How PTC is delivering PLM in the cloud?

January 28, 2015

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Cloud is trending and it is hard to find a company who is not thinking how to leverage new cloud technologies and business models. However, just to say “cloud” these days means probably nothing. The right question is how to implement cloud. I guess many companies these days are coming to that question. It goes in parallel with the discussion about what is “cloud” and what is “not cloud”, which has some technical and some marketing aspects.

Long time ago, PTC introduced PLM “On Demand“. You should remember this marketing name that later was replaced by SaaS and cloud. According to the PTC website, the solution is available and hosted by IBM. I noticed some indication of PTC move to the cloud back in 2013 after acquisition of NetIDEAS. My writeup about that is here. According to PTC press release NetIDEAS allowed to PTC to develop a better foundation to offer multiple deployment options.

Earlier today, my attention was caught by PTC announcement – PTC Introduces PTC PLM Cloud New PTC Windchill SaaS offerings for small and midsized companies. The following passage is explaining the reason why PTC is coming with cloud product offering

Recognizing that many SMB organizations may lack a dedicated IT staff but still want to adopt a proven PLM environment, PTC designed PTC PLM Cloud specifically to enable team collaboration and data management in the cloud. This flexible offering eliminates the typical, but risky, SMB practice of shared folders and file naming conventions which hamper product development. With more effective and reliable data sharing in the cloud, customers are able to improve product development across teams in different locations, teams working with varying CAD applications, and with external teams such as partners and suppliers who are a growing part of the product development process.

I tried to dig inside of materials available online to see how PTC will provide cloud PLM and what options are available. Navigate here to learn more. It is available with 3 options – standard, premium and enterprise. While names mean nothing, the following definition caught my attention – “instant access” for standard vs. “dedicated database” for others. In addition to that, the differences between options down to “workflow customization” in premium “new business objects and UI customization” for enterprise. It looks like PTC recognized the importance of MCAD data management – all versions are coming with integrated viewing solution and support for Creo, AutoCAD, Inventor and SolidWorks.

ptc-cloud-28-jan-2015

The questions that remaining open me at this moment are price and cloud (hosting) architecture. It is essentially important for customers today as I mentioned earlier in my post – Why you should ask your cloud PLM vendor about Devops and Kubernetes.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies are not implementing PLM because of high cost and availability of IT resources. To many customers and vendors today, cloud seems like a right path to remove IT cost and make implementations less painful. From that standpoint, PTC is taking right trajectory by delivering Windchill based PLM solution using cloud. However the devil is in details. I’m looking forward to learn more about “how” PTC on the cloud will be delivered and how it will be different from other PLM clouds from Autodesk, Aras, Dassault Systemes and Siemens PLM. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud PDM: stop controlling data and check shadow IT practices

January 21, 2015

cloudpdm-shadow

An interest of customers in cloud PDM solution is growing. I guess there are multiple factors here – awareness about cloud efficiency and transparency, less concern about cloud security and improved speed and stability of internet connections. If you are not following my blog, you can catch up on my older blog articles about cloud PDM – Cloud PDM ban lifted. What next?; Cloud PDM hack with Google Drive and other tools; Cloud can make file check-in and check-out obsolete. The confluence of new technologies around cloud, web, mobile and global manufacturing is creating a demand for cloud (or web based) solution helping distributed design teams.

So, where is a challenge for cloud PDM? My hunch, the biggest one is how to sell cloud PDM to manufacturing companies. I can divide all customers into two groups – larger manufacturing companies that already implemented PDM solutions and smaller manufacturing firms that are still managing CAD design with folders, FTP and Dropbox accounts.

