any data because the model always stays where you left it, even if you didn’t save it, Ray explained.

Well, this passage above is a history. While engineers and CAD industry analysts are on planes to sunny Phoenix to discover new SolidWorks software at SolidWorks World 2015, two other companies – Autodesk and Onshape are working to build a future cloud CAD software. My attention caught by two articles providing an insight on the development of both systems – Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape. Take some time during the weekend and read How and Why We’re Building Fusion by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and Why We Started From Scratch (Again) In The CAD Business by Onshape Founder Jon Hirschtick.

Both articles are providing an interesting perspective on current status of design tools, technological and customer landscape. Actually, I found a lot of similarities in thinking expressed by both articles. I decided to bring few passages here, so my readers will be able to compare notes.

1- Yesterday’s tools are failing today’s engineers

Jon Hirschtick> There’s no problem in CAD that’s been completely solved yet. CAD systems still aren’t fast enough, they’re not easy enough, they’re not robust enough or reliable enough. All of the core issues in CAD are still there – and I think as an industry, maybe we’re halfway done.

Carl Bass> While there are many capable software products in the market today, none comprehensively solve the major issues in product development. So people are forced to string together tools that make iteration cumbersome and working in teams difficult. We’re bringing together the most important portions of product development into one comprehensive, integrated environment to help people go from concept to production—form, function, fabrication, data management and collaboration.

2- Computing world has changed

Jon Hirschtick> We are in the midst of the biggest change ever in computing platform technology, from the old world of desktop PCs to the new world of cloud, web and mobile computing. Younger people have grown up in a post-desktop world and have different expectations about computers. They don’t even think about having “a computer.” They walk in with their laptops and their tablets and their mobile phones. They expect computing to be modern and available anywhere, anytime on any device. Cloud, web and mobile technologies are our exciting new raw materials for creating CAD – they are like carbon fiber is to Boeing or battery chemistry is to Tesla.  And if used properly, they have tremendous potential to solve many of the problems faced by today’s CAD users.

Carl Bass> The world of LANs, firewalls and identical workstations is aging and being replaced by cloud computing and a wide variety of devices, increasingly powerful and mobile. The architectures of the future will be tuned to combine what’s best done locally with what’s best done on the cloud, giving us access to nearly infinite amounts of computing power, letting us imagine how we would design differently if computing power was unlimited. As an example, Fusion completely utilizes the cloud to offload compute intensive tasks like analysis and visualization. The cloud also allows for fundamentally new ways to structure data so teams can easily share and collaborate, particularly as those interactions reach beyond the firewalls of a single company. And most importantly, this information needs to be available on every device—PCs, Mac, phones and tablets—allowing us to choose the most appropriate device for the task at hand.

3- Design world changed

Jon Hirschtick> The Design World Has Changed – The way that design and manufacturing teams work together has dramatically changed. Teams that used to be under one roof are now fragmented and globally distributed. And teams are also changing faster, with people coming on and off projects all the time. Traditional CAD was never built for this new model of distributed design – we know because we’re the ones who built it.

Carl Bass> The world of our customers has changed greatly. They are working in distributed teams with global and complex supply chains. When legacy 3D mechanical design tools were developed, competitiveness centered on quality. Today, high quality products are table stakes and companies who thrive are focused on innovation and shortening time to market. Just as tools like GitHub have made managing software projects much easier, we’re doing the same for design and engineering projects. We’re building a tool where everyone can work together and where data management and collaboration are foundational, not an afterthought.

Overall, I’ve got an impression that Carl and Jon are in agreement about many things. It would be interesting to see what will be a difference between Onshape and Fusion360. Actually, you have an opportunity to listen to both Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick at DEVELOP3D Live next month in Warwick, UK. Both are keynote speakers -the program is here.

What is my conclusion? I like the way engineering and manufacturing business is becoming more social. I can see it from my perspective of six years of daily blogging about PLM. It means that the way companies are building software is changing too. Both articles are helping to understand the vision and future trajectories of CAD software, collaboration and product data management. My hunch, it is going to bring benefits to customers and industry. The world has changed forever. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Autodesk Fusion Gallery

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3D printing of electronics can change product data management

February 4, 2015

3D printing is changing the way we can manufacturing products. Which potentially means changes in how companies are going to manage product development processes. While it is still unclear how it may happen, I wonder if 3D printing can also change the way we manage data about product. Forget about 3D printing as a way […]

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How to prevent cloud PLM integration mistakes

February 2, 2015

Cloud is huge enabler for collaboration between people. It makes your data and processes accessible everywhere from a browser. It can help you to collaborate between engineers and suppliers. It can help you to integrate systems and people across enterprise. Let me speak about the last one. The integration topic is actually tricky. I’ve been […]

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Dropbox can quietly become ready to manage CAD files

January 29, 2015

Cloud file sharing and collaboration tools are booming. To store and share files on one of the cloud file sharing tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple iCloud is part of everyday workflows. The situation is different for engineers working with CAD tools. You can store CAD files in your Dropbox. However, because of cross references […]

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How PTC is delivering PLM in the cloud?

January 28, 2015

Cloud is trending and it is hard to find a company who is not thinking how to leverage new cloud technologies and business models. However, just to say “cloud” these days means probably nothing. The right question is how to implement cloud. I guess many companies these days are coming to that question. It goes in […]

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The anatomy of PLM upgrades

January 26, 2015

Software upgrades is a fascinating topic. It has been with us from a very early beginning of software. Seriously, we hate upgrades. On the other side, very often, this is the only way to make a progress. The main problem of upgrades is related to existing dependencies – migration of data, file formats and data […]

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How to transform old CAD-PDM integration paradigms

January 23, 2015

Integration of CAD and PDM is a field with long history of battles, innovation and failures for the last 15-20 years. You can hardly undervalue the importance of integration between CAD and data management tools. For some time in the past CAD and PDM were separate systems. Engineers had to switch from CAD to PDM […]

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Can BOX become a platform for PLM?

January 19, 2015

Platform is a topic, which comes quite often in the discussion about future of PLM. CIMdata recently came with a topic of “platformization” in PLM. You can catch up on the discussion – A CIMdata dossier: PLM platformization. I can probably divide all existing PLM platforms into two groups – 2D/3D design platform and Object […]

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