Will PLM Vendors Jump into Microsoft Cloud Window in Europe?

April 11, 2014

european-plm-cloud

Cloud is raising lots of controversy in Europe. While manufacturing companies in U.S. are generally more open towards new tech, European rivals are much more conservative. Many of my industry colleagues in Germany, France, Switzerland and other EU countries probably can confirm that. Europe is coming to cloud systems, but much slower. I’ve been posting about cloud implications and constraints in Europe. Catch up on my thoughts here – Will Europe adopt cloud PLM? and here PLM cloud and European data protection reforms. These are main cloud concerns raised by European customers – data, privacy and specific country regulation. With companies located in different places in EU, it can be a challenge.

Earlier today, I’ve heard some good news about cloud proliferation in Europe coming from Microsoft. TechCrunch article – Microsoft’s Enterprise Cloud Services Get A Privacy Thumbs Up From Europe’s Data Protection Authorities speaks about the fact Microsoft enterprise cloud service meets the standards of data privacy in several European countries. Here is a passage that can put some lights on details and what does it mean:

But today comes a piece of good news for Redmond: the data protection authorities (DPAs) of all 28 European member states have decided that Microsoft’s enterprise cloud services meet its standards for privacy. This makes Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Windows Intune the first services to get such approval. The privacy decision was made by the “Article 29 Data Protection Working Party,” which notes that this will mean that Microsoft will not have to seek approval of individual DPAs on enterprise cloud contracts. In its letter to Microsoft (embedded below), chair Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin writes, “The MS Agreement, as it will be modified by Microsoft, will be in line with Standard Contractual Clause 2010/87/EU… In practice, this will reduce the number of national authorizations required to allow the international transfer of data (depending on the national legislation).”

Majority of PDM / PLM providers are friendly with Microsoft tech stack. Some of them are completely relies on MS SQL server and other Microsoft technologies. Most of them are supporting SharePoint. Now, these PLM vendors have an additional incentive to stay with Microsoft technologies for the cloud. It can be also a good news for manufacturing companies already deployed PDM/PLM solutions on top of Microsoft technologies and developed custom solutions.

What is my conclusion? The technological landscape these days is very dynamic. The time, one platform worked for everybody is over. In light of technological disruption and future challenges tech giants will be using different strategies in order to stay relevant for customers. Will European cloud regulation keep PDM/PLM players with MS Azure and other Microsoft technologies compared to alternative cloud technological stacks? How fast will take to other players to reach the same level of compliance? These are good questions to ask vendors and service providers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How cloud PLM can reuse on-premise enterprise data?

April 7, 2014

plm-on-premise-data-sync

Cloud becomes more and more an obsolete additional word to call every technology we develop I hardly can image anything these days that we develop without "cloud in mind". This is absolutely true about PLM. Nowadays, it is all about how to make cloud technologies to work for you and not against you.

For cloud PLM, the question of secure data usage is one of the most critical topics. Especially, if you think about your existing large enterprise customers. These large companies started PLM adoption many years ago and developed large data assets and custom applications. For them, data is one of the most important elements that can enable use of cloud PLMs.

Networkworld article How Boeing is using the cloud caught my attention this morning. The writeup quotes Boeing chief cloud strategies David Nelson and speaks about very interesting approach Boeing is using to deploy and use on-premise data on public cloud. Here is the passage that outline the approach:

Nelson first described an application the company has developed that tracks all of the flight paths that planes take around the world. Boeing’s sales staff uses it to help sell aircraft showing how a newer, faster one could improve operations. The app incorporates both historical and real-time data, which means there are some heavy workloads. “There’s lots of detail and analysis,” he says. It takes a “boatload” of processing power to collect the data, analyze it, render it and put it into a presentable fashion.

The application started years ago by running on five laptop computers that were synced together. They got so hot running the application that measures needed to be taken to keep them cool, Nelson said. Then Nelson helped migrate the application to the cloud, but doing so took approval from internal security, legal and technology teams.

