Cloud CAD and what does it mean for PLM?

November 30, 2012

The topic of CAD (or 3D CAD) in the cloud is getting more traction. The first “CAD in the Cloud” announcement happened almost 2 years ago when SolidWorks introduced their technological work during SWW 2010. Read SolidWorks takes off to the cloud to refresh your memories. Back that days it raised lots of conversations, disputes and controversy. Here are few historical posts – The Death of SolidWorks? by Develop3D, If you wonder how SolidWorks Cloud will look like… by WorldCAD Access, Bertrand Sicot reinforces SolidWorks cloud plans by One of the last publications by SolidSmack – SolidWorks 2013 and the promise of SolidWorks V6 can give you a good update of where SolidWorks stands now. Below is a picture of SolidWorks cloud prototype as it was captured by Deelip Menezes at SWW 2010. According to his post SolidWorks V6 is due in 2013.

In the meantime, we can see the idea of how to use cloud technologies for design and collaboration became more popular with new products and companies at the horizon. Here are few names you better pay attention to. GrabCAD is transforming from “Facebook for engineers” concept into a set of online collaboration tools. You can see a video of GrabCAD for Teams below. is another startup company, which is trying to use cloud and in-browser technology to introduce a fresh approach of collaboration and design on the web.

One more startup – TinkerCAD is approaching 3D online design and 3D printing combined as a new experience to work for engineers and designers on the cloud.

Moving from startups to large behemoths, earlier this week at AU2012, Autodesk just announced new product in Autodesk 360 product line called Fusion 360 – 3D CAD in the cloud.

3D CAD: Unix, Windows, Cloud

I can see a clear technological platform shift in the CAD industry. 3D CAD is moving from Windows (as a mainstream 3D CAD platform today) to the cloud. It happened in the past when 3D CAD moved from variety of UNIX workstations to Windows/PC platform. Similar shift is happening now.

3D CAD and PLM

What 3D CAD platform shift means for PDM / PLM? The significant portion of PDM and PLM business is tightly related to CAD systems. The connection between CAD and PDM/PLM was always “love and hate” relationships. Engineers are clearly hated PDM systems as something that interfered with their work. Seamless (embedded) PDM integrations were supposed to solve that problem, but faced technological complexity of implementation. CAD vendors’ competition made CAD-PDM/PLM relationships even more complicated. I can see 3 main trends that may happen to PDM/PLM with 3D CAD gearing up to the cloud.

1. Reduce complexity. Since communication between CAD and PDM/ PLM will move to the cloud servers, it will reduce the complexity that in many cases was a result of desktop to server communication.

2- Simplify user experience. Reducing of complexity will result in a streamline of user interface. No more awkward files, folders, lockups, and many other things that complicate user process.

3- Focus on business processes. I believe cloud CAD will reduce lots of data-management tasks that require use attention. It will result in the ability of user to focus on business process improvement.

What is my conclusion? Traditionally, CAD was heavy focused on desktop and file management. It included file management. All together create a complicated technological and user interface problem. Moving of CAD to the cloud can positively impact the ability to improve user experience and hide some complicated data-management activities from users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Cloud PDM and 10GB Emails

November 28, 2012

Last year I blogged about Google’s cloud and CAD/PLM readiness. Navigate to the following link to refresh your memories. The trigger for that post was Google’s announcement about personal storage scale up to 16TB. Could you imagine that number? Ask manufacturing companies about size and scale of their storage. Few of them will come even to 10TB of engineering drawing storage. My conclusion last year was that cloud infrastructure will grow. We clearly can see it now.

The following Mashable publication and Google announcement caught my attention yesterday. Here is the passage explaining what you can do.

Google announced Tuesday that it will be integrating Google Drive into Gmail, a move that will make it possible to send files up to a massive 10GB in size over email. A new button in the Gmail compose window will give users the ability to attach a file from their Google Drive account rather than attaching the file itself to the message. Once it’s attached, Gmail will ensure that your recipient has permission to view the file in your Drive account -– or will prompt you to grant that permission –- and then sends the message.

