5 questions to ask before moving your CAD work to cloud using Fra.me [UPDATED]

July 27, 2015

cad-frame-cloud-nirvana

I keep following new cloud software outfit Fra.me. Few months ago, at Siemens PLM conference, I’ve seen how SolidEdge runs in the cloud using Frame infrastructure. You probably noticed my blog – Fra.me and bridge to the cloud earlier last week. Another article about Frame by SolidSmack is bringing a news about the availability of two Frame plans – Personal and Business. Here is the passage from the article:

Today, company CEO Nikola Bozinovic has just sent word to SolidSmack that Frame is now available in two distinct plans – Frame Personal and Frame for Business – for both individuals and teams to install, manage, and share their desktop applications using nothing but a browser. Among other reasons why the platform has been of interest is because it will allow users of CAD software offerings that aren’t currently Cloud-supported – such as SolidWorks or Solid Edge – the ability to work from any internet-connected device in the world without being tethered to a particular workstation.

So, maybe Fra.me is that magical “single click” solution that will solve all problems of engineers to move their work into cloud environment? The idea sounds very appealing- create your cloud computer, which will make all your existing desktop top available via just browser.

frame-cloud

At the same time, it made me think about basic checklist you do before jumping into Frame nirvana.

1- Does my CAD license valid for cloud?

I know, legal stuff is boring. Some of you might remember Autodesk eBay lawsuit. As a user, you can check small letters in your CAD EULA document. It is a good idea if Fra.me will publish some clarification about licensing on their website. From tweet chat with Frame CEO Nikoa Bozinovic, I understood that he is aware about licensing issue.

2- How to bring my existing CAD project library to Fra.me?

Engineering work is rarely done from scratch. It is usually about re-using existing projects, using standard library of parts, etc. Sometimes, existing libraries are large and to move them into cloud environment can take time and cost money. At list this problem exists for many cloud based environments. Will Frame provide services like Amazon Import/Export? Frame is addressing speed of data exchange between Frame computer and Dropbox, but I didn’t find any information how to import file.

3- How to share data in a team?

For many years of desktop CAD software use, customers developed many best practices about how to share data. It starts from well known “z-drive” concept and also use of more advanced techniques and software such SharePoint. So, how my z-drive library will be available on Frame?

4- How to use PDM tools together with Frame?

The usage of PDM is growing. Many CAD users found the real value in managing their CAD data using PDM systems. PDM systems today are bundled with many mainstream CAD systems. What will happen with my PDM installation? How to move it into Frame environment? Does it mean I need Frame IT option to do that?

5- How to escape Frame (in other words how to get my data out)

The last, but also important – how to escape from Frame in case something goes wrong or company will move into another solution. Nobody likes data lock-in these days. The idea of Google takeout is very appealing and I wish it will become part of CAD data liberation. It is not clear how to handle export of data from Frame computer. It might be simple, but can take time and money like import of data.

What is my conclusion? It takes time to bring cloud tools such as CAD, CAE, CAM to the level of maturity available in desktop systems today. Cloud providers are pushing forward to develop new tools and re-use existing components. However, in many situations, existing desktop tools have better support for needed functionality and complete workflows. Frame is digging into an interesting opportunity to take “desktop world” to the cloud. The short term value proposition is clear. In my view, existing CAD / PLM vendors can be interested to use technologies like Frame to prolong existing solution lifecycle into cloud time. My hunch, it can influence the speed of early cloud adopters to move into full cloud solution. Cloud companies should watch it closely. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[UPDATE 27-JULY-2015]

Frame CEO Nikola Bozinovic kindly agreed to provide answers on my questions and publish them on blog.fra.me. Meantime, don’t miss Frame white paper which is specifically focused on “Frame for CAD” that can be downloaded here.

I captured few interesting passages that can give you ideas about Frame strategy to provide value proposition of running existing desktop CAD and PDM/PLM system in the cloud using Frame virtualization environment.