In order to protect proprietary Boeing data the company uses a process called “shred and scatter.” Using software supported by a New Zealand firm, GreenButton, Boeing takes the data it plans to put in the cloud and breaks it up into the equivalent of what Nelson called puzzle pieces. Those pieces are then encrypted and sent to Microsoft Azure’s cloud. There it is stored and processed in the cloud, but for anything actionable to be gleaned from the data, it has to be reassembled behind Boeing’s firewall.

It made me think about one of the most critical things that will define future development and success of cloud PLM technologies and products – data connectivity and on-premise/cloud data sync. Here is my take on this challenge. It is easy to deploy and start using cloud PLM these days. However, PLM system without customer data is not very helpful. Yes, you can manage processes and new projects. However, let’s state the truth – you need to get access to legacy data to fully operate your PLM software on enterprise level. Manufacturing companies are very sensitive about their data assets. So to develop kind of "shred and scatter" data sync approaches can be an interesting path to unlock cloud PLM for large enterprise customers.

What is my conclusion? I can see cloud data sync as one of the most important cloud PLM challenges these days. To retrieve data from on-premise location in a meaningful way and bring it to the cloud in a secure manner is a show stopper to start broad large enterprise adoption. By solving this problem, cloud PLM vendors will open the gate for large enterprises to leverage public cloud. It is a challenge for top enterprise PLM vendors today and clearly entrance barrier for startup companies and newcomers in PLM world. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD is half pregnant by cloud

April 1, 2014

cad-cloud-pregnant

The usage of cloud is growing every day. Started as an option to simplify collaboration and data exchange, it is proliferating into spaces such as backup, computation and many others. CAD and design are remaining one of the most conservative zone of the cloud and engineering software. Commonly agreed opinion – desktop is the best place to run CAD system in terms of resources, performance and tasks designers want to accomplish.

With such CAD desktop paradigm, you might think CAD users are completely independent from cloud. Actually, it is not so true. My attention caught by Cadalyst article – Advocate for Internet Access for CAD Tools by Robert Green. According to him CAD is no longer an island and significantly depends on cloud services and public internet infrastructure. Here is the passage, which explains that

Like it or not, our CAD users are becoming more and more dependent on tools that reside outside our company’s internal network. The types of systems we use may vary, but they typically include the following: FTP access sites for file uploading and downloading, Remote access of workstations for technical support; Remote log-on sessions to run compute-intensive tasks, such as rendering or analysis, on powerful remote workstations; Enterprise data management (EDM) and product data management (PDM) systems for CAD/BIM models and files; Cloud-based services on vendor-supplied servers. Whether you use one, several, or all of these Internet-based resources in your day-to-day CAD system, the fact remains that using CAD is no longer something that you alone can control. And when you must reach out over the Internet to complete your CAD tasks, IT becomes a crucial part of your workflow.

It made me think again about future of cloud and CAD relationships. In my view, cloud won’t be introduced to CAD users as a single lifetime event. Instead of switching designers and engineers to cloud CAD overnight, companies will introduce some cloud based services to maximize cloud value proposition to existing CAD-based workflows. You can navigate to some of my earlier posts – The future of CAD without files?; A moment before CAD files cloud mess…; What “end of local storage” means for CAD?; CAD, PLM and Future Cloud File Systems.

I can identify 3 main zones of existing CAD system enhancements that will leverage cloud eco-system to provide additional benefits to engineers:

1. Cloud based backup and file exchange. This is mainstream scenario that requires very little from CAD and other engineering software vendors. Cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and some others can provide it today without even disrupting current workflows.

2. Viewing and collaboration. This is more complicated, but still very feasible scenario. Think about services such as GrabCAD Workbench, TeamPlatform and some others. These services can solve basic revision management needs and collaborative viewing of files.

