Is there a Place in the cloud for Product Data Management (PDM)?

Is there a Place in the cloud for Product Data Management (PDM)?


Written by Mike Thomas & Oleg Shilovitsky 

Holidays is coming and this is a good moment to experiment and bring some new experience on Beyond PLM. The article below is a result of my collaborative work with Mike Thomas of Design and Motion. You can follow Mike on twitter. Mike and I had an opportunity to blog independently about usage of cloud and design tools (CAD, PDM, PLM). Here are few blog posts written by Mike – A review of Frame for Business and Data Management with Frame.

PDM was long time perceived as a complicated environment slowing down engineers – considered as an unavoidable evil. While it is still not easy to install and configure even mainstream PDM system, new options such as cloud virtualization can bring some alternatives. After few conversations, Mike and I decided to share our thoughts to help users to decide about PDM system implementation and pros and cons of usage virtualization such as Frame for PDM.

The article is also published on Design & Motion – you can check for more comments by navigating to the following link.

Cloud technologies are changing the way we manage data. Many years CAD users’ only option was to use PDM (Product Data Management) system to manage CAD files and revisions. PDM was also a system to help a team of engineer to access data and collaborate. Engineers is one of the most innovative groups of people. However, when it comes to their own tools, engineers are very conservative. You can easy expect the following vision for data management from an engineer – “I want to work with my designs (files), please leave me alone and stop selling me PDM tools”.

What can make a difference is a new collaboration paradigm. Cloud is a fundamental part of it and changing the way engineers can manage product data. New cloud CAD systems should solve PDM problem first, so engineers won’t have to ask how to manage CAD files – there are no more files. But this change can raise many questions. Here are some of them – Do we need super cloud PDM? or How cloud CAD can avoid double PDM tax?

Frame, Cloudalize, Citrix and few other virtualization platforms can take your existing desktop CAD system to the cloud without much changes. There are many advantages of doing so. Existing environment, tools, configuration. But here is the thing – it also takes your CAD files to the cloud. So, the question – how to manage CAD files in the cloud becomes important. Check-in and check-out are two very complicated operations in existing PDM paradigm and to make it work seamlessly in mixed cloud / desktop CAD virtualized environment can be a challenge.

With the “race towards future engineering platforms” and the move from the desktop to the cloud, is there a place in this new world for Product Data Management (PDM)?

Let assume an average sized company of 30-seats using desktop CAD systems (Solidworks or Inventor) want to move to cloud-based environment using Frame virtualization platform. As for today, CAD systems are running on desktop and/or laptop computers. PDM system (Solidworks Enterprise PDM or Autodesk Vault) should be installed using separate server and use network PDM licensing – we’re meaning 30 concurrent connections. Regardless of the platform chosen we must purchase PDM clients. The cost is the same regardless if the server is local (on premise) or in the cloud, meaning we do not need to count it in our calculations.

Single Site

Looking at a company with one site who wants to run PDM locally (on premise) they must first purchase a server to host the PDM. Let’s budget $30,000 for a server, which will include hardware to run the PDM application, extended warranty, a backup solution, and the IT costs for implementation. I think it’s fair to assume the server can run for at least three years, so we will distribute the cost over the life of the server, which is $10,000 / year

If the company would prefer to host the PDM in the cloud I’ve proven that Frame is a suitable platform. Frame requires licenses for each user and if we use the “middle” plan, Business Standard, the cost is $20/month/user. Doing some quick math, $20/month X 12-months X 30 users = $7,200 / year

Another requirement for hosting PDM on Frame is the Utility Server. The pricing is not officially set,  but we’ve got a good idea that it’ll be around $75/month.  = $900 / year

Finally, the company would require cloud storage to store their data. If they standardize on Google Drive and additionally implement Google Apps Unlimited, they receive unlimited storage. The price for this is $10 per user per month. $10/month x 12 months x 30 users = $3600 / year

Adding this up, the total for an in cloud solution PDM on Frame is $11,700 / year. If we do not consider the IT resources required to maintain an on-premise server, the cost is very close ($10,000 vs $11,700)…

Multiple Sites

What about companies with multiple sites? With on-premise the first consideration would probably be VPN or build another type connection between the sites, into one central server. However, the better solution is replication, meaning servers in both locations who replicate the data between sites during non-peak hours.. In this scenario let’s assume one $30,000 server to act as the main host. We’ll lower the cost for each subsequent server, say $20,000 / server.

If we stick with using the servers for 3-years before replacement, with two sites the cost is $16,666 / year.

To use Frame to host the PDM in the cloud, the cost remains $11,700 / year as it doesn’t matter if we have 1, 2, or 30-different locations accessing the server. We also don’t have the IT overhead to maintain multiple servers and the connections in between.

Apples to Oranges?

Let’s try to make a comparison how company with 30 users will move to the cloud with desktop CAD and traditional PDM system using Frame virtualization platform.


What is our conclusion?

Frame virtualization platform has provided a cost-effective, yet suitable platform to host your PDM in the cloud, accessing it from an unlimited amount of locations. The difference maker will still come down to your comfort of storing your data “in the cloud” and the reliance on your internet connection.

Frame Utility server can potentially solve the problem global data access especially for low latency networks. This is typical problem most of traditional PDM environments will have when deployed over the WAN configuration. Using Frame with desktop CAD and traditional PDM will still keep your collaboration capabilities limited to what CAD /PDM can do by managing an access to files and doing check-in/ check-out operations. Frame won’t allow you to realize the full potential of cloud collaboration you might have going with native cloud CAD environments.

Frame is a good half step to the cloud for existing desktop CAD users and will solve problems of cloud deployment and hosting of existing PDM environments. At the same time, it doesn’t change a fundamentals of existing CAD/PDM architecture and the need of working CAD files.

Best, Oleg & Mike



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