The future of CAD without files?

The future of CAD without files?

No files any more. Period. I hope I’ve got your attention. File system is one of the most stable paradigms for storing data for the last 20-25 years. However, here is the question – do we really need it? Take a look on the following quote from Wikipedia:

Programs do not necessarily require file names or directories to access data, and direct data access is possible by hardcoding programs to directly access data regions on a storage device. Similarly, directories or folders are technically unnecessary, and all data could be arranged in a flat-file manner, identifying data using some external locating method such as typed pages in a binder. Such a system would be extremely difficult for day-to-day management and organization of data by human users.

We use files almost everywhere. However, stop, for the moment. We actually are not using files on the web. The meaning of files changed when it comes to the web-like organization of things.

I was reading Alex Bowyer on O’Reilly Radar Blog – Why Files Need To Die? Take a moment of time and read that article. Make your opinion. How much of your everyday lifecycle is dependent on files and what is completely file-less. I found the following passage inspiring:

The file folder metaphor makes no sense in today’s world. Gone are the smoky 1970s offices where secretaries bustled around fetching armfuls of paperwork for their bosses, archiving cardboard files in dusty cabinets. Our lives have gone digital and our data zips around the world in seconds as we buy goods online or chat with distant relatives.

The complexity of folders and files these days is similar to paperwork in the example above. Alex is coming with the idea of streams and related information. I found it interesting since it actually eliminates the need for files. You are just browsing through the information.

CAD with No Files?

Now, let think about CAD/PLM world. The fundamentals of CAD and design systems are files. We use them to store assemblies, parts, drawings. In addition to that, we use them as a reference in many places. Do think “file” paradigm will live with CAD and other design systems forever? The movement of CAD vendors seems to me the obvious application of modern web principles to the world of design and engineering. The initial signals are here. CATIA V6 pushed the limits and eliminated files by connecting CATIA system directly to Enovia back-end. Autodesk cloud experiments with systems like AutoCAD WS made existence of files on the disc obsolete. PTC introduced Creo Apps. It will be interesting to see if PTC will come with the future idea of eliminating files.

What is my conclusion? I think the computing and information paradigms are shifting from file-oriented to data (and web) oriented. The initial signs are here. The speed of this movement is questionable. Manufacturing is slow changing environment and engineers are very reluctant to changes. Just my thoughts. What is your take on the future without files?

Best, Oleg


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