3. Computation and special engineering design services. This is the most interesting case, in my view. In this scenario, desktop CAD systems will use services running from public cloud to solve simulation, analysis, and more complicated design tasks. Some of them can leverage elastic nature of cloud and some of them can be collaborative by allowing several engineers working together.

What is my conclusion? Can you be ‘half pregnant"? Actually, you can, if you think about CAD and cloud services. In my view, existing and new design tools will be leveraging hybrid resources (from desktop and cloud) to support optimal workflow and implement best user experience in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will cloud PLM go shadow?

March 25, 2014

plm-shadow-it

If you are not familiar with the term "Shadow IT", you better do. The term is not completely new. Wikipedia article provides definition and speaks about different aspects of shadow IT activities. Interesting enough it has both negative and positive aspects. While (in general) usage of non-approved by IT applications is not a good things, it provoke innovation and overall tech progress.

Shadow IT is a term often used to describe IT systems and IT solutions built and used inside organizations without explicit organizational approval. It is also used, along with the term "Stealth IT," to describe solutions specified and deployed by departments other than the IT department. Shadow IT is considered by many an important source for innovation and such systems may turn out to be prototypes for future approved IT solutions. On the other side, shadow IT solutions are not often in line with the organization’s requirements for control, documentation, security, reliability, etc., although these issues can apply equally to authorized IT solutions.

Lately, the wide spread of SaaS application created a new dangerous trend in the development of shadow IT. At the same time, it introduced a new opportunity for innovation. My attention caught the article speaking about research McAfee did together with Frost & Sullivan- The Hidden Truth Behind Shadow IT. You can download research here. It provides some very interesting numbers about adoption and usage of non-approved SaaS applications.

non-approved-app-usage

It is not surprising, but IT people itself are representing a significant portion of non-approved SaaS applications usage. Also, not very surprising the categories of applications.

types-of-non-approved-app-usage

Nevertheless, I found the follow passage the most important. The reason for high interested in SaaS application fast adoption is the fact they people just want to get a job done. For most of them IT approval is an overhead and extra work.

What drives employees to “go rogue”? Is it boredom? Restless energy? A desire to rebel? Alas, the truth is less romantic. It turns out users overwhelmingly turn to non-approved apps for one reason: they need to get their jobs done. As shown in Figure 3 below, the top drivers cited by both LoB and IT respondents are related to gaining access to the right tools, fast. Nearly half of respondents indicate a comfort level with their preferred software package. While whimsical personal preferences may play a role, it is equally likely that respondents’ familiarity with a package means they can avoid a learning curve and thus get their work done more quickly. Users also cite slow approval processes for new software, and inadequacies of “approved” software.

So, here is the question – what does it mean for future of cloud PLM? Usually, product lifecycle management programs are going through long process of evaluation, approval and implementation. I can see two potential scenarios in which cloud PLM activities can go shadow. First one is related to activity driven by departments and/or divisions. At the time, department finds difficult to get everybody aligned, implementation of cloud PLM can be a good alternative to have usage and get job done. Another one is individual productivity and cross company usage. Think about supply chain scenarios, for example. In the case BOM planner can achieve better collaboration with other suppliers, he can decide to use cloud PLM without getting company and IT aligned.

What is my conclusion? I want to differentiate PLM business strategy and PLM software. Business strategy requires alignment, planning and getting everybody on board. The situation is different with PLM software. In my view, it should be first about getting job done. Today’s perception of PLM software to be slow, complicated and expensive. Cloud is going to change that. In the past, popular software was very often stolen. In the world of SaaS, non-approved and free software is probably a good starting point for future success. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD Collaboration & Cloud: Chat With GrabCAD’s Hardi Meybaum

March 12, 2014

hardi-oleg-collaborative-collage

I had new kind of experience yesterday. It was on demand webinar. To me it was more like live blogging conversation. In case you following my twitter closely, you probably noticed Engineering.com webinar yesterday – CAD Collaboration & the Cloud: On-Demand Webinar with GrabCAD & Beyond PLM. I had a chance to meet and talk to GrabCAD CEO Hardi Meybaum. That wasn’t our first meeting. Hardi and I had many conversations in the past. The first one was back in October 2010 when we spent couple of hours in nearby Starbucks shop speaking about what GrabCAD is up to. This is an old post with my thoughts after that conversation. I’ve been blogging about GrabCAD and related topics such as CAD files sharing, Collaboration, Cloud and others a lot. Somehow, Hardi and I developed an intensive conversation via blogs and twitter. So, yesterday webinar was a first experience to turn our online social experience into live conversation.