Google’s announcement made me think again about how many companies are sharing data and collaborate. File servers, Emails, Excel and file attachments is the most widely used configuration of so-called “DIY PLM”. Does it work well? I don’t think so. At the same time, for many companies this is the only affordable solution. What is IT alternative to the companies struggling to solve their data management and collaboration problem? The possible solutions are going from SharePoint and homegrown systems to basic PDM packages. None of them are perfect. Many people in the companies are sharing data using Google and Dropbox and avoiding complicated IT infrastructure.

What is my conclusion? I think, vendors need to make a note. The fundamental engineering data management problem is not resolved for many companies. People are still struggling to implement PDM and share engineering documents across the organization. Will these companies move to Google cloud tomorrow? I’m not sure about that. Will “frustrated users” try to use Google to share data between people? Possible. Most of IT infrastructure projects, including SharePoint are not ready to handle this problem yet. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM and the diversity of cloud options

November 28, 2012

Cloud discussions are trending these days. As Autodesk employee, I’m attending Autodesk University 2012 these days in Las Vegas. Autodesk is strongly positioned in the cloud, and you can hear it everywhere. Inspired by the exploration of web and mobile technologies, enterprise companies, design firms and professionals are thinking how to make cloud work for business. However, the devil in details. To learn more about the cloud, I attended Innovation forum earlier today – The reality of the cloud. Let’s admit, we are all using cloud already. Here is an improvised poll made by Andrew Anagnost about how many people at that session are using cloud in their business environment today 67% of attendees are using cloud applications.

Thinking forward about cloud solutions, the following 3 points need to be mentioned – 1/cloud is different and one size doesn’t fit all; 2/cloud is a journey. You need to take cloud initiative, start from something and transform it as you grow and 3/size is already real today. Companies like and solutions like Evernote are best representation of cloud reality today. Salesforce was the the first cloud business gearing towards 3B revenues next year. Evernote is widely used in business. You can check an interesting discussion about you supposed to use Evernote in business.

Cloud Tiers and Options

I’ve been reading Gartner’s report – A quick look at cloud computing in manufacturing industry in 2012. You can get an access to this report via the link sponsored by Autodesk PLM 360. The report reinforces some of my earlier conclusions about cloud PLM options I’ve made in my previous blog – Cloud PLM and IaaS option. Take a look on the following picture, which presents an interesting view on tiered cloud architecture:

Gartner’s paper defined follow 5 options of cloud deployment and infrastructure diversity:

1- Public cloud – An IT capability as a service that providers offer to consumers via the public Internet

2- Private cloud – An IT capability as a service that providers offer to a select group of customers or value chain partners.

3- Internal cloud – An IT capability as a service that an IT organization offers to its own business (subset of private cloud)

4- External cloud – An IT capability as a service offered to a business that is not hosted by its own IT organization

5- Hybrid cloud – IT capabilities that are spread between the internal and external cloud

What is my conclusion? Cloud has a diversity of options. One size doesn’t fit all. When you think about cloud and PLM, remember about different ways to implement it. Different options will work in different GEOs and industries. In addition to that, we will see the evolution of these options in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Why PLM Experience is a bad idea?

November 26, 2012

Experience. This word is getting into our lexicon and we start using it often. It is a nice word. We like it. It reminds us success of Apple, flawless way to find information using Google maps, slick Macbook Air and many other things that we started to call “experience” now. I took few days off blogging. If you follow my social channels, you noticed my Florida experience. Navigate here to take a look on my Everglades experience as well as mobile photo stream experience with kids. During this vacation break, I continued my experiments with two photographic experiences – iPhone and Canon EOS. I made it first couple of months ago during my Israel trip. My initial conclusion about the experience was mostly about the picture quality tradeoff. However, last week, most of my experiments were about expanding experience scope to the overall process of photo capturing, processing and sharing. Here is my conclusion in a single word – connected. Canon experience was mostly disconnected. At the same, iPhone experience was connected and social. Speaking in business terms, I had low cost and fast ROI with iPhone solution – decent quality pictures were uploaded and shared almost in real time. Most of my Canon EOS pictures are still somewhere between flash cards and computer discs.