Previous to Frame, adopting the cloud for CAD workflows primarily had to do with moving to cloud-based file storage. This essentially meant splitting up your workflow and spending a lot of time downloading and uploading files. While some CAD options exist as native cloud apps, these options don’t have anywhere near the feature set of established Windows-based CAD tools. So, in the past, cloud options created an inefficient and fragmented CAD environment. With Frame you can continue to use the tools that you’re used to, the way that you’re used to using them but get all the benefits of being able to access them through the cloud including seamless integration with cloud storage.

Focus on being a CAD expert, not an IT expert. Managing desktops and laptops used for CAD, license servers and PDM systems can be a pain because they are generally distributed across multiple locations, owned or managed by different departments and configured in different ways which lead to different behaviors. With Frame, every element of CAD management and administration is centralized. License servers and PDM systems can be installed on Frame utility servers to make them accessible from anywhere and by any department. Similarly, CAD software only needs to be installed and setup one time and then can be accessed by any number of users from the Frame Launchpad in a browser.

I captured the following architecture diagram from Frame for CAD white paper:

frame-cad-pdm-architecture-use-cases

Cloud storage is required in case you want to store your files and data. Frame white paper recommends to use services like Dropbox (the only released support) and Box (in beta) or Google Drive (in beta). The installation and configuration is not exactly “single click”. White paper provides instructions and recommendation how to setup and configure environment. Frame confirmed several CAD systems already on-boarded to Frame environment – Dassault Systems Solidworks, Siemens’ SolidEdge and NX, PTC’s Creo, Vectorworks and ANSIS). I guess more to come. It is notable that none of existing Autodesk desktop systems are not tested for the moment. For some installation and configuration related topics Frame white paper recommends to contact Frame directly.

Stay tuned for more information.

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Fra.me

 



Why cloud CAD is closer to solve some PLM problems than you think

July 18, 2015

cad-enterprise-data-share-plm-problem

One of the topics I’m following closely these days is cloud CAD development trend. To make cloud CAD work from the cloud, vendors must solve some fundamental data management and PDM problems first. The two most visible players in cloud CAD domain today are Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape. Although Fusion360 was released almost 3 years ago, I can see some similarity in the way fundamental data management problems will be solved by both products. Note, that Fusion360 is using Autodesk A360 platform for data management. You might be interested to catch up with some of my previous writing about these systems – Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus and How Fusion360 and Onshape are solving fundamental CAD collaboration problem.

To continue, I want to have a conversation about cloud CAD and Product Lifecycle Development. 3D CAD World recently published an article Onshape: Future of CAD – or Future of PLM? The article brings good points about Onshape built with data management in mind. Here is an interesting passage:

Steve Hess, another member of Onshape’s UX/PD team, followed up Gallo by posting: “As you know Onshape was built with data management in mind. The data management features of Onshape are at the core of the product and will become more exposed as Onshape matures. “In time, Onshape will be the system of record for all types of data & meta-data (data about the data) allowing you to run analysis and simulations…without having [to] copy or reproduce the information in another system. The data stored in Onshape will be visible and accessible to your other enterprise systems.”

Autodesk and Onshape are in a different time phases related to enterprise deployments. While Onshape just started with public beta version back in March, Autodesk released cloud based PLM 360 back in 2012. The last blog from Onshape can give you some interesting perspective on what cloud CAD and Onshape can offer to enterprises out of the box. Navigate to the following link – 5 Ways to advance your career with Onshape. Yes, it speaks about career opportunities, but I want to focus your attention on some technological and product capabilities of Onshape. It related to the native ability of Onshape to share 3D data using browser. One of the uses cases – introduce 3D to manufacturing. Here is my favorite passage:

Stop using email, FTP and Dropbox to share files. Let’s face it, every time you send a copy of a file to someone you create issues with file compatibility, data security or version control. Human error adds to the problem when assemblies are sent without part files, old versions are used, or email size limits are exceeded. There is a better way with Onshape. Just upload your existing CAD data into Onshape and hit “Share.” Now everyone can reference the same data, translate on demand when needed, and you can easily revoke a person’s access if you choose. You will reduce daily frustration while increasing your company’s control of its data.

Introduce 3D to the manufacturing team. Too often, there are a few licenses of 3D CAD being used for product design, while the people designing the fixtures and tooling are using older 2D systems – or even pencil and paper. With Onshape, the entire manufacturing team can experience the benefits of 3D design. You will introduce design efficiencies and give others the tools to drive innovation.

