PLM Prompt: Cloud – Is it the last file storage for CAD?

Picture 2I’ve been reading blog post by Deelip related CATIA and SolidWorks and thought what can be the final solution for CAD files, problem we are discussing for the last 20-25 years. With everything around moving to cloud, if we can allow to access your data at any time from any location, do you think cloud will become final storage for CAD data? Place you don’t need to import and export anymore, but just use it.

I’m going to think about more and come with more detailed discussion related to technologies that can be used to move CAD data on cloud. But for the moment, just asking your opinion about this option.

Best, Oleg


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  • Oleg,

    We are developing online document viewer for SharePoint, and CAD files are major challenge, primarily because of their size, lack of ability to download partial contents and cost of rendering. I.e. every time you touch them you have to bring the whole file down from the blob storage; plus diversity of file formats is a serious obstacle. If only there was a hope of moving CAD storage to the cloud and having some sort of unified web API for accessing partial data… I’d be extremely interested in story development.

  • Roberto Picco

    Dan, as far as Catia is concerned… Have you ever tried 3DXML capabilities? I successfully implemented a viewer in an ERP…

  • Hello Oleg,

    Interesting item. I think we are inevitably moving more in that direction. The first barrier, having someone else host your data (e.g. project hosting sites) out of your control, has largely been overcome. The generation of managers that couldn’t develop the trust required to do so are moving on. And, the cost-benefit ratio is simply becoming more compelling. CAD data, due to it’s richness (size, inter-relationships, etc.) will remain among the last hold outs.

    I talk with companies in a variety of industries (e.g. financial, insurance, healthcare) regarding their needs to grow. Quite often, companies seem to be increasingly starting out self-hosting and serving up their data/service. As they grow, they need to decide whether to make available self-hosted or packaged versions.

    In each case, it is simply more cost effective (particularly from versioning, support, implementation perspectives) to stay with self-hosted models.

    CAD suffers from a legacy of extremely heavy data, in forms never originally intended to support cloud-like deployment. For CAD/CAM to move in this direction, wholesale new ways of thinking, implementing, managing, and using, will need to occur. At the same time, broader bandwidth deployments, and lower-cost high-power servers, will need to continue evolving.

    Just like the move from 16, to 32, to 64 bit computing, there needs to be a desire, supported by a belief in the demand, before such support will occur. I personally have no doubt we’ll see true cloud-based heavy-hitting CAD/CAM solutions. 3 years? 5 years? Hard to say, but at the rate things evolve I certainly see it inside 10 years.

  • Dan, I think most of viewers today can solve “streaming” problem and stream heavy content to viewer. Where do you see problem? Regards, Oleg

  • Agree with Roberto, 3DXML is also choice. Best, Oleg.

  • Hi Oleg,

    Sure that the PLM data should move to cloud. But there is the big issue which concern with this way. And this issue concernong nor technology neither complexity of CAD formats.
    Think its an “IP” term mostly and in some cases standarts have influence too. We move to post industrial era and in this era the best benefit for enterprise is knowledge and information (and it should be the first marketing argument) but at this time lot of people think that they have good products and sholud protect their knowledge about this products from others.
    I think that these peoples need to have some set of standarts which will be simply, open, and will clearly describe how to provide information about their products without lose IP.
    And I think that if PLM vendors will provide the cloud services for PLM data exchange we will get open PLM data interchange standarts more quickly.



  • JT, thank you for your comments and insight! Agree, CAD data is complex and this is one of the biggest reasons it will take time to adopt to cloud. However, this is general direction. Thanks! Oleg.

  • Thanks for your comments. I apologize for not giving the background and for a long comment.

    We are trying to keep things as stateless as possible and keep minimal footprint on the client, so that we could scale transparently. Our approach is to stream only relevant pieces of data, which client needs to display information right now. This works great with bitmap formats (such as TIFF for example), which we can tile into the view pretty much like Google maps works with satellite data. Vector formats are a bit trickier, but doable as well. Complex things like DWG, especially those detailed floor plans of 100Mb+, cause some major headaches right now. It is not a big deal to render them on the server once, but doing it upon every request is a huge overhead. Caching solves the problem up to certain point, but then your rendition cache becomes comparable to original storage, which kills the deal.

    The alternative is to have a “heavy” client in form of ActiveX, SilverLight app or Java applet and just have it download the file when it needs it. This certainly works in many cases when you want to do something serious with a document. The drawback is that you have to download the full file every time you access it, so if you want to quickly look into the file (preview an item in search results, display a bigger picture in a workflow) you need a different principle of operation… This is what I referred to as “streaming problem” – you must always work with the full model, which can be rather big.

    For me, the best case for storing CAD in a cloud would be some standardized service, which I can talk to programmatically. Then I would be able to ask something like “I am looking from point X to point Y, my FOV is 45 deg, my resolution is 100 DPI, give me objects I can see right now”. And then do something like “Please take this vertex and move it to point X” or even “anchor new object A to vertex B of object C”. Then some people would be able to collaborate on the model, check out/in changes to particular parts and not have to download all the objects definitions locally. Just dreams?

  • Dan, Thank you for explanations. For me, since CAD will move toward cloud, chance to have cloud services returning CAD-related data is matter of time. I’d prefer to see REST based architecture for such services. There are no such services and product yet in my view. Great discussion! Good luck in your work! Best, Oleg

  • Steve Calvert

    Good discussions. I’m a CAD guy, I work in CAD all day long (except for the early mornings when I read this and other blogs). I think CAD data can and will be easy to move around in this “Cloud” you guys keep talking about, it’s only a matter of time. My biggest concern is safety of the data itself. The CAD data is the Intellectual Property that my company pays me to design and the concern is how to keep it out of others hands. Solve the question of security and you’ll get the CAD guys on board.

  • Steve, Thank you for your comments. I’m with you on this topic. Security need to be solved. I think overall maturity of “cloud” will bring us to this status. However, it will take some time. Will keep blogging to fill your early morning :)… Best, Oleg.

  • Hello Steve C.,

    From my perspective, security solutions already exist that are more than able to address most concerns an individual company will have. As someone whose platforms had to withstand financial and healthcare (HIPAA)penetration tests and compliance tests, I can confidently say the solutions work.

    Cloud-borne data can be secured in numerous ways, with varying customer-specified levels of security. One potential benefit of cloud-based data is that by default is may (likely) not readily be portable by an individual thereby defeating employee thefts with thumbdrives or the like. Internal loss is a bigger issue than external for most companies.


  • Good point. Actually “cloud” should provide better security, given the REST architecture Oleg was talking about is in place. Indeed, this way IT can restrict access to a portion of a model with some parts of it being invisible or “read only”, so that end-users edit or view only relevant areas. The practice is similar to coding to interfaces in development. Also keep in mind check-in and check-out semantics for individual objects and all other goodies that this sort of architecture can provide. Finally, since users do not have local files, you can restrict availability of the data to business hours, contract time frame, etc, which should provide additional measure of security. Oleg’s idea definitely has great potential. What does Dassault think about this?

  • Dan, you can see DS introduced V6 platform- this is first time commercial platform is moving to application server/database backend for CATIA. So, all CATIA data is actually stored and managed by ENOVIA application server and located in database. This strategic move toward SOA/cloud architecture. Best, Oleg

  • -;. I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information *.;