Analysts, researchers and PDM marketing pundits are trying to convince companies that cloud PDM can become a great enabler for collaboration and leaving CAD data “not managed” can bring even greater risk to organization. There is nothing wrong with that… PDM was build around the idea of how to take a control over data. However, the idea of “control” is not something engineers like. Ed Lopategui is speaking about engineers and control in his last blog – The day the strength of PDM failed. Here is a passage I liked:

The second reason, which is not so legitimate, is a loss of control. The reason so many engineers pine about the days of paper-based PDM in document control departments (or instead nothing at all) is that world could be circumvented in a pinch. It was flawed because it was run by humans, and consequently also replete with errors. Replaced with immutable and uncaring software, engineers working in groups nonetheless become irritated because they can’t just do whatever they want. You see this very conflict happening with regard to source control in software development circles. The order needed to manage a complex product necessarily makes manipulating pieces of that engineering more cumbersome. It’s one thing to be creating some widget in a freelance environment, it’s another matter entirely when that end product needs traceable configuration for a serialized certification basis. And that will happen regardless of how the software operates.

Here is the thing… Maybe cloud PDM should stop worry about controlling data and think more about how to bring a comfort to engineers and stop irritating users with complex lifecycle scenarios? It made me think about practice that known as “shadow IT”. For the last few years, shadow IT and cloud services have lot of things in common. Don’t think about shadow IT as a bad thing. Think about innovation shadow IT can bring to organizations.

Forbes article “Is shadow IT a runaway train or an innovation engine?” speaks about how shadow IT can inject some innovative thinking into organization. This is my favorite passage:

As we reported last month, one corporate employee survey found that 24% admit they have purchased and/or deployed a cloud application — such as Salesforce.com, Concur, Workday, DropBox, or DocuSign. One in five even use these services without the knowledge of their IT departments.

The rise of shadow IT may actually inject a healthy dose of innovative thinking into organizations, at a time they need it most. The ability to test new approaches to business problems, and to run with new ideas, is vital to employees at all levels. If they are encumbered by the need for permissions, or for budget approvals to get to the technology they need, things will get mired down. Plus, shadow IT applications are often far cheaper than attempting to build or purchase similar capabilities through IT.

What is my conclusion? Stop controlling data and bring a freedom of design work back to engineers. I understand, it is easy to say, but very hard to implement. To control data is a very fundamental PDM behavior. To re-imagining it require some innovative thinking. It is also related to the fact how to stop asking engineers to check-in, check-out and copy files between different locations. Maybe, this is an innovation folks at Onshape are coming with? I don’t know. In my view, cloud PDM tools have the opportunity to change the way engineers are working with CAD data. Many new services became successful by providing cloud applications and making existing working practices much easier than before. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg
photo credit: Dean Hochman via photopin cc


How many enterprise PLM systems will survive cloud migration

January 14, 2015

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Cloud adoption is growing. For most of existing PLM vendors it means to think about how to migrate existing platforms and applications to the cloud. I covered related activities of PLM vendors in my previous articles. Take a look here – PLM cloud options and 2014 SaaS survey. It can give you an entry point to few more articles. Some of vendors such as Dassault System are promising to deliver a full set of cloud options – private, public and hybrid. Aras is partnering with Microsoft Azure and Siemens PLM is focusing on a diverse set of IaaS options. At the same time to move existing platform to the cloud won’t be simple. To migrate customers’ environments to the cloud will be even more complicated.

My attention caught by InfoWorld article – Docker’s tremendous upside could upset some enterprises. If you are not familiar with what Docker is, navigate to my earlier blog – Why to ask cloud PLM vendor about Devops and Kebernetes. InfoWorld article speaks about Docker’s ability to support application portability and a potential clash between what Docker can provide and the cloud migration strategies developed by enterprises for the last few years. Here is an interesting passage.

With Google, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services all supporting Docker, your management may feel compelled to take a hard look at it as the right enabling technology. If this means rebooting your existing application migration strategy, perhaps even redoing 50 applications, then so be it. After all, the technology is changing so quickly that enterprises should be allowed to change strategy when new developments arise.

How is that related to what PLM vendors are doing? In my view, it is an additional shakeout to PLM vendors as they go towards more learning about cloud applications, services, and ways to migrate from existing PLM platforms into future “clouds”. It is about “how” to make cloud real and it will require to go down from marketing messages about moving to the cloud into deep waters of DevOps and services. One of my PLM predictions for 2015 was about the fact software vendors will discover the complexity of cloud PLM migrations. You can listen to my 3 predictions for PLM in 2015 by navigating to the following podcast by SPK and Associates.