One of the functional requirements for PLM is to make data widely available and used across all teams in the company and extended enterprise. Although, it sounds simple, it was a challenging requirement for many PLM products. Two main reasons – product complexity and expensive licensing mechanism. Onshape has some good news here such as sharing data similar to Google Drive and free licensing model (according to my understanding when engineer shares model with somebody, person is getting free license automatically). The licensing issue is probably require some additional validation. I’m not sure what happens when number of shared document with a single person will grow beyond 5 documents limit. Of course, companies in specific industries might have a problem with public cloud both A360 and Onshape are using.

What is my conclusion? Cloud CAD is getting close to solve some fundamental 3D sharing problems. These problems caused traditional PLM to slow down in their ability to spread across company departments. It is web based, simple and (there is a chance) free or has affordable cost. So, both Onshape and Fusion360/A360 can solve problems that addressed today by premium features of traditional PLM systems. In my view, this is an interesting shift that can disrupt current PLM status quo. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Wikipedia Data Share article


Fra.me and bridge to CAD & PLM cloud

July 15, 2015

bridge-to-the-cloud-cad-plm

Back to my trip to Develop3D Live conference earlier this year, I shared my thoughts about future of cloud competition. The cloud space in CAD is getting more dynamic. It also shakes other traditional applications surrounding CAD – product data management, simulation, etc.

In my first slice of PLM cloud service comparison, I provided a view on how PLM companies are applying different cloud architecture approaches to get into cloud business – from just leveraging IaaS layer to run existing system and up to full rebuilt of systems from grounds up. While traditional applications doesn’t fit very well new cloud technological schemas, it gives a way to come faster with mature implementations. On the other side, to build system from scratch takes time (especially in rich applications such as CAD and PLM).

One of the approaches that driving some attention is virtualization of existing applications via browser. Since my Develop3D live conference, I’ve been following Fra.me – software outfit building technologies allowing to virtualize and run any existing desktop software in a browser. Earlier, at Siemens PLM world in Dallas, I’ve seen how Siemens PLM is running SolidEdge on the cloud using Fra.me.

My attention caught by SolidSmack article – Frame Secures $10 Million to Put All of Your Apps (Yes, Including SolidWorks) in the Cloud. It looks like Fra.me is up to provide a bridge to existing mature CAD and potentially PDM products to the cloud. Fra.me is planning to provide 3 levels of service – personal, business and platform. Here is the passage, which outlines Fra.me strategy:

While there are dedicated Cloud-based apps, Bozinovic’s Frame allows users to install their own software on the company’s servers which can then be used in real-time from any device with a web browser – which effectively gives users the power of a finely-tuned desktop PC workstation within their much lighter $200 netbooks or a Macbook Air.

“After we previewed Frame at Develop3D LIVE in March, we were blown away by the interest to run SOLIDWORKS and other CAD software on Frame from users and businesses from around the world,” said Bozinovic in an email to SolidSmack. “We’re in the middle of the biggest computing platform shift in decades and we’re excited to be bringing the power of the cloud to engineers and designers everywhere.”

It made me think about virtualization service as a bridge to the cloud for existing CAD and PLM vendors. While building new software architecture takes time and resources, to run existing applications using service like Fra.me can be a good shortcut vendors would like to us.

What is my conclusion? The advantages are clear – same software, no need to change and re-architecture things. However, it comes with price. In case of CAD, users will keep existing paradigm of file storage. It will require some additional effort to enable collaboration between users (feature that usually comes natively with cloud CAD platforms today). I can see some opportunity for PDM vendors to run existing PDM/PLM platforms using Fra.me. However, the architecture of such deployments as well as customization / configuration can be tricky. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Cloud CAD/PDM and mass customization future

June 25, 2015

mass-customization-cad-cloud-3d-local-motors

The era of mass production is near the end. The demand for mass customization is coming. We can see signs of customizable products everywhere – e-commerce configurators, personalization in apparel industry, individual shoe design, personalization in medical devices etc.