I want to switch to PLM now. Nowadays, PLM vendors are also thinking about Experience. You can think about the experience like a fashion. To check about fashion you go to Paris. Maybe it is just a coincidence, but Dassault Systemes was the first PLM company officially re-branded their PLM into 3DExperience. Coming late after all CAD/PLM bloggers already posted about DS 3DExperience, I made my first check with blog posts. Deelip posted What Exactly is 3DEXPERIENCE? couple of days ago. Here is my favorite passage from his post:

Simply put, 3DEXPERIENCE is the term that Dassault Systemes is using to describe the tools and infrastructure that it offers its customers to help differentiate themselves and their products/services from their competition. Basically, Dassault Systemes is offering their customers ways to offer their customers downstream a better experience while using their products thereby enhancing the value of their products a great deal. 3DEXPERIENCE is really as simple as that.

Another blog by Jos Voskuil – My take on 3DExperience provides an additional insight how 3DExperience can be explained and compared with PLM. Here is the explanation I captured:

I see the 3DExperience strategy from DS in this light. The classical scope of PLM tools and practices does not provide a base for the current and future markets. The solution is bigger than tools, it is the focus on the total experience (I could not find another name either). Dassault Systemes new 3DExperiences is understandable as a way to introduce a bigger picture than PLM alone. If every company needs THE EXPERIENCE approach has to be seen. In addition I believe DS still needs to work on more understandable examples where the 3DE approach is a differentiator. For sure there is PLM inside.

PLM and “Other Experience” Observation

I want to dig a bit in the definition of word “experience”. Navigate to the following link in Merriam-Webster dictionary. Here is one of the definitions – experience is practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity. Another link to Wikipedia. Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event.[1] The history of the word experiencealigns it closely with the concept of experiment. For example, the word experience could be used in a statement like: “I have experience in fishing”.

Here are few examples of “experience” in our everyday consumer life. Google Experience – you type, search, got results in the way of accessing website, weather information, flight status, maps, directions,etc. Mac computer experience – you buy a computer, experience your personal interaction including unpacking, installing, transferring data and and getting everything you need to start your work. iPhone experience – you get your phone combining all important everyday tasks in a mobile way – phone calls, emails, internet access and digital camera. Facebook experience – you register, connect to people and share photos with your friends and family.

I tried to compare my consumer experience examples with the definition of 3DExperience captured from Jos’ blog: 3DExperience – “a way to introduce a bigger picture than PLM alone” or Deelip’s blog – Dassault Systemes is offering their customers ways to offer their customers downstream a better experience while using their products thereby enhancing the value of their products a great deal. None of these definitions gave me something that I can “experience” similar to iPhone, Google, Facebook.

PLM – Agents vs. Users

Here is my hypothesis about PLM experience. I think, in many aspects, overall, PLM has no direct experience with users. PLM, as a business software, sold to companies. In most of the cases, IT and other people responsible for PLM in an organization are taking the decisions based on zillions of factors – functions, cost, usability, openness, etc. However, IT is not making any real activities with PLM software. IT doesn’t design, manage data, exchange information, etc. IT plays a role of “agents” to purchase PLM for a company. At the same time, in most of the cases, real users are disconnected from the process of decision making. In best situations, end users are responsible for evaluating of software during the test drive.

PLM Agents (IT) can clearly speak about “PLM buying experience”. They can speak about PLM business value, ROI, cost. At the same time, IT agents have no clue about what end-users are experiencing when they face actual software.

What is my conclusion? You need to use a device or software to learn the experience. PLM is not different. However, I can see multiple aspects of experience. There is no “single PLM experience”. It is probably good for marketing brochures. You need a different resolution to build a good experience. The experience is good in details. In consumer software, one click can kill you. In business software, you need to differentiate between user experience, business experience, company experience, reseller experience. One size doesn’t fit all. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Will PLM cloud wait for HP?

November 21, 2012

The discussion about cloud, cloud services and PLM cloud availability remains hot in the industry. The number of PLM vendors supporting ‘cloud’ model is growing. The same needs to be said with regards to the different approaches used by cloud PLM. Vendors are trying to bring the cloud in PLM game with different forms of technologies, business and product configurations.The variety of cloud approaches is going from very IT oriented IaaS option to very business oriented cloud services / SaaS.