If you want to listen to the record of our conversation, navigate your browser to this link with webinar recording. I found myself in agreement with Hardi about many related to CAD, Collaboration and cloud. I captured top 5 things to outline my agreement with Hardi:

1- CAD collaboration is very relevant and cloud is a right way to improve the collaboration among individuals in engineering and manufacturing companies. The fundamental questions related to how people can work together are still with us.

2- Globalization create an additional need to improve collaboration. Even small companies these days are not located in one place. Engineering and manufacturing can be done in multiple places to optimize for the cost. Individuals can work from home. This is an absolutely different environment and eco-system compared to what we had 10 years ago.

3- Expectations of people about collaboration, usability and speed of communication are changing these days. The reason is a lot of technologies and products developed in consumer, social and mobile space for the last decade.

4- Engineering workflow is absolutely important. CAD collaboration tool must be focused on how to make collaborative workflow painless and simple.

5- IT and other parts of organization must be focused on how to simplify communication and collaboration and stop behave as "police force" and focus on policies and restrictions to make collaboration more complex.

One of the feedback I’ve got after webinar is that it went too peacefully. It was also final Hardi’s conclusion – we need to disagree more. So, to inspire future conversations, I wanted to bring top 5 things to outline my disagreement with Hardi:

1- Hardi: File is primary things people are working on and file will be still important.

I think by keeping "files" in focus, we’re increasing the complexity of user workflows. If you think about social tools and web today, files are getting less and less important. Think about photo sharing. It was complicated when the scenario required to download files from SD card and publish it on the website. With development of modern mobile applications, photo sharing skyrocketed. One of the reasons – the ability to bypass "file" representation and publish directly from phone/camera. So, file must disappear and software vendors must do it by deep integrating with CAD and other tools.

2- Hardi: There is no technical challenge to get CAD data to the cloud.

The challenge of getting files to the cloud is significant. CAD and engineering data is very complex. Today it is resided on PCs and corporate network drives. It is huge (in size) and complex (in terms of dependencies). To make this data available online for collaboration via slow speed connections is one of the major competitive differentiation specialized vendors can develop against mainstream collaboration tools like Dropbox, Box.net and others.

3- Hardi: Goto market & price is a challenge

Price is not a challenge- cost is a challenge! The challenge is how to keep cost of CAD collaboration services low. Despite the common perception of web as a free resource, cloud is expensive. Storage, viewing, communication, global access, etc. – this is only short list of factors that can push cost of CAD collaboration services up. Dropbox and other mainstream vendors will use scale as a factor to bring cost down. So, to succeed in CAD collaboration and compete with mainstream vendors, every vendor needs to develop technologies to keep cost of the solution down.

4- Hardi: To develop tools with good user experience sounds like an ordinary development task.

User experience is never easy. To get data to the cloud seamlessly is very complicated tasks. Most of CAD engineers today are using Windows based desktop CAD tools. Majority of people are saving data locally. Asking engineers to bring data to the cloud can be a challenge. Another challenge is how to make desktop based design tools seamless connected with cloud environment without disrupting traditional engineering CAD desktop workflow.

5- Hardi: Local PDMs are not allowing to non-engineers to use the data.

I want to defend existing PDM technologies and products. So-called "local PDMs" developed multiple tools to allow people outside of corporate firewall to stay connected with data. Most of them developed web clients or mobile apps. In SolidWorks community, e-Drawing is another successful tool to share and collaborate on CAD data. Yes, these tools are not ideal. But companies are using them a lot in production these days.