At the same time, the opportunity around mass-customization is facing challenges in engineering and manufacturing environments. I shared some of my thoughts about PLM, mass customization and BoM vertical integration last year. The problem with management of bill of materials to support manufacturing integration is real. We can achieve an improved product customization by improvement of BOM management and providing configurable BOM solution integrated with manufacturing systems. However, in many situation, product configuration capabilities are defined in the core of product design – CAD system.

You can manage product configurations using CAD system. Most of 3D mechanical CAD systems are supporting the ability to create some sort of product variations. But here is the thing, it is very hard to connect CAD product configurations to engineering and manufacturing systems.

My attention was caught by an article Building Adaptable CAD Databases—How and Why written by Chris Loughnane. In a nutshell, it speaks about how to make a traditional CAD design more data driven. The idea is fascinating and goes much beyond discrete configuration parameters. Here is my favorite passage explaining that.

Adaptable databases. By implementing additional techniques on top of traditional best practices, design intent is able to be so thoroughly baked into an adaptable database that its flexibility is no longer limited to a few discrete parameters. Instead, it’s able to read user-specific scan data and adjust the height, length, width, and surface curvature such that the resulting database is now custom-fit to the user.

It made me think about potentially mind blowing future of adapting CAD models. Imagine CAD design that can be changed based on customer data scanned using your mobile phone. Whoa… that would be amazing, but I stopped dreaming for a moment… The data integration chain in engineering and manufacturing systems is broken in many ways. CAD design is hardly integrated with PDM databases. Engineering BOMs are not synchronized with manufacturing BOM and shop floor and production facilities. To connect dots is possible, but it is a very complicated and expensive process.

The industry is discovering cloud CAD systems these days. One of the significant advantages of cloud CAD is the fact it includes data management functionality. In fact, these data management functions are giving us an option to control design on a very granular level. You can see an example of how cloud CAD systems are capable to control versions and collaboration between people.

Cloud based CAD systems can leverage data management capabilities to control more design parameters and product features. By doing that, it will enable better integration between design configuration and product features. Today most of these parameters are hardly can be captured. New cloud CAD systems can provide data driven environment to control important design parameters and to support data-driven design.

What is my conclusion? Mass customization and personal product developing is a future. One of the problems to solve in order to make it happen is to integrate engineering and manufacturing environments. The wall between design models and manufacturing product configuration should be removed. The first step into that direction is done by cloud CAD / PDM systems today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture Strati BAAM 3D printed car. (c) Photo courtesy of Local Motors.

 



How PLM can avoid cloud integration spaghetti?

June 18, 2015

21-centure-spaghetti-integration

Enterprise integration is a messy space. It is always complex – applications, databases, new and legacy systems, complexity of requirements. People usually need to run at least dozen of applications to run things smoothly. It is never done out-of-the-box and it is always requires circles of implementations and professional services.

I caught the following picture tweeted yesterday by Stan Przybylinski of CIMdata. It provides an excellent view of integration complexity. Unfortunately, in many situations, integration is a major challenge in PLM adoption. To get full value of PLM, company should spend a fortune integrating data and processes – CAD, Bill of materials, ECO, etc.

data-silos

Cloud is coming to enterprise these days. In many ways it creates a new way to think about data, software, services and maybe integrations too. The new technologies and eco-system of services can make a difference. It also creates a significant demand for openness and interoperability. This is a main reason why PLM need to learn web APIs. Web services and REST APIs are changing the way integration can be done.

Technology can make a difference. However, integrations are still hard. Few months ago, I shared my thoughts how to prevent cloud PLM integration mistakes. It comes down to three main things – 1/ lost data semantics; 2/ limitation of data transfers; 3/ transaction management in distributed and cross site environment.

Unfortunately, cloud is not a silver bullet to solve integration challenges. The demand for holistic integration continuum is still in the future. In practice, cloud applications today are replicating bad siloed behaviors of on premise applications. I captured the following picture earlier this week at Boston New Technology meetup.

cloud-silos-apps

This picture is the great demonstration of how bad aspects of siloed on premise applications are moving to cloud environment. Migration of applications on cloud infrastructure such as IaaS can simplify IT’s life. However, it won’t make life of users simpler. From end user standpoint, applications will still run in a silo.

