I attended Develop 3D Live yesterday in Warwick UK. It is probably the only vendor independent event focusing on CAD, 3D, design and engineering. It was my first time at Develop 3D Live. I think number of attendees was about 1’500 – 2’000 people at its peak time. All major CAD vendors presented at the event – Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, PTC and Siemens PLM. It was also first time public appearance for Onshape. The event was live streamed to U.S. time zones and had good twitter coverage at #D3DLive. You can follow the history of twitter stream here. I’m sure Develop3D will make recording available too.
Future CAD – #1 topic on the list
The future of CAD was the #1 topic on the list. The theme was set clear – cloud CAD. The agenda included keynotes from all CAD vendors – Carl Bass (Autodesk), Jon Hircshticsk (Onshape), Dan Staples (Siemens PLM), Gian Paolo Bassi (Dassault / SolidWorks), Brian Thompson (PTC) and the panel discussion (Future CAD) with Jon Hirschtick, Mike Payne, Kevin Schneider, Gian Paolo Bassi and Nikola Bozinovic (Frame / aka Mainframe2). Presentation, panel, off line conversation made me think about this interesting “cloud moment” in engineering software. I’ve heard it from many people during the event – it is a time to shake CAD industry again.
A new history of cloud CAD
I think, the first time time, word “cloud” was mentioned out loud by one of major CAD vendors was SolidWorks World 2010. That was the time when SolidWorks introduced SolidWorks cloud prototype, which worked in browser and on Mac OS. Here is the passage I captured from Cadalyst article back in 2010.
Next came the buzz-worthy preview of SolidWorks on the cloud (aka software as a service, or SaaS), wherein software is hosted on powerful server farms and users access it using an Internet browser. “This is designed not for flash, but to solve problems and make your life easier,” Ray said, adding that the technology has been in development for three years. Cloud computing overcomes the challenges of software installation and maintenance and, according to the company, keeps data secure. It is multi-platform by its very nature, meaning it is accessible to users regardless of operating system, and it can accommodate touch-based modeling and finger and pen interaction — that is, any wireless-connected device from anywhere could link the user to the full functionality of the 3D software
The period of time between 2010 and 2015 is a good demonstration of the speed of changes in engineering industry domain. It took long five years, lot of debates, many technological changes and here you go – cloud CAD became mainstream topic in the conference agenda. It still doesn’t mean the majority of CAD users are moving to the cloud. But the trend is clear – people are exploring the opportunity and potential of cloud CAD today. The reality – we are just scratching the beginning of a much bigger change of what cloud CAD will do to engineering and manufacturing software. The fun time is ahead.
Business and licensing model changes
Cloud is a topic that often brings confusion between technology and licensing. Cloud based business models are taking their roots back into ASP business (Application Service Provider) and, lately, to SaaS (Software as a Service). SaaS is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”. The “hosting” element of SaaS is not required and you can provide subscriptions for the software installed on a desktop too.
Subscription based licensing popularity is growing in engineering and manufacturing software. Many of CAD and PLM vendors are shifting their licensing into “subscription only” these days. Although, licensing is very important, it is not specifically related to “cloud CAD” discussion in my view. There are many examples of software that delivered as installed application, but sold on subscription basis.
The discussion is heating up when it comes to cloud CAD and technologies. I want to mention some of them – data management, graphic, geometry modeling, browser, security, virtualization.
Data management is one of the key components of cloud CAD. Some of you can be surprised, but cloud CAD is coming first to solve PDM problems related to poor data management of CAD files – accessibility, locations, references, copies, sharing, versions, collaboration. To make it happen, cloud CAD should come with solid data foundation capable to manage data using modern database and cloud storage technologies.
Graphic systems. The debates here are going around how rich CAD graphic can be available on different devices – laptops and mobile devices. Remember, original CAD high performance workstations had impressive performance characteristics. Very often, CAD systems worked with dedicated graphic cards and specific memory requirements. How is it going to change? Time will show that.
Geometry modeling is important for CAD and in defines critical foundation characteristics. Interesting enough, this technology is not much in focus for the moment. I didn’t capture many discussions about that. It looks like CAD vendors are going to leverage existing geometrical kernels and will focus on geometric modeling later. Although, I can see some interesting potential to simplify migration from existing CAD systems to new cloud products using same geometric modelers. The most interesting one here is SolidWorks and SolidEdge to Onshape migration (all systems are sharing Parasolid kernel).
Browser. This is an important technological component to deliver cloud CAD. The debates “cloud vs. browser” are heating up. The ability of browser to run full CAD system is an interesting opportunity that cannot be underestimated. If browser will be capable to deliver full CAD functionality, it can become a big deal in removing entry barrier for customers. It is also connected to the discussion about “offline” use. Internet is still unreliable in some places and we are going to hear many debates how to get advantage of cloud CAD without internet access.
Security. This is “red herring” discussion. The topic of security is important, but it is equally important for non-CAD domains. Each group of customers will take their own path and speed in cloud adoption and security requirements will follow these groups.
Virtualization. This is an interesting technological topic. Especially, when it comes to the desktop. The potential to virtualize desktop and run all Windows applications “as is” on the cloud is inspiring many companies. It brings many other questions. One of them – do we really want to bring messy desktop experience to the cloud? I’d prefer to leave all file and data management problems behind and not to move it to the cloud. However, virtualization can be a greatest short term opportunity for cloud and CAD.
Cloud CAD: products and differentiations
I assume all CAD vendors are recognizing cloud as a trend, opportunity and change that is coming to the industry. Their strategies and reactions are different. Some of them are using cloud as a jump start to shake up the industry. On the conservative side, vendors accept cloud as a technology for new type of delivery models. Below, I put a short summary capturing position and reaction of CAD vendors on cloud CAD future as it was discussed during Develop3D Live.
Autodesk: Cloud is strategic direction for Autodesk. According to Autodesk, cloud is not a future, but reality Autodesk is living for the last five years. Autodesk developed many cloud products. Autodesk Fusion360 is a central part of cloud CAD offering. The focus of Fusion360 to provide support for design, engineering and manufacturing workflows by leveraging data and social collaboration.
Dassault Systems / SolidWorks: Cloud is a delivery technology for SolidWorks and Dassault. SolidWorks Industrial Design is a new cloud product for conceptual design. Cloud is part of a broader vision of 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which support a diverse set of design, engineering and manufacturing workflows.
Onshape: As a newcomer company, Onshape is laser focused on technological differentiators – pure browser and no installation required. PDM functions are included in core Onshape product and provide support for versions, branches, undo/redo and collaboration.
PTC: Unfortunately, I missed PTC session at Develop3D Live. In my view, PTC is slowly moving towards cloud. One of their last announcements was about new “cloud PLM” offerings. I also think, PTC was the last CAD vendor that said “cloud” word in public. I haven’t heard about anything related to “cloud CAD” from PTC. But maybe PTC is baking something for coming PTC Live conference .
Siemens PLM / SolidEdge: Cloud is clearly a delivery technology for SolidEdge. Recently announced cloud trial version of SolidEdge delivered using virtualization layer and it is complimentary to their cloud PLM IaaS strategies.
What is my conclusion? It is a time to shake CAD industry with cloud. I’ve heard this statement many times from attendees of Develop3D Live. It will be interesting to see the development of products and technologies for the next few years. For new vendors like Onshape (and maybe few others in stealth mode) it will be a race towards traction and customer adoption. Established CAD vendors can clearly leverage their existing customer base. It is much easier to preserve existing customers rather than sell to new ones. I’m sure we will see many interesting turns and new opportunities discovered on the road to cloud CAD. Just my thoughts…
Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net