What is my conclusion? PLM vendors and enterprise customers soon to discover the complexity of migration to the cloud. It will come trough understanding of underlining architectures, complexity of operation, service level commitments and other business and technologies topics. Most of enterprises are heavy invested into customization of existing PLM platforms, which will add an level of complexity for migration. How many enterprise PLM apps will survive cloud migration? This is a good question to ask in coming year. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: M J M via photopin cc


Kenesto cloud PDM hybrid

December 18, 2014

cloud-pdm-hybrid

Few months ago, I posted about latest development of Kenesto cloud data management solutions – Kenesto revamp: does it change cloud PLM game? I saw it as a sharp turn for Kenesto from focusing on collaboration towards engineering and product data management business. From earlier comments made by Steve Bodnar of Kenesto here, I’ve learned Kenesto is developing technology to synchronize CAD data between desktops and cloud locations. Here is the comment made back in October:

…automatic synchronization maintains appropriate version control as well as permissions. This way, if you have “download only” permission, as an example, you can synchronize to one or more of your locations, and any updates will automatically be synchronized to those locations for you (in addition to notifications being sent).

CIMdata recent publication about Kenesto Collaboration Platform made me think again about what it does and how it might be different from other cloud PDM products available now or soon become available on the market. What caught my special attention in CIMdata publication is related to so called “innovative intersection of cloud-based file management and data sharing with traditional PDM vaulting”. A massive amount of CAD data is stored on corporate networks and just CAD desktops. It made me think Kenesto is trying to bring solution to customers that already have traditional PDM systems and extend it with a better collaborative option. The following passage from CIMdata commentary provides more explanations:

The Kenesto solution is a secure, hybrid, cloud-desktop collaboration platform where product development and delivery teams can collaborate using discussion threads, or by co-authoring documents and design files, with anytime, anywhere access. Kenesto puts a broad range of capabilities at the fingertips of product delivery teams to organize and manage their programs, products, and projects. Teams can create their workspaces with people, workflow, forms, data, and reports—including bills of materials, change requests, and purchasing forms—and be kept on the same page with Kenesto’s proprietary intelligent synchronization approach. Each user is provided with a dashboard that can be customized to personal preferences. An important feature in Kenesto is that users are always in full control of their documents and designs. A user can permit their teammates to view, mark-up, or edit their documents and designs and can collaborate with them in real time or asynchronously.

Many of features such as project, workspaces, workflow, forms, bill of materials, change requests etc. are not new in PDM industry. However, “cloud-desktop” hybrid sounds like a new buzzword. Does it mean Kenesto found something unique in terms how to bring desktop CAD users to the cloud? It hard to say based on a commentary, but it might go that way.

What is my conclusion? Market dynamics are bringing more engineering and manufacturing companies to the cloud. It gives more opportunities to cloud PDM/PLM vendors. At the same time, it raises more questions how existing environment and data assets will be managed and how people will collaborate in a hybrid environment. Kenesto might solve an interesting problem here and compete with other vendors in the same domain – Autodesk, SolidWorks, GrabCAD and others. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: ukCWCS via photopin cc

Photo is an illustration only and does not reflect Kenesto architecture.


Cloud is an opportunity to set open standards for PLM

December 11, 2014

standard-cloud

One of the topic that usually drives lot of attention in engineering software is standards. Or absence of standards. The story of standards goes back long way to CAD formats and multi-CAD universe. I’ve been touching topic of standards and PLM earlier. Catch up on my posts – CAD/PLM standards and toothbrush problem and PLM standards: from formats to frameworks.

With the raise of cloud technology development, the question I wanted to ask how it will impact future standards creation. Does cloud provides a better grounds to build standards in services, data exchange and communication?