When established PLM vendors and different startup companies are innovating with business and technologies, the competition between infrastructure providers in the cloud business is also heating up. HP is one of the companies that demostrated their interest in cloud business. As a newcomer in "cloud business", HP is trying to challnge existing players like Amazon, Google and others. I had a chance to read GigaOM article – What HP cloud chief wants you to know about HP cloud? Read the article and make your conclusion. HP is trying to challenge public cloud platform providers by attacking some of their weaknesses in the business cloud space – reliability, services, SLA, etc. This is my favorite passage:

It’s true that it’s still early days for enterprise cloud and HP contends that big companies want more reliability and service than is available now in any public cloud. They also want “raw” service level agreements (SLAs) in which we’ll guarantee you this much performance or will pay you for it,” Singh said. “We think our SLAs will emerge as a differentiator for any cloud vendor,” Singh said.

HP says its SLAs for object storage and CDN offer 99.95 percent availability compared to 99.90 percent for Amazon storage and CDN. HP recognizes one failed instance as “unavailable” while AWS says all running instances have to be without external connectivity to be categorized as such.

HP will go after enterprise workloads — traditional mission-critical jobs as well as newer “mobile stuff.” And enterprise customers have been unwilling to commit mission critical loads to cloud yet, in his view. There are “many customers that won’t commit to the VMware or the IBM stack yet,” he said. Many of HP’s current enterprise customers want an HP cloud, he said.

Good enough vs. IT driven

GigaOM article made me think one fundamental difference between consumer and enterprise space. In the consumer space, software services vendors are approaching "end users". It means, actual services consumers are involved into the decision making. In the enterprise (and PLM), software service providers are selling to IT agents. In my view, the decision models of "end-users" and "agents" are fundamentally different. I can see end-users more focused on how service can help them to "get a job done". For many end users, the criteria to decide can be summarized as "good enough service". At the same time, agent-sales includes much more politics and going trough many levels of compicated decision making focused on internal company processes and policies.

What is my conclusion? Will PLM wait for HP cloud? IMHO, I don’t believe so. I can see the point of proposing valuable advantages to simplify IT-driven decision about PLM. At the same time, IT is one of the organization that potentially can be disrupted by cloud -services. My hunch – there is a conflict here. The process of IT-driven cloud decision making will be long and painful. The cost of "debating with IT" will be huge for cloud providers like HP. Amazon and Google are less interested in these discussions. What about end users? Many manufacturing companies that looking for solution "today" will not be able to wait and will proceed with "good enough" decision. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Wrappers and Motor City 1970s

November 21, 2012

Are you familiar with PLM platform diagrams? You can see lots of them in presentations, marketing materials, websites and conferences. Last year, during one of my presentations about PLM technological alternatives, I pulled bunch of these diagrams together. You can see them on the slide below. Usually, vendors call them “PLM platform” or “PLM architecture” diagrams.

One of the observations, I’ve made is that all these diagrams are using similar words and categories to explain what it does. Different colors, styles, pictures, growing number of boxes, but these platforms are essentially repeating themselves from year to year. Interesting enough, if you remove identity of companies, you can hardly lose the orientation – most of the diagrams are in indistinguishable.

I call this effect PLM wrappers. It reflects the interest of vendors to develop and package different vertical solutions and add-ins. Recent Dassault conference introduced a new name – “experience”. Read the following post by Jim Brown providing a good summary of what “experience” is. This is my favorite passage:

You will hear the new term floating “3D Experiences” around a lot from Dassault. Actually their are two more terms you may hear, “Social Industry Experiences” and “Engineered Business Experiences” but I took away that they are effectively different names for the same thing. Dassault teams are looking at specific business processes across their product lines (or “Brands” as DS likes to call them) to focus on what their customers in specific vertical markets need to do in order to get a job done. The best definition I heard came via twitter from Monica Schnitger quoting DS VP Stéphane Declée:

It made me think about American car manufacturers assembly lines back in 1970s. Remember how car manufacturers produced different car options? To change production line was too complex. The cost of changing assembly lines was too high. Ford, GM and other companies operated them “as is”. The difference between car models came in a form of body panels, chrome parts and options. Under all these options, the cars were essentially the same old vehicle.