What is my conclusion? The danger is to move established on premise PLM paradigms to the cloud. Technologically new cloud systems can give an advantages in terms of integrations. REST API is one example – it is much easier to code integration scenarios using REST APIs and modern web based tools. At the same time, closed data paradigms and data duplication between silos can bring well-know data spaghetti from on-premise applications to the cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM Vendors: Cloud Service Comparison

June 15, 2015

plm-cloud-compare

Cloud is taking PLM vendors by storm. Just few years ago, the question if manufacturing companies will adopt cloud raised lot of debates. You probably remember my posts – PLM competition and true cloud solution and PLM cloud: differentiation and anti-cloud rant. Fast forward into 2015 – I can see almost all PLM vendors are actively engaging into industry discussion about cloud solutions. Public cloud is getting more traction and I stated it in my earlier post – Is public cloud reshaping PLM landscape? Time to recheck…

Earlier today, the PTC article – Demystifying Cloud Services by Christa Prokos caught my attention. The article provides a good insight on different aspects of providing cloud services such as IaaS, PaaS, SaaS. The article is also connecting it to the notion of public, private, hybrid and virtual private clouds.

It made me think about summarizing what I know about PLM vendors strategies and cloud capabilities. I admit that I don’t have full information and can rely only on public sources of information. So, I created the following draft table. If it makes sense to you, let me know. If you have some information and think I missed something, please comment as well. I will maintain updates to this post.

plm-vendors-cloud-services

What is my conclusion? In 2015, cloud is probably not a marketing differentiation for PLM sales people. However, the devil is in details. You need to get your hands dirty to figure out what “cloud” vendors are talking about. Earlier this year, at COFES 2015, I gave a briefing about PLM and cloud. You can take a look here to learn more. There are few questions that left not answered and, in my view, will require a heavy focus by PLM vendors – cloud adoption trajectory by manufacturing, economic of cloud offering and how cloud PLM can change an existing PLM implementation paradigm. It seems to me PLM vendors made a first shot to fill a spreadsheet with cloud check boxes. But jury is out to check what and how PLM cloud cloud can deliver. Just my thoughts.

PS. The PLM cloud services comparison table is a draft. I’m looking forward for your comments – I’m sure missed some company specific points and I need your help to finalize it.

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of cuteimage at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


PLM + ERP = cloud… what?

June 9, 2015

cloud-plm-erp-and-what

Enterprise resource planning is well established domain for many years. ERP in manufacturing made a very long history of transformation from early days of MRP and MRP II and it is usually a suite of integrated applications used to store data from multiple activities – inventory, product planning, manufacturing, service delivery, sales, etc. For many manufacturing companies, ERP is a fundamental element company use to manage business on daily basis.

Product lifecycle management originally came out engineering activities and management of engineering data – CAD files, engineering bill of materials and later on focused on product development processes and product innovation.

The relationships between PLM and ERP aren’t simple. While both PLM and ERP systems are complementary as a vision, in practice both are very competitive when it comes to customer budgets and controlling specific element of customer information – parts, bill of materials, etc. You might remember my very old blog post – The ugly truth about PLM and ERP monkey volleyball. PLM and ERP are clearly separated by a common bill of materials. BoM is a centerpiece of product development and manufacturing data and it sits accurately between PLM and ERP occupying minds of sales and consulting providers and advisers from both domains.

The increased complexity of products combined with even more increased complexity of manufacturing processes and business relationships often put both ERP and PLM on the line for streamlining business processes, simplifying data integration and optimizing product cost. In my view, the future of manufacturing will depends on solving old PLM / ERP integration problems. Old siloed enterprise models used data ownership as one of the fundamental models. To own data and allow access in a silo (such as PLM, ERP or MES) was one of the first priorities. Today and tomorrow the speed of communication will be more important. To make collaboration and communication fast will be a criteria for future models to survive.

Cloud technologies are restructuring existing software domains and changing established business relationships. It happened in many industries. Will cloud become a force to change an established status quo between PLM and ERP businesses?

