Open Source, Cloud Trap and Product Lifecycle Data Control

The discussion around the cloud is heating up. At the time, the competition gets stronger, the debate around the cloud trap is taking to the next level. It is not unusual these days to see cloud propaganda coming from the companies beating their future on the success of the cloud as well as opposite voices of people warning about the potential disaster that can happen as a result of your IP and data moving to remotely located storage.

So, who is around to support the cloud?

The number of companies supporting cloud strategies in CAD / PLM space is growing. I decided to bring two examples here – Arena and Autodesk. Arena is a long-time SaaS / cloud player. Autodesk just jumped into the cloud bandwagon few months ago.

Arena, well-known cloud / SaaS supported just came with the newproducts – PartList, BOMControl and PDXViewer. You can read Arena announcement here. This is how Arena customers differentiate cloud and web solution from Arena: Because the architecture is web-based, we avoid any IT or administrator investment. This has allowed us to maintain a lean organization and focus on what we do best—product development.

Autodesk PLM 360, product I discussed intensively over the past few months also actively presenting the advantages of cloud solution. Autodesk highlights the value proposition of their solution. Here is the quote of Buzz Kross presenting Autodesk PLM 360 few weeks ago during the Autodesk media summit in San Francisco: "There’s 140 pre-installed apps for PLM 360… Autodesk PLM 360 is 1/20th of the costs of the traditional PLM systems. The cost benefits users get is pretty phenomenal.”

And who is on the other side of the fence to convince us the cloud is a bad thing?

Richard Stallman, long time advocate of open source, founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the computer operating system GNU, warns everybody about the potential "cloud trap". Here is the passage from UK Gardianpost four years ago: Web-based programs like Google’s Gmail will force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time, according to the free software campaigner.

According to Stallman, customer who will follow cloud path will lose control over their destiny. All their IP will be moved to the cloud and eventually lost. According to Stallman, software should be open and available for free. Here is the passage from Stallman’s article:

"One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control," he said. "It’s just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else’s web server, you’re defenceless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed that software."

Dave Ault on his SolidEdging blog musing about the potential danger of the cloud. In his last post Cloud Fraud for you, BIG Shopping Cart for Chinese pickup up to the topic of the unsuccessful cloud demo experiences some companies had during COFES 2012 and continue with his arguments about potential security risks of the cloud solutions. Here is the passage, I especially like mixing Iran nuclear danger and potential role of the cloud in the future atomic apocalypses (I liked usage of my name in the context):

….let us look at the situation with Iran and their nuke program. There are some governments that do not like the idea of nutty jihad kook muslim’s running around with nuke’s who think they are going to get a lot of virgins in Heaven if they use them. So they just whip up this little program called Stuxnet and deliver it to the kook’s. Now the kook nuke sites are pretty high security I suppose so the best way to deliver your package would be the web I should think. The rest is history. All major companies spend a lot of time and money on R&D. All major companies according to Mr Clark give it away as a result of putting their stuff in places where the web can access this. OK you cloud guys, Oleg and the rest, prove this man wrong. Where is your proof of security?

Well, here is my take on the debates around the cloud in the context of CAD / PLM.

I think the key question in the story is about who is controlling product lifecycle data. Today, the control is in hands of corporate ITs and software providers selling applications that can handle product data. The idea of ownership is sensitive. I’ve heard about companies that backup whole virtual computer systems to prove they can read and access data in the future. At the same time, we all know about a potential theft of data using human factor in the companies (you don’t need to put your data on the cloud to be copied to USB sticks and portable hard drives ).

Some of the cloud vendors made their case strong by providing reliable services and making their software solution very affordable. Google, Amazon, – this is a short list of cloud companies. The outage of glitches in cloud software usually creates a lot of turbulence in online media. However, the main reason for that is our life dependencies on these services (gmail and hotmail are one of the best examples).

What is my conclusion today? I think we are in the early beginning of cloud hype-cycle. Cloud certainly has a potential to provide reliable and affordable solutions. However, cloud companies need to take a responsibility to be open and work on the improvements in the level of security and reliability. In case of product lifecycle management, I’d be focusing on how to develop and support mechanism for data openness and data portability. It will create another level of security for people using cloud solution and reduce criticism from the side of "anti-cloud pundits". I’m looking forward to have an open discussion. Just my thoughts…

Please speak your mind and respect other people during the discussion.

Best, Oleg

picture credit David Castillo Dominici /

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13 Responses to Open Source, Cloud Trap and Product Lifecycle Data Control

  1. Anoop says:

    Whenever I think about cloud, the first thing that comes into my mind is the issue of bandwidth limitation. It would be interesting to see (if and) how vendors address this.

  2. Dave Ault says:

    This is one of my chief complaints about the idea of the cloud. Unless a cloud company has the wherewithal to purchase and run the related infrastructure there can be no control over reliable delivery. The internet will be set up at the lowest possible cost benefit ratio possible and bandwidth hogs will always have problems. It seems as though the hunger for more bandwidth from every user will always outpace the ability of the cloud to work for things like CAD. How often do we see data caps now for instance?

    Oleg, thanks for allowing a differing viewpoint about the cloud here. Cloud companies only come under even more suspicions when debate is quelled and questions potential customers have are not answered. It is to their own best interests to start talking honestly here and if they can’t deliver the promises to give it up or change what they are offering.

  3. Anoop, thanks for asking this important question. Yes, bandwidth needs to be considered. Modern applications natively developed for web are much more adapted to web protocols. The right way to discuss this topic is to ask a vendor about latency requirements. It is complicated to vendors to support high latency with existing systems. However, new systems adopted to specific of http protocols can be very efficient. Online gaming industry pushed a lot in technology to support high latency networks. Their requirements are brutal, and a lot of innovations are coming from there. You can take a look on some background information here –

    Best, Oleg

  4. Dave, you are welcome! I’m sure, the dialog between users and vendors is absolutely needed to develop future trust and innovation in cloud and related technologies. I’m not hiding my strong support and believe that potential is huge. However, only smart companies will be able to realize the potential. Online businesses are sensitive to issue of trust – successful companies like understood it very well. -Oleg

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