InfoWorld article Open standards face an uphill climb in the cloud bring a perspective on cloud standards and enterprises. The interesting thing here – we can see again the challenge standards are facing to compete with established large vendors. The following passage summarizes the situation:

Despite initial enthusiasm for open technologies, enterprises are favoring proprietary big-name cloud providers.When it comes to cloud standards, enterprises voted with their dollars. Most have focused more on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google offerings than on standards such as OpenStack and CloudStack. Of course, AWS, Microsoft, and Google are cloud services providers, whereas open standards are enabling technologies. But vendors that have built their public and private cloud offerings around a standard (usually OpenStack) have not been on the short list of cloud technology providers for most enterprises. In fact, most vendors that pledged allegiance to open standards years ago — including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Rackspace — have been largely overlooked by enterprises, which are mostly instead choosing AWS, Azure, and Google.

What is my conclusion? Cloud can revolutionize technological stack used in enterprise. This is an opportunity for companies to choose open standards, which will provide more openness and support establishment of new open PLM platforms. However, it is not happening yet. While large enterprise manufacturing voting with dollars and focusing on AWS, Azure and Google, small companies and individual makers can find cloud software using open standards as an interesting option. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Integration is holding back PLM cloud adoption

December 11, 2014

cloud-puzzle-integration

Cloud PLM adoption is growing. More PLM vendors these days are re-branding and re-building product and software architecture to keep up with fast moving cloud trend. This year I can see significant shift towards discussion about technical aspects of cloud implementation. The devils is in details and differentiate between variety of cloud implementation options is very important.

However, regardless on technological options, what do you think holding back all cloud implementations. In the past, the topic of security was one of the most debated among engineering software professionals and customers. Security is important. But what else

Forbes article Cloud Computing Adoption Continues Accelerating In The Enterprise speaks about different aspects of cloud business. I highly recommend you to read it -I’m sure you can find many interesting data points. My attention caught the following chart presenting top disconnects holding SaaS applications adoption:

The three biggest disconnects holding cloud-based infrastructure and applications back from greater adoption from an IT senior management perspective include concerns about the security (61%), integration challenges (46%) and information governance (35%). IT leaders perceive that line-of-business (LOB) leaders are most concerned about security (52%), difficulty measuring Return on Investment (ROI) and determining the accurate economic value of cloud solutions (37%) and a tie between information governance and cloud-based applications being able to meet enterprise and/or industry standards (32%).

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Security is an obvious suspect. What was very interesting is to find Integration, standards and information governance as #2 and #3. As I posted few weeks ago, integration is one of the major challenges that influence broad PLM adoption and ROI. It looks like cloud applications adoption is even more dependent on the ability to integrate multiple SaaS and on premise applications.

What is my conclusion? Cloud adoption is growing. However, enterprise software landscape is complicated. Integration was always a challenge. However, cloud applications are bringing new type of challenges. PLM is data intensive with a lot of dependencies of data distributed between departments, databases and external companies-suppliers. New cloud technologies can make integration easier by leveraging modern web technologies. However, absence of standard and large amount of legacy software makes it really complex. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Adam_T4 via photopin cc


More cloud PLM from Oracle and Aras. Are we in cloud rush?

December 10, 2014

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Cloud PLM is a trending topic among software vendors these days. As I mentioned earlier in my post, the question these days is not why should we do cloud PLM, but “how” to make it happen. PLM vendors are choosing different strategies and technologies for their cloud PLM solutions.

My attention was caught by two updates that came almost at the same time from Oracle and Aras. Both are related to cloud technologies and offerings.

Oracle blog article – How Oracle’s New PLM Cloud Solutions Help you Compete More Effectively speaks about Oracle PVC (product value chain) cloud, which contains there main cloud offering – product innovation cloud, product development cloud and oracle product hub cloud. The following passage explains it in details:

Start with one idea – or thousands. Select the best ideas that match product requirements using Oracle Innovation Management Cloud. Next, use the Oracle Product Development Cloud to classify and manage all the product’s components and manage costs and supply risk. The Oracle Social Network is included, so you can start conversations, find solutions, and make decisions fast. You’ll also have access to live infotiles, which provide the analytics you need to see when your product is ready for launch.When your product is ready to go, the Oracle Product Hub Cloud provides a single, protected view of your distribution, supplier, and channel partners. You can synchronize your commercialization network and launch new products on target.

oracle-pvc-cloud

The picture above gives you a visual impression. It interesting how magic word “cloud” added to every activity type that previously was just “management”. At the same time, we can see how Oracle product offering transformed. Navigate here to get more information about product service cost.