Diginomica article – Autodesk, NetSuite – chaos theory in action? put some lights on a trajectory of business between NetSuite – a leading cloud ERP vendor and PLM360 new cloud PLM product business established by Autodesk few years ago. The article has a some marketing and promotion flavor speaking about expanding of Autodesk PLM business. Also, author disclosed that Diginomica is a premier NetSuite service provider. However, NetSuite and PLM360 can give you an interesting perspective on new relationships between PLM and ERP in the cloud.

One of the imponderables about working with any cloud delivered service is just what it might add to an established business that could not have been predicted or foreseen. The combination of an established business, with well-defined product families, can still find itself having new business opportunities thrust upon it in a quite chaotic manner by its association with a cloud services provider.

There is, of course, an obvious complementary fit between a CAD toolset and an ERP system – one manages the design of something and the other manages its appearance as a reality. So Autodesk had spent some time talking to other ERP vendors about potential partnerships. But the company had realized that none of them were the right fit.

The company realized that what they were looking for was a cloud component and it was Netsuite’s cloud focus that fitted them best. According to Locklin the fit was good enough from the onset that the two companies were soon talking about a close alliance rather than just a loose relationship.

Traditionally, integration between PLM and ERP is a very painful process. One of the aspects of complexity can be attributed to differences between PLM and ERP technologies and APIs. Cloud cannot solve the complexity of PLM/ERP integration – it is still hard to make it happen. But, cloud technologies can simplify the integration process by establishing common technological grounds for companies creating business on top of PLM-ERP integrations. Jitterbit a company both NetSuite and Autodesk are partnering to integrate PLM360 and NetSuite. Jitterbit is a software outfit built specifically to integrate cloud applications.

Having worked with it as a core part of the Autodesk partnership, the relationship has now spread to NetSuite, which has also formed its own partnership with Jitterbit. It is now being used to provide NetSuite users with connections to over 250 applications. This was formally launched at the recent SuiteWorld conference in San Jose.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is changing businesses and product boundaries. The traditional boundaries of CAD, PDM, PLM and ERP business suites were created by many years of selling on premise products using established partner channels. Cloud removes barriers between applications makes it more transparent. What about business? Will cloud remove barriers between PLM and ERP? Will it create a more granular set of applications provided by multiple software vendors and orchestrated by ERP service providers? The time is to change a traditional marriage relationships between PLM and ERP that I can see conflicting in many ways. Are we going to see Cloud (PLM+ERP) product offering soon? I’m not sure about that, but changes are clearly coming to manufacturing domain. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud CAD and Offline Internet

May 29, 2015

online-offline-cad

I had a chance to attend Google I/O extended 2015 event in Cambridge, Mass yesterday. If you follow up Google I/O, you might be already up to the speed with all Google announcements around Android, Wear, Internet of Things, Photo, etc. If not, check Google I/O 2015. What caught my special attention is Google’s focus on offline. Offline is starting to be important, since Google is thinking about future internet expansion. Think about questions like – how to search on mobile when Internet connection is weak? or How to navigate using Google Maps with no internet connection?

Offline is an interesting topic. We want to have our life connected and collaborative. But at the same time, we are trying to think how cloud applications will work with absence of internet connection or in the situation when internet connection is very weak. TechCrunch article Google Quest to bring the internet to 7 billion people can give you some brief about what Google plan to do. The following Gizmodo article specifically talks about YouTube offline and Maps offline.

offline-google-maps

Another thing that Google did is optimized download time for bad network connections. I’ve seen a demo and it really makes a difference.

optimized-download

It made me think again about offline topic in the connection of cloud CAD. The “offline” topic is one of those things Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape are different these days. Read my earlier post – Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus. For the moment Fusion360 is an app that requires installation and it works connected with Autodesk 360 cloud platform. It can remind you Evernote – you can install it and it will sync data instantly and keep your records so you can access it from any device. Onshape is taking a different route – full cloud CAD application and it works completely in the browser. You can think about it as Google Apps and Gmail-like approach.

Al Dean of Develop3D shared his opinion on strategy and technology of both Onshape and Fusion360 in his article The cloud – a bright future ahead. Here is the passage addressing the “offline” topic.