What is my conclusion? I think CAD Collaboration is very interesting and still very relevant. There are lot of challenges and lot of opportunities. Seamless communication and efficiency are clear priority for companies and individual. The demand for new business models and pricing will push company to develop cost-effective services to support it. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


What cloud PLM vendors can learn about AWS speed

February 24, 2014

aws-global-performance

Amazon Web Services is one of the most popular cloud platform these days. We can say that Amazon became de-facto standard of public cloud. Amazon cloud keeps growing and remains the leader these days according to Synergy Research Group. A year ago article by Stackdriver published information about popularity of different AWS services. According to the article these are top three popular AWS services – EBS (Elastic Block Store), EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) and S3 (Simple Storage Service).

Lots of startup companies and established software vendors discovered the power and elastic capabilities of Amazon. Cloud is not only about consumer web application and social networks. The cloud era is coming to enterprise software companies too. Salesforce.com, Workday, Netsuite is the only short list of companies in the enterprise cloud domain. CAD and PLM companies are also taking advantages of the power and popularity of Amazon public cloud. As PLM vendors cloud strategies are getting more mature, I can see a potential for CAD/PLM companies to switch their focus on platform development and not only focus on applications. While there are still lot of not answered questions about future of PLM PaaS, many software vendors are asking about what is the right cloud platform for them. Recent GigaOm article raised interesting discussion about cost of public cloud.

Over the weekend, my attention was caught by VentureBeat article – Amazon Web Services speeds can vary by up to 200X depending on region. Thanks Startupmoon blog for pointing on this publication. Takipi, company focused on debugging of servers, discovered huge difference in speed of AWS applications in different regions and shared this information. Here is my favorite passage:

What that ultimately means is that developers who don’t pay attention to cloud regions, as server debugging company Takipi discovered, can actually cause their apps to run 10 or even 200 times slower than necessary. And Amazon doesn’t disclose any of that data. “We noticed that in many cases there’s 10X (or even more) difference in the performance of services due to AWS/S3 regions and external APIs,” Takipi co-founder Iris Shoor told me via email. “It’s possible to make amazing optimizations just by changing the region,” says Shoor. “For example, choosing Oregon over CA for a company that serves the European market will cut the upload time by half.” One of the main problems when hunting down the cause of slow services, Takipi says, is API latency. And regionality has a huge impact there, even if you’re as geographically optimized as you can possibly be.

One of the advantages of cloud applications is global availability. It looks like optimization of cloud PLM platforms can become a next focus for software vendors. One of the challenges of previous PDM/PLM platforms was to insure global availability and performance level. Latency was an issue for PDM users trying to access CAD data located in European servers from China. It looks like, the problem is just migrating from one software layer to another and requires new implementation approaches.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is not a silver bullet. Customers are moving from digesting of PLM cloud marketing towards analysis and technical investigation of different PLM cloud platforms. PLM vendors should take a note and focus on technological differentiation of their platforms. In coming PLM cloud competition, cost, performance and efficiency will become the most important factors influence future market dominant positions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture courtesy of VentureBeat article.


PLM Private Cloud: Yes, No, Maybe?

February 18, 2014

private-public-cloud

While industry is clearly moving to the cloud, the question about choosing right cloud model is getting more important. In my view, this is kind of thing you cannot ignore any more – I expect every manufacturing company is facing a challenging decision about how to improve their collaboration by bringing new innovative cloud tools and, at the same time, answer on privacy concerns, policies and regulations.

CMSWire article Hybrid Clouds for SharePoint: Great, but Not for Everyone published some interesting perspective on the topic of public and private clouds. Article speaks about the rise of Hybrid Cloud. Here is an interesting passage:

A hybrid model allows the enterprise to still keep their private information on premises, but at the same time provide employees with tools that support the new way of working — with “anytime, anywhere access.” So an enterprise might use Office 365 and SkyDrive Pro (now OneDrive for Business) to support collaboration and team projects, but still manage major systems through a private cloud.

