Updated blog: How to compare PLM cloud services?

November 9, 2015


It has been few months since I published my first comparison between PLM cloud services provided by different CAD, PLM and ERP vendors. You can see my first blog about it – PLM vendors: cloud service comparison. This blog raised many comments and questions online and offline. I’ve been following it for some time trying to learn more and present an updated version of PLM cloud comparison. I wanted to share something that can help customers to make an intelligent decision about cloud PLM selection as well as to provide additional source of questions to be checked with PLM vendors during the selection process.

So, here is a new version of comparison table.


Few comments about the changes I’ve made. I decided to replace complex IaaS, PaaS, SaaS definition into something more simple – SaaS / Hosted. Multi-tenancy is an important characteristics that indicates the architecture of software platform for cloud deployment. Public vs Private cloud differentiation is pretty much straightforward. I added a column that indicates that availability of software from 3rd party hosting services. It looks like a growing trend among PLM vendors to partner with companies providing services to maintain and run cloud PLM environment for customers.

Some additional articles that can help you to make a decision. My article on Engineering.com – PLM is the best Hosted, SaaS or On Premise… Let’s sort it out. Another publication I found is very useful – All PLM Clouds are not created equal created by CIMdata and provided by Arena Solutions.

What is my conclusion? Cloud remains a complicated topic for manufacturing companies to decide about. Although the adoption of cloud PLM solution is growing, it is still hard for companies to decide about what is the right PLM cloud. A divide line is clearly Hosted vs SaaS multi-tenant environments. I think, the advantages of multi-tenant SaaS over Hosted cloud PLM solutions is not obvious for large manufacturing companies. At the same time, all cloud PLM implementations are still require “implementations” and hardly can be used out-of-the-box, which prevents easy adoption. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

3 challenges to develop cloud storage and collaboration tools for engineers

November 6, 2015


For the last few years, we’ve seen a number of attempts to develop specialized CAD data collaboration tools by leveraging cloud technologies. GrabCAD was probably the most successful one. More than one million engineers joined GrabCAD. In addition, before acquisition by Stratasys, GrabCAD developed cloud PDM tool – Workbench. Few years ago, I had a chance to discuss CAD collaboration topic with Hardi Meybaum, founder and CEO of GrabCAD. You can catch up on my discussion with him here. Few other small and large vendors jumped to the engineering collaboration domain. You can read more about it in my last year blog – The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive.

Things are changing fast in cloud development these days. One of them, cost of cloud storage is going to be zero very soon. It appears as a problem for vendors planned to leverage cloud collaboration. The competition is getting tough and they are thinking how to develop ways to differentiate solutions. Dropbox is a good example. Started as a pure consumer tool, it is actively moving into business domain. My attention was caught by Techcrunch article – Dropbox lays out an updated enterprise playbook. Navigate here to read more. Here is my favorite passage:

And the biggest tool the company unveiled was an enterprise tool set called Dropbox Enterprise, which includes some additional tools above its Dropbox business product. It’s essentially giving IT managers more tools to onboard employees to a corporate Dropbox account and have visibility into their collaboration processes, and also gives those managers a dedicated customer service representative.

The competition is very much heating up in this space. Both Box and Dropbox have to basically sell their services not as a bucket of storage, but as a set of powerful collaboration tools that sit on top of that service.

So, Dropbox, Box and other cloud storage and collaboration vendors will push to deliver tools on top of their cloud storage platforms. At the same time, these vendors will invest into additional security and other technologies to convince business customers to use their services. Box platform is another example – How Box platform will compete with PLM vendors.

This trend made me think about challenges that can experience large and small vendors developing special "dropbox for engineers".

1- Engineers in companies are already using Dropbox, Google Drive or similar tools. So, tools from CAD vendors and startups will have to become an additional tool, while portion of data is already managed by Dropbox-like tools.

2- The interplay and integration between specialized engineering collaboration tools and Dropbox can be a challenge and an additional level of complication. Who wants to think about syncing files between Dropbox and other collaboration tool?

3- Cost of CAD collaboration tools is relatively high, so the barrier for engineers and very small companies can be too high and value proposition too small to use them.

What is my conclusion? Cloud storage providers have to bring more business value to justify their cost and compete in the environment where "cloud storage" becomes a commodity. It will create a problem for all engineering cloud collaboration tools. The barrier to entry is high and companies are already using cloud collaboration tools from Google, Dropbox, Box and other companies. It is hard to convince a company to use multiple cloud storage collaboration tools. So, the only opportunity to CAD and PLM providers I can see is to develop specialized business functions to justify their existence. An alternative to integrate with products provided by Dropbox, Box and others. Tough choice. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of kibsri at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Will “cloud” change the way we integrate PLM and ERP?

October 29, 2015


Integration has a very important role in PLM implementations. PLM is intended to manage design and engineering aspects of product development. ERP is intended to manage manufacturing resources, process and inventory. Therefore PLM and ERP are complementary. Most of PLM implementations I’ve seen in my life, required PLM-ERP integration.

At the same time, PLM-ERP integration is often the most complicated part. There is high diversity in the ways manufacturing companies manage data about product, bill of materials, parts, inventory and manufacturing processes. Outcome is multiple BoMs, product and item records and the need to synchronize information.

Traditional PLM-ERP integration is complex and never done out-of-the-box. It requires detailed definitions, data mapping and variety of data synchronization techniques. The last one is usually code effort that done by service provider or IT programmers. In some situations PLM and ERP vendors are offering integration tools, but because of different reasons such