Eventually, Fusion will be available via the browser (I’d put a fiver on that being before the end of the year). DS’ next generation SolidWorks products will get better and more accessible. Though strangely, this is the unknown in the calculations as DS is reluctant to talk about the whole thing, presumably to protect its dominance with SolidWorks.

And hopefully, OnShape will have a way of working when you’re offline, as well as internet connected. Finally, I’d hope that DS is much more open about getting its customer’s access to the tools it is developing . The excuse that “They’re using our resources so they should pay” simply won’t cut it as these tools need to be played with, discovered and explored. At the moment, they’re not getting the exposure that they deserve — leaving a whole new market open to Autodesk and Onshape.

What is my conclusion? Will CAD vendors take Google way to make cloud CAD offline? This is an interesting place to watch. Google made several attempts for offline work in Google Apps. It didn’t work in the past, but these days I can save my work offline in Google Drive and it is magically getting in sync when my computer connects back to the internet. Google Maps is a great example how to address specific offline needs. I guess cloud CAD vendors can learn a lesson from Google. It seems to me Autodesk and Onshape will be coming to offline mode from two separate directions. However, focus on customers can be a good guidance to see what is important and when. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Google I/O pictures credit Gizmodo.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Siemens PLM: Cloud Services and Big Data

May 27, 2015


omneo-dell-inside-big-data

You can say that buzz around big data is annoying. At the same time, organization are struggling with a fundamental challenge – there are far more data than they can handle. Some interesting facts about data growth around us. Back in 2000, only 25% of all data stored in the world was digital. By 2007, 94% of all data was stored digitally. Some experts has estimated that 90% of all data in the world was produced for the last 2 years.

Manufacturing and engineering organization have to deal with a growing amount of data. Old fashion methods of handling data are not good anymore. You may want to look on some of my previous posts – Will PLM vendors will dig into big data? , Big data and importance of information lifecycle. Even more, the question of how to use data to improve product quality or design becomes important – PLM and big data driven product design. For many organizations data can become a very disruptive force.

Last week at PLM Connection 2015 conference in Dallas, I learned few interesting facts about how Siemens PLM is developing big data cloud solutions to handle large volumes of complex information for manufacturers. Steve Bashada’s presentation was about the work Siemens PLM did following the acquisition of Omneo, which was part of Siemens PLM acquisition of Camstar.

Getting back to Siemens PLM Omneo. The idea is to discover data patterns that can lead to optimal product performance. This is may sound too generic. However, if you translate it into more specific actions. Think about finding reasons why the last batch of hardware devices such as computer flash drive or wearable gadget was defective and track a supplier of faulty components. Inside Big Data whitepaper gives you an interesting perspective on Omneo solution. You can download whitepaper in exchange of your email address here. Here is the passage from the article I specially liked:

For a compelling example that illustrates how big data is affecting the manufacturing sector, we can consider Omneo, a provider of supply chain management software for manufacturing companies. The business need was to enable global manufacturers to efficiently manage product quality/performance and customer experience. Consequently, Omneo needed to collect, manage, search and analyze vast amounts of diverse data types, and it sought the right software and hardware infrastructure to support this effort.

  • Enables global-brand owners to manage product performance and customer experience
  • Delivers a 360-degree view of supply chain data
  • Searches billions of data records in less than three seconds
  • Scales to support 300 million records every month
  • Allows customers to quickly search, analyze and mine all their data in a single place so that they can identify and resolve emerging supply chain issues

The following slide can give you generic yada-yada about the solution.

splm-bigdata-1

Siemens PLM is working on a solution with few selected customers. Dell is one of them. The following slides gives you an idea how a specific customer problem can be solved.

splm-bigdata-dell

The solution uses “search based” user experience to search, filter and navigate between bits of data.

splm-bigdata-5

What is the technical foundation of the solution? Omneo is using some elements of existing big data stack you might be familiar with – HDFS, Hadoop, Cloudera combined with open source search technologies like SOLR. Omneo brings meta data and unified data model to handle product information and uses HBASE to manage information. The following slide can give you some more information about technical stack and how product is handling data.

