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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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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 sharing some of my thoughts about cloud integration challenges – Integration is holding back PLM cloud adoption few months ago. Last week, I had a chance to attend two webinars about PLM and integration.

Become a Connected Manufacturing Enterprise with Agile Integration by Jitterbit webinar provided a deep insight and shared customer experience about integrating Autodesk PLM360 with other systems. The webinar recording is here. The following picture gives you a perspective on a problem of “connected manufacturing” and architecture solutions like Autodesk PLM360 and Jitterbit are solving this problem.

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Here is the view that shows you the reality of mixed (cloud and on-premise) integrations.

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Another webinar by CIMdata – “PLM & ERP: What’s the Difference, and Why Should you Care?” is providing another perspective on integration challenges between engineering an manufacturing.

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Companies are moving into mixed cloud and on premise environment. This is a reality and we cannot avoid it. So, for a foreseeable future, we will have to deal with integration of multiple systems – some of them will continue to run on premises and some of them will be elsewhere (public cloud). It made me think about potential mistakes you can run into while integrating systems.

1- Lost data semantics 

Most of integration scenarios are about how to send data back and forth between systems. It is hard to keep semantics of data and not to loose it when exchanging information. So, define what data means and keep an overall integration data schema. Otherwise, the result can be messy.

2- Data transfer limitation 

Although some of integration infrastructure can allow you to implement data exchange quickly, you can underestimate the bandwidth requirements. Sending large packets of data can cause significant latency and create runtime errors and problems. Check what monitoring tools are available to handle such situations.

3- Transaction management 

Most of manufacturing systems are sensitive to transactions. To manage distributed transactions can be tricky and require some fine tuning. Pay attention on how you handle error processing when integrating transaction system managing ordering, lifecycle and bill of materials.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of integration is growing. Cloud systems are bringing many advantages, but will create additional challenges to IT and professional services. Most of integrations are not working out of the box. New tools running from the cloud can help you to integrate it faster, but it will require good coordination with IT and planning upfront to prevent potential mistakes. Data integration is hard and requires experience and familiarity with manufacturing systems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: freefotouk via photopin cc

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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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Why today’s CAD & PLM tools won’t become future platforms?

January 12, 2015

PLM business and software vendors are transforming. Manufacturing companies are looking for new type of solutions that can give a faster ROI as well as become a better place for engineering and manufacturing innovation. The dissatisfaction of customers about slow ROI and low value proposition is growing. Back in 2012 I was listening to Boeing […]

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Future of design: how to connect physical and digital entities?

December 2, 2014

Technology can help us to expand horizons of possible and impossible. I’ve been experiencing this expansion earlier today while watching AU2014 keynote session online while physically traveling to Denver, CO. Twitter and streaming video are quite efficient way to stay in touch with event virtually everywhere. If you missed AU live streaming earlier today, you […]

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Social PLM: How to pull a trigger?

November 19, 2014

In my yesterday blog, I shared some of my thoughts about “Facebook at Work” and potential impact on engineering and manufacturing software. It made me think again about all discussions and stories related to social software trend and social PLM. Social was trending topic 3-4 years ago. Many new companies were founded back those days to […]

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PDM & PLM UI Makeup: new trend in user experience

November 12, 2014

User experience is in focus these days. Slowly, but surely enterprise software companies are coming to the point of understanding how important is that. It is not about changing of colors and making buttons nicer. It is about how to get a major revamp in behavior of software or how often we call these days […]

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PLM Vendors and Tunnel Vision

November 11, 2014

I’ve been following Dassault Systems 3DXforum this morning. Thanks for technology improvements these days you can be almost present at the events by combination of live streaming and social media communication. The first presentation by Bill Taylor, Fast Company editor struck me by mentioning of the idea of Tunnel Vision. I took a trip to […]

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The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive

November 4, 2014

I’ve been talking about future of cloud file system and CAD data trajectories the other day on my blog. It goes back and connected to multiple discussions about future of file system. What will be future of file systems and file paradigm. Can we announce the death of file system? So, file system is dead, […]

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