I found referencing Microsoft and SharePoint as a good example to serve manufacturing companies – all of them are using SharePoint (to some degree) and almost all of them using SharePoint asked in the past about how to position SharePoint and PDM/PLM tools. Article is referencing pharmaceutical companies as an example of industry that can find difficult moving everything to public cloud. I’m sure, PLM vendors can find many other examples where regulation and policies will welcome hybrid cloud models.

However, as author stated Hybrid cloud can be costly and it won’t be "for everyone". To maintain IT infrastructure for both on-premise and cloud based environment won’t work for small and medium sized companies. So, hybrid cloud can be a bridge model for many of these companies towards full public cloud deployments.

What is my conclusion? For manufacturing companies it will be all about cost vs. privacy. Many small to medium sized companies can find themselves very comfortable with public cloud solutions. However, those are under regulation and security concerns, will follow hybrid, private cloud route. For PLM vendors it is all about growth and market. Look on your market segment, customers and demands. To support Hybrid cloud PLM require resources. However, as a vendor, you can certainly limit your market growth by not supporting your large customers with hybrid cloud solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM Open Source Future – Cloud Services?

February 17, 2014

plm-open-source-cloud

For the last few years, open source was one of the major disruptive factor in tech. Open source powers world’s leading tech companies. Tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and many others would not exist without open source. The success of RedHat put a very optimistic business projection on the future disruption of industry by open source. Since then, we’ve seen many companies that started their business trajectory as “Red Hat of XYZ” with the objective to disrupt a particular industry segment. Many of them became very successful in what they do. However, what happened with their “open source” messages?

My attention was caught by two articles speaking about current trajectories of companies building their business model around Open Source software. Peter Levine, partner at Andreessen Horowitz started this conversation in his – Why There Will Never Be Another RedHat: The Economics Of Open Source and ReadWrite article was following TechCrunch article – Why Open Source Is Disappearing From Open Source Companies? Have a read – good articles with lots of interesting examples and data points. According to the Peter Levine, the main reasons why open source companies cannot compete successfully with their proprietary rivals are simple – money and inability to keep stabilized roadmap development. Here are two notable passages from TechCrunch:

There are many reasons why the Red Hat model doesn’t work, but its key point of failure is that the business model simply does not enable adequate funding of ongoing investments. The consequence of the model is minimal product differentiation resulting in limited pricing power and corresponding lack of revenue. As shown below, the open source support model generates a fraction of the revenue of other licensing models. For that reason it’s nearly impossible to properly invest in product development, support, or sales the way that companies like Microsoft or Oracle or Amazon can.

2013-revenues-open-source-vs-others

And if that weren’t tough enough, pure open source companies have other factors stacked against them. Product roadmaps and requirements are often left to a distributed group of developers. Unless a company employs a majority of the inventors of a particular open source project, there is a high likelihood that the project never gains traction or another company decides to create a fork of the technology. The complexities of defining and controlling a stable roadmap versus innovating quickly enough to prevent a fork is vicious and complex for small organizations.

ReadWrite article brings list of companies started as “open source” and moving now towards different messages.

In 2010, SugarCRM’s main landing page prominently advertised itself as open source. Today? Not a single mention. In February 2009, Alfresco declared itself “the open source alternative for Enterprise Content Management.” No mention of open source on the home page today. The same goes for Acquia, the Drupal company (see 2009 vs. today), and most every other significant company that sells support or software around an open-source project.

PLM industry has their list of open source companies. You can count several product today branded themselves as “PLM open source”. The most notable, Aras created innovative model called “Enterprise Open Source”. To core part of Aras was never open sourced. However, Aras developed significant community network of supporters implementing Aras Innovator software and building applications on top of Aras core platform. Aras keeps fairly large reference customer base supporting and advocating for Aras enterprise open source strategy. According to them, it brings predictable license cost model combined with open software platform, which differentiate Aras from other PLM companies.

