Cloud, Head’s-down CAD Drafters and Technological Analogies

Cloud, Head’s-down CAD Drafters and Technological Analogies

Earlier this week, my attention was caught the article Cloud is Dead by Ralph Grabowski. Following some of Ralph’s thoughts, I found myself in a strong disagreement with his position and decided to share my view. The main point of talk is around two aspects – head’s-down drafters and technological analogies.

Cloud and Head’s-Down Drafters

Ralph is raising the point of CAD cloud and so called “head’s-down drafters”. Here is the passage:

The cloud is no utility to head’s-down drafters, the kind who work hard to push out drawings, the bulk of which are still 2D. (If that were not the case, then AutoCAD LT would not be Autodesk’s non-stop best-selling CAD package, year in and year out.)

I found this association is very narrow. In my view, cloud (as well as some other technologies) creates the opportunity to optimize your work. Mobile access and cloud are going to revolutionize the way information becomes available. Getting back to head’s-down drafters, it will give them the ability to access information remotely as well as share drafts with people in different locations. Paper will be gradually replaced by tablet devices in the field, as well as the information about “the cost of change” can become available to a sales person working with a potential customer far-far-away from the engineering department.

Technological Analogies

Another place where I felt the need to clarify Ralph’s claim is related to the cloud technology. Here is the passage:

Furthermore, cloud technology is not so new. Those of us who started in computing more than 20 years ago are likely familiar with client-server computing (also known as “mainframe-terminal” or “time-sharing” computing) and so are well-acquainted with its failings. Cloud computing is the new clothes for the old emperor, who today struts again naked.

Here, the association with mainframe and time-share terminals is absolutely wrong. To take the cloud down as a “transmission service” only is too narrow too. I’ve heard similar claims among IT people trying to present the cloud as “no big deal” and something like “just take my servers to another location”. In my view, the real power of the cloud is in application of elastic computing, multi-tenant systems and finally re-definition of software cost-structure.

Appropriate Use of the cloud, please

Here is one thing, I agree with Ralph about the cloud. Appropriate use of the cloud, please. The power of workstation, especially when it comes to the combination of local storage and size of information required for 3D and 2D drawings cannot be replaced by the cloud. This is can keep existing CAD systems alive. At the same time, growing storage capability and low cost can bring emerging technologies empower cloud-based rendering (i.e. just published OTOY-Autodesk announcement) and outperform local workstation.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is dead. Long live the cloud. No, this is not about future Dassault V6 technology :). Let’s define what cloud technology we are talking about. If this is a technology that allows you to virtualize computing power, deliver elastic scalability and high availability,  push cost down and enable easy data sharing across multiple locations and devices – thumbs up! However, if this is about how to move existing 15 years old CAD / PDM / PLM servers to hosted location and use the same slowish client-server technology over the internet – this type of cloud is dead. Just my thoughts… YMMV.

Best, Oleg


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