TenLinks article Aras Releases Microsoft Azure Certified Cloud PLM Suite is a second news in the domain of cloud PLM. Aras Corp was following their enterprise open source concept since 2007 is expanding and became available as cloud offering too.

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The following passage highlight the advantage of cloud offering for global companies with the need to get fast ROI from PLM implementation.

Certified version of the Aras Innovator enterprise PLM solution in the Azure virtual machine gallery of cloud applications in the Azure Marketplace. The new Aras offering is ideal for global companies with an Azure account that need to quickly deploy a full PLM suite for the supply chain, joint ventures, fast moving product lines and other applications.

What is really interesting is to get more information about how many manufacturing global companies have Azure account. I wasn’t able to find this information. My hunch, Microsoft is actively focusing on large enterprises with cloud offerings.

Azure page with Aras offering is proposing to create virtual machine with Aras Innovator PLM suite 10. However, the information about pricing is somewhat confusing. Instead of almost traditional /per user /per month cost, it provides “computing cost” information. However, link “free trial” hints me that customers can do it for free at the beginning. More information is here.

What is my conclusion? It is fascinating to see how software vendors are shifting gears to leverage cloud technologies and change business models. Efficiency, competition, cost. These are things that absolutely important to manufacturing companies these days. Cloud PLM can be a technology and tool that will help customer to make it happen. PLM vendors are trying to turn cloud into their advantage. The technologies both Aras and Oracle are using are clearly different, but the underlining trend is clear. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


DIY Cloud PLM using Aras Innovator

November 14, 2014

diy-cloud-plm

I’m continue to explore the topic of cloud PLM options. My last blog post about it covered delivery options for cloud PLM. It raised few interesting discussions showing that vendors are closely following up any opportunity to leverage a combination of existing PLM platforms and cloud infrastructure. IaaS is a technical buzzword behind this option. It researched by many PLM vendors. I discussed one of them in my Azure Cloud Box blog post.

Today, I want to speak about another option. My attention caught Minerva blog post – Tutorial : How to start an Amazon EC2 cloud server all prepared to install Aras Innovator! It provides step by step instruction how to make your first step in cloud PLM strategy. As I mentioned many times, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is remaining one of the most widely used option to deliver IaaS strategy. If your cloud PLM vision is mostly focused on how to reduce a burden of IT and infrastructure, you may consider "Do It Yourself" cloud option by deploying your existing PLM system to Amazon based servers. The following passage below says it is sometimes tricky to install Aras, but if you will follow steps explained in this blog, in 1 hour you will have Aras running from AWS cloud.

The Aras Innovator install is still extremely simple. Of course I say that because I already tried to install other solutions and I went in some training for other solutions and it has always been a disaster to uninstall these. The first day, you spend it installing the solution, the day after you copy the virtual machine of another trainee as it failed… This doesn’t happen in an Aras training. But Aras Install can fail sometimes, it always rely on your windows server and IIS configuration. But as long as you follow the tutorial you should be just fine. In less than 1 hour you should have Aras Innovator Up&Running starting from scratch!

The idea of Aras on AWS made me think again about IaaS approach in cloud PLM. The biggest advantage – you can get rid of infrastructure and IT by moving to Amazon. Aras Innovator is an interesting option. If you opt out Aras subscription and limit yourself to Aras enterprise open source, the cost of solution will be equal to your Amazon bill. Of course, I’m not counting implementation cost and cost to handle Amazon servers. It can give you some idea about fundamentals of cloud PLM economic related to potential of infrastructure sharing and servers utilization.

What is my conclusion? In the past, I’ve been discussing "DIY PLM option" by combining Excel spreadsheets, email and multiplying it by some database development skills. That was DIY PLM circa 1995. These days, cloud PLM also has its DIY option – to reuse existing PLM software from IaaS based cloud servers. This is a very real option you can explore to learn about benefits and pitfalls of cloud PLM. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


The definition of cloud PLM

November 7, 2014

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PLM industry is moving towards broader adoption of cloud solutions. More people these days are asking how to implement cloud. It becomes more and more clear that devil is in details and cloud environment can be very different. It comes in variety of aspects related to infrastructure, support of browsers, the need to have elements of software installed on your desktop and mobile devices. It depends on many options. I’ve been touching some of them in my earlier blog – PLM cloud options and 2014 SaaS survey.

