CAD and cloud marketing controversy

CAD and cloud marketing controversy



CAD and PLM marketing folks have tough time these days. It has been just five years ago, when Jeff Ray, former CEO of SolidWorks shocked everyone at SolidWorks World 2010 by introducing the SWAT team with the objective “to kill SolidWorks”. You can navigate back in time to SolidSmack article – Jeff Ray on V6, the Cloud and Killing SolidWorks.

Five years later SolidWorks 2016 is coming with “online functionlity” that allows to run SolidWorks anywhere. Read more on SolidWorks blog. My attention was caught by Cadalyst article SolidWorks 2016 Goes Online. It gives an additional insight on  SolidWorks online functionality. Since now, you can run Solidworks via browser using platform. In my everyday lingo, I’d probably call it “cloud enablement”. But here is the thing… The latest interview with Gian Paolo Bassi proposed an interesting clarification of terms between “cloud” and “online”. Here is the passage:

During discussions of the Online Edition, SolidWorks executives were careful to avoid the term cloud. “A lot of people flap their mouths with ‘cloud, cloud, cloud,’” scoffed Bassi. “We don’t need to fill up our mouth with big words.” “Cloud” starts whenever you have some part of your workflow, your data creation, outside your desktop, he clarified. “We don’t believe that cloud means you run everything in the browser.”

According to Peter Rucinski, director of product portfolio management for SolidWorks desktop products, not many customers are asking for “CAD in the cloud” in particular, but they are asking for flexibility. “They are asking for anytime, anywhere … and SolidWorks Online gives you that flexibility,” he said.

The definition of “online” functionality is coming across with already existing marketing dispute about cloud between Autodesk’s and Onshape. Cloud is vitally important for both Autodesk and Onshape. Therefore, Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD and the cloud. But, for the moment, I can see some disagreement related to technological approach taken by Onshape and Autodesk.

The best way to get into that is to read SolidSmack’s parallel interview with Jon Hirschtick and Carl Bass. I can see an acknowledgement of cloud. But I can read some marketing controversy at the same time. Carl addresses it in the following passage with the “cloud” as a key word:

Carl – We’ve been saying for awhile that there are two benefits the cloud brings: first, it gives you virtually unlimited amounts of computing, which is critical when you’re talking about solving real engineering problems, specifically simulation, rendering, CAM and even generative design. And secondly, it serves as the central point for sharing, collaborating and managing data projects—critical for distributed teams and those working across the supply chain. Fusion 360 was imagined for this new world, and because it’s built on the cloud, it will be able to easily evolve over time as our customers’ needs change and all the various platforms they use improve.

You can see a different marketing approach taken by Jon which brings “full-cloud” marketing notion based on the technology to run Onshape in a browser.

Full-cloud has been a great new strategy for improving reliability. Because desktop and semi-cloud systems rely on installed CAD software, bugs cause crashes and data loss. Our full-cloud system is distributed across many servers and has no crash-prone installed software — so even when we have bugs they never result in any interruption or loss of work. This improved reliability from our full-cloud architecture has been astounding to users who suffered from typical installed software crashes.

What is my conclusion? Vendors are trying to find a way to market technologies and products in a best ways they can. It resulted in some marketing controversy. I think we will live in a “cloud CAD” marketing limbo for some time now. What is more important is technology and functionality developed by all vendors – Autodesk, Dassault Systems and Onshape. Al Dean of Develop3D made an interesting prediction earlier this year about cloud CAD technologies (read full article here):

Eventually, Fusion will be available via the browser (I’d put a fiver on that being before the end of the year). DS’ next generation SolidWorks products will get better and more accessible. Though strangely, this is the unknown in the calculations as DS is reluctant to talk about the whole thing, presumably to protect its dominance with SolidWorks.

And hopefully, Onshape will have a way of working when you’re offline, as well as internet connected. Finally, I’d hope that DS is much more open about getting its customer’s access to the tools it is developing . The excuse that “They’re using our resources so they should pay” simply won’t cut it as these tools need to be played with, discovered and explored. At the moment, they’re not getting the exposure that they deserve — leaving a whole new market open to Autodesk and Onshape.

So technologies and functions will evolve. Meantime it is very important to demystify cloud CAD marketing and explain the meaning of technologies and product functions to customers.  Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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