splm-bigdata-4

What is my conclusion? Big data is a hard problem to solve. But it brings very interesting business cases. Siemens PLM Omneo is an example of specific data solution targeting big data problems in manufacturing organization. So far, the most specific example I was able to find reported by PLM vendors. My hunch, other PLM vendors might be looking on solutions, but haven’t seen specific publications about that. I think, big data can be applied in a very interesting ways to handle different product development, customer and manufacturing issues. We just not there yet. Manufacturing organizations and existing vendors are too slow to discover them. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit Inside Big data article


Cloud PLM and SaaS sales mindset

May 22, 2015

cloud-plm-sales

I want to talk about PLM sales today. If you want to succeed in sales, a mindset is a right starting point. But, enterprise sales needs a special mindset. PLM sales is very special case. These days SaaS / cloud software is setting new rules for enterprise software. How does it influence and change PLM sales? What advantages cloud PLM can get compared to a traditional PLM products and sales model?

Few days ago, I posted about how to stop blaming engineers for PLM sales problems? In my view, engineers are on average bad sales people. Therefore, to put engineers in the spot of selling PLM and blame them for wrong articulation of PLM value is a bad idea. There are thousands of books and article on the topic of how to sell to enterprise organizations. It is a good reading for coming Memorial Day long weekend. Today, I want to talk about cloud PLM sales – a new category that has a chance to change the way we sell PLM.

I can see two aspects of cloud PLM sales. First is related to a new reality of our world – internet, online connectivity, social networks, virality. How does it help to sell PLM? It certainly helps to create a new level of awareness about what your product does. If you didn’t setup your product twitter account, blog and other social channel, do it now! But, it doesn’t change a fundamentals. Despite all social channels, selling to enterprise is still very much old-schoolers game. In my view, there is no PLM vendors that discovered a new way to sell PLM until now. You can read more in my earlier post – PLM, Viral Sales and Enterprise Old Schoolers.

Second aspect is related to the fact how PLM companies are managing enterprise sales process and new business models. My attention caught the A16Z blog post – If SaaS products sell themselves, why do we need sales? The article gives you an excellent perspective on the details of sales process. I like the comparison of enterprise sales to the process of getting a bill passed in Congress. Certainly true. Although PLM is not a new category in the market, I would consider PLM sales challenge to create a unique value for every customer as something real PLM vendors are facing every day. PLM sales are competing with many other activities in manufacturing companies and it is literally hard to take it through the all three steps of decision process – why to buy PLM, why to buy PLM from a specific vendor and why to buy PLM now.

SaaS sales are facing the same level of sales difficulties. At the same time I’ve been thinking how cloud PLM can get some advantages over a traditional PLM product sales. And the point of "customer facing activity" form A16Z blog is clearly resonating here. This is a passage to pay attention in my view:

SaaS is a winner-take-all market involving a “land-and-expand” sales strategy. However, landing doesn’t necessarily mean expanding and winning. Staffing your startup with customer-facing resources — professional services, customer support, etc. — at this stage is an investment that will pay off not only in expanding your footprint inside that account, but in building the most powerful sales tool there is: a good reference. And while new clients are great, the best place to sell something is where you’ve already sold something.

You may ask me how is that related? Here is the thing… Landing should be an easy process in SaaS PLM compared to a traditional PLM sales process. And this is where cloud PLM can provide a clear differentiation. A traditional PLM approach is to sell on a premise of changing the way customer is doing business and manage product development processes. When it is done, you can setup PLM system and prove it. But it is a very lengthy process. Opposite to that, you can think about cloud PLM first sale as a "land" process. Do it for the most painful problem customer has. This is why PLM sales should be more technical. Land it to the customer for a cost of zero dollars. After all, you can leverage elasticity of the cloud as a biggest advantage. After you done, work on expand option. New subscription business models will help you to provide a new way for customer – pay per use.

What is my conclusion? Moving to the cloud, doesn’t mean PLM can sell itself. After earlier attempts, it looks like wrong sales strategy. At the same time, landing small feature to solve the most painful problem for a customer can be a right step to start. The challenge is to have enough customer facing resources that can help to discover it and land an initial solution with very low cost and super fast ROI. In my view, it is a completely different mindset from what we had before in PLM and enterprise. It is a time for PLM vendors to retool sales teams with new skills. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Kittisak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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