What is my conclusion? The cost of re-engineering of PLM platforms is too high. PLM vendors are playing “catch-up” strategies by trying to achieve a completeness of their solutions and platforms. The number of boxes on PLM diagrams is growing. Will it make PLM solutions better? I doubt. The key question about flexibility and cost of change remains not answered. Automotive manufacturing history is well know. You can learn about it from Wikipedia. What will happen with PLM City in 10 years? A good question to ask. Detroit is not my favorite place on the planet these days. YMMV (your mileage may vary) is the standard disclaimers used by car manufacturers in Motor City. Just my thoughts and opinion…

Best, Oleg

5 NOs to make PLM usable

November 20, 2012

User experience. You can hear this combination of words quite often these days. PLM space is not an exclusion from that. People in enterprise software, engineering and manufacturing are starting to ask more questions about usability. There are multiple reasons for that. Think about end users – engineers, project managers, etc. Consumer technologies makes a significant influence on their perception about how future software needs to look and feel. In their home life, they are exposed to so many technologies. Many of these technologies are more powerful and more usable compared to products, company IT provides them. BYOD is only one example of consumer technology impact. Speaking about companies (opposite to individuals), I can see also see a significant interest to usability and user experience. On recent PLM Innovation conference in Atlanta, many companies spoke about the importance of usability in the future of PLM products.

To deliver usability is a complex task. However, I decided to make an attempt to define "five NOs" you need think about to make PLM software usability. These NOs probably can be applied to other enterprise software too. However, I think, for PDM/PLM industry they make the most sense.

1. No memorizing things. We are overloaded with the information. In the past, our best user experience was "file explorer" or "project browser". Hierarchical view was the best UI pattern. It was everywhere, and PDM/PLM software actively mimicked that. Now, Google revolutionized this behavior. We don’t need to "browse for things", but we can "search for thing". It removes the need to memorize everything and make behavior much simpler.

2. No user interface inconsistencies. It takes long time to develop PDM/PLM products. Many companies also spent months and years to implement it and use it for production. As a result of that, we can see many inconsistencies in products and modules developed during different periods of time. By removing these inconsistencies, we can make experience much easier and pleasant.

3. No strange terminology. Enterprise software is well known for TLAs. It is everywhere. In addition to that, enterprise organizations are well know for creating lots of abbreviations and assumption about how to call different things – ECO, MBOM, EBOM, QBOM, SCM, CCB… this is a very short and incomplete list of terminology used by the software and companies. While software vendors cannot change the way a customer works, they clearly can make it easier and simple on their side. So, an attempt to eliminate abbreviation and inconsistent terminology can improve experience as well.

4. No gaps in user activity flow. User activity is important. Customer (especially when it comes to an individual worker) is very sensitive to the ability to get a job done. From that standpoint, what is needed is to make software to support process flow to go smooth. Don’t expect customer to be pleased with the need to jump over the screens, making strange manipulation with files (eg. copy, save, open) and assume end user will understand how to "make a sync" in order to transfer data between multiple systems. What the system needs to assume is that end user will forget, misunderstood and ask many questions if it will not go as he expects.

5. No duplication of office and other software and tools. PLM has love and hate relationships with office and email systems. The complimentary between these systems is obvious. PDM/PLM needs to rely on Office and email systems that have wide spread in organizations and huge mainstream adoption. So, integration with these tools is no-brainer decision for PDM/PLM functionality. At the same time, the same tools (Emails, Excel and content management systems) replaced PLM tools for collaboration and other forms of communication in the organization. I believe people are very comfortable with email and office systems. So, not to replace them can make user experience much better.

What is my conclusion? People are paying attention to user experience. Bad UI is not a joke anymore. When Boeing is paying attention on usability and SAP is investing into gamification of their software, PDM/PLM vendors need to think twice about their priorities. Just my opinion. YMMV.

Best, Oleg

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