As part of overall eduction about cloud technology, it is not unusual to get a question about what is definition of cloud solution in general and more specifically – cloud PLM. I’ve been reading CIMdata commentary – Next Generation Cloud-Based PLM Solutions. I found the following passage as a good summary of cloud PLM definition:

1- On-demand solutions with new cost models that have lower upfront costs for software licenses, subscriptions, or rights-to-use, allowing smaller companies to afford PLM

2- Hosted computing services and environments that do not require investments in infrastructure, providing access to information for anyone at any time while minimizing administrative overhead

3- The ability to add and increase scope of capability and the performance of the solution and processes without requiring additional investment in the underlying IT infrastructure

4- Global access to required application functions, information, and processes

CIMdata’s cloud PLM definition combines some technical aspects blended with business and licensing characteristics of PLM solutions. In my view it is clear indication that cloud PLM story is not pure technology. Customer demands are to find solution that solves multidisciplinary problem of system – technological, business, licensing. It is also shows the fact customers are dissatisfied with today’s business practice of PLM software licensing.

What is my conclusion? The technology and business are going together. Cloud PLM is about to solve customer problems in different aspects – improved business models, low cost and better experience. However, in my view, an interesting part of cloud PLM innovation can be related to the part of PLM system implementation. For many years, implementation was one of the most complicated element of PLM. It takes time to adjust system, capture business processes and set up tools to run and optimize product development. The first PLM vendor who will crack how to leapfrog PLM implementation using cloud business model and technology can gain a significant competitive advantage. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc


Cloud PDM hack with Google Drive and other tools

November 6, 2014

google-drive-app-launch

Earlier this week I talked about future of ubiquitous CAD cloud drives. My hunch CAD and other engineering software companies will be trying to use new cloud technologies to improve the way people collaborate on design. The question what tool to use for CAD file collaboration is not simple. I discussed it last year – Top 3 pros and cons to have a special CAD file sharing tool.

Engineering software vendors are trying to bring values such as collaborative viewing, redlining and even project collaboration. At the same time, companies focused on generic file sharing and collaboration are in a full swing to improve their mainstream solutions as well.

Some interesting news came from Google yesterday. Read Google blog post – Launch desktop applications from Google Drive in Chrome. The story is quite simple – Google is chasing Dropbox in the way how to make Google Drive even more transparent to work with desktop tools.

But here’s the catch: when it comes to browsers and installed applications working well together, they aren’t quite on the same page. To change that, today we’re launching a new extension for Chrome that lets you open files from Google Drive directly into a compatible application installed on your computer. This includes apps like advanced image and video editing software, accounting and tax programs, or 3D animation and design tools. So, no matter what you keep in Drive, using the web to access and manage files doesn’t mean you’re limited to using applications that only work in your browser.

Unfortunately, CAD files are not in the list of supported file types. I guess, it may change in the future. A transparent sync of files between cloud and local file storage can open a new opportunity and hack the way to simplify future cloud PDM solutions. Still, majority of tools used by engineers today are desktop tools.

One of the biggest challenge I can see here is speed of synchronization and work with multiple dependent files. It can create an opportunity for cloud PDM vendors to innovate. Some of these problems can be solved by software technologies – cloud PDM and Dropbox Streaming Sync. CAD vendors are looking how to innovate in cloud PDM as well. Example – Autodesk adds PDM functionality to PLM360. Alternatively, I can see some potential in hardware solutions to create virtual cloud file system. Here is one possible example of such solution – Panzura Global File System.

What is my conclusion? Cloud to desktop transparency is a big deal. There is no magic. If you want to use desktop tool you need to sync files. However, technology that can make it transparent can simplify user experience and make users unaware about actual location of files and the way files are going to be synchronized. It will allow to use existing CAD tools but and manage and collaborate using cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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