TechCrunch article made me think what will be the future turn in development of PLM open source? Would “cloud services” become a future strategic exit for Aras and other open source PLM companies? According to Mr. Levine, SaaS and appliance business model can be a good match to Open Source projects. Here is a formula:

This recipe – combining open source with a service or appliance model – is producing staggering results across the software landscape. Cloud and SaaS adoption is accelerating at an order of magnitude faster than on-premise deployments, and open source has been the enabler of this transformation.Beyond SaaS, I would expect there to be future models for Open Source monetization, which is great for the industry.

What is my conclusion? There is no clear conclusion today. In my view, PLM industry is still waiting for big “disruption moment”. Will it come from cloud PLM alternatives, open source PLM provided as cloud services or just service projects using open source software? Time will show. It seems to me “value” and “maturity” are two main differentiations PLM companies need to focus these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD cloud colalboration from Autodesk, GrabCAD and SolidWorks

February 4, 2014

cad-collab-cloud

Collaboration was always in the focus of engineering software. Started earlier with CAD and product data management, software vendors tried to create an environment where engineers can easy collaborate and share information about design. The boundary of collaboration never been limited to engineering department. You might remember “extended enterprise collaboration” stories back in 2000s. That was probably first attempt to provide an easy way to share information among engineering and other teams. In my view, early collaboration software provided by CAD and PLM vendors had two main diseases – complexity of user interface (or how we call it these days – user experience) and complexity of computer infrastructure needed to be installed and maintained by IT departments.

The situation is going to change these days. User interface is clearly getting in focus of development teams. Most of CAD and PLM companies are recognizing the importance of smooth user experience. The demand of users set by public web giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and not by old-school enterprise software vendors. Cloud technologies are going to simplify IT jobs and provide new generation of IT infrastructure.

So, design collaboration space is getting hot. Established CAD vendors and newcomer start-up companies are trying to innovate by providing new environments and collaboration philosophies. I picked up 3 companies that in my view can provide a good example of the future CAD cloud design collaborative environment – Autodesk, GrabCAD and Solidworks.

Autodesk 360

Autodesk introduced Tech preview of new Autodesk 360 product. Core77 blog article Autodesk 360 Tech preview: it’s like Facebook for designers provides a very good coverage and screen shots. Here is the passage summarized what Autodesk 360 does:

autodesk360

The company has created a Facebook-like interface for projects and design teams; collaborators log on to a cleanly-designed dashboard page containing “all of the data, projects, people, tasks, discussions, activities, issues and alerts that are associated with design or architecture projects that they are working on.” Clicking on a project, for instance, is like clicking on someone’s Facebook wall; you get a linear view of all developments concerning that project, with your fellow collaborators’ updates taking the place of comments. People can upload relevant files as updates, and anyone with access can view any file, regardless of whether it’s an Autodesk format or not. (This includes non-design data, like spreadsheets and such.) And yes, Autodesk 360 can also be used from your phone or tablet, just as with Facebook.

GrabCAD Workbench (Partners Space)

GrabCAD is a newcomer in CAD collaboration space. Started as a space for engineers to collaborate few years ago (funny enough, it was mentioned many times as a “Facebook for engineers”), these days GrabCAD is moving fast to become CAD collaboration solution provider with their GrabCAD Workbench product. GrabCAD blog – Why GrabCAD created a next-generation release process? can give you some insight on GrabCAD strategy and philosophy. Here is what I captured:

gc-collaboration-cad

GrabCAD started as a way for engineers to collaborate on engineering projects. Over time, we engineered the secure system GrabCAD Workbench first for external collaboration, then, with CPD, for PDM-style internal collaboration. Unlike PLM systems, which mostly started as CAD-centric data management tools, we have approached the problem by first understanding the social and business problems our customers need to solve. This unique perspective caused us to partition the private engineering workspace from special “Partner Spaces” that make sharing such data secure and foolproof. While the engineering team is working away, each partner has access to the version released to them. The Partner Space also contains a limited and more appropriate set of tools for external collaboration, so the partner sees only what they need to.

SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (Dashboard)

Last week at SolidWorks World 2014 in San Diego, Dassault SolidWorks made an announcement about new product SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (SWMC). The product was long awaited and raised lots of discussion and controversy in blogosphere and CAD press. My single best link to follow different opinions about SWMC is SolidSmack’s article – What we found out about SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual and Future of SolidWorks. Another good reference is Graphic Speak article – The business case for SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. What captured my attention in SWMC announcement is introduction of so called – 3DEXPERIENCE 3D Space. Here is how it was explained by Graphic Speak:

3dexperience-3dspace

Mechanical Conceptual introduces a new way of sharing data that’s integral to the 3D Experience Platform. Called the 3D Dashboard, it functions like the Windows Explorer for SolidWorks or any other desktop application. All models are saved to the dashboard in a so-called workspace that can be shared with co-workers or customers. The dashboard is accessible by a Web browser. Clients who don’t have Mechanical Conceptual can simply log in to view models

What is my conclusion? Customers have huge demand to improve collaboration. People are expecting collaboration should be as easy as sharing your photos on Facebook. However, complexity of design environment is much higher than sharing photos. This is a clear challenge for all vendors regardless on their status and experience. The simplicity is the hardest thing to deliver. However, it is not all about future of collaboration. In my view, cost will become the next important challenge. Who will be able to provide the best combination of features, user experience and cost will probably lead future CAD collaboration space in the cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud PLM and Battle for Cost?

January 31, 2014

plm-cloud-cost-battle

PLM companies are switching to the cloud. Software vendors are taking different paths and technical strategies – IaaS, PaaS, private clouds, public clouds with high diversity of options and marketing messages. Navigate to some of my previous posts to get up to speed with the topic – Cloud PLM and IaaS Options, PLM PaaS, PLM cloud strategies.

Public cloud and specifically Amazon Web Services is one of the options to explore the potential of new PLM technologies, delivery and business models. To use elastic infrastructure provided by Amazon is compelling to newcomers in PLM industry as well as for established PLM vendors transforming their PLM portfolios. A potential disadvantage of Amazon is that it can get a little pricey. Many cloud companies discovered "cost issue" especially when they come to the point of scaling customers and data.

Earlier this week, I was reading an interesting article by Heap – “How We Estimated Our AWS Costs Before Shipping Any Code”. Heap is an iOS and Web analytics tool that captures every user interaction. Interesting enough, Heap helps you to estimate their AWS cost to decide if product / project/ website has a sustainable business model. Here are few interesting examples provided by Heap article:

Cost reduction: CPU. Our queries involve a large amount of string processing and data decompression. Much to our surprise, this caused our queries to become CPU-bound. Instead of spending more money on RAM, we could achieve equivalent performance with SSDs (which are far cheaper). Though we also needed to shift our costs towards more CPU cores, the net effect was favorable.

Cost inflation: Data Redundancy. This is a necessary feature of any fault-tolerant, highly-available cluster. Each live data point needs to be duplicated, which increases costs across the board by 2x.

This article made me think about possible trajectories of cloud PLM options. PLM vendors thinking about transforming and adapting their existing PLM products for cloud must be aggressively making assessments about their cloud cost on Amazon or alternative platforms. Startup companies developing new generation of PLM products have a very good opportunity to check their costs and viability of their future business models.

What is my conclusion? The battle about cloud viability has strong cost relation. Software companies are moving from "CD shipments" to "service providing". This process will be painful for many of them and sooner they validate and build their future business models is better. For PLM companies, the best association should be "cost model for manufacturing" – the earlier in the process of product design you can see the cost – the better chance this product become successful. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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