Desktop virtualization vs cloud CAD platforms

Desktop virtualization vs cloud CAD platforms


Desktop virtualization is a technology that separates you desktop environment and installed apps from the physical computer. It became popular for the past few years as companies discovered a potential of virtualization. While you can think about cloud as a giant virtual computing factory, desktop virtualization is specifically interesting, because it potentially can give a “cloud” life for your “desktop” applications.

Many vendors are discovering a potential of desktop virtualization to bring their existing application to the cloud. At the same time, new native cloud and browser based technologies are coming. These two technological waves and intertwined. Early adopters are excited about new native cloud platforms and browser based CAD systems. At the same time, more conservative buyers might be not satisfied with the level of maturity and lack of functional depth. As a result, many customers are facing the dilemma or investing into new cloud tech or try to migrate existing desktop environment into the cloud using desktop virtualization to solve the immediate problems related to distributed environment, data management and collaboration.

My attention was caught by the comment made on Tech-Clarity blog post – Strategy of the major PLM vendors. The article itself is a great anchor if you want to discover what are on the radar of major CAD and PLM companies. The comment itself is referencing the last development of  Citrix Xendesktop with NVIDIA Grid vGPU. Here is the passage:

Jeppe Sörensen says: I think that the Cloud approach is due for a Technological Shock. The work beeing done by these guys (see link below) will make “Cloud based authoring” a thing of the past, before it even took off – Citrix Xendesktop with NVIDIA Grid vGPU. Best regards, Jeppe

While I found a comment to be a bit on the side of blunt marketing, it made me think about what are pros and cons of each approach and how users can decide between use of desktop virtualization technologies or strategic move into browser based full cloud technologies.

Desktop virtualization

The advantage of desktop virtualization approach is the fact it can hide all cloud complexity and let you use existing application as is. It might be a good move for an individual engineers or company looking how acquire computing power in an elastic way comparing to buying a powerful desktop computer for CAD design or simulation. As a side effect, we have an existing file based paradigm and workflows migrating from local desktop machine to the cloud. Not sure this is something I’d like, since most of desktop tools are bad for communication and collaboration.

Native cloud platforms

New applications and platforms “born in the cloud” are introducing new approach into data management and collaboration. These platforms aren’t relying on file systems and hide the complexity of data management from customers and teams. These platforms enable new ways of instant collaboration that cannot be implemented using a combination of existing apps and desktop virtualization tech. The obvious disadvantages of new tools are luck of functions and sometimes more complex migration path.

What is my conclusion? Desktop virtualization is a shortcut that can be used by individual engineers and companies while new cloud platforms are not mature enough. I can see it as good solution to solve immediate problems. Companies can use it today. However, manufacturing environment is changing rapidly.  New manufacturing eco-systems are brining a strong demand for distribution of work and use of resources on a global scale. Such environments will challenge existing desktop paradigm with everything related to data management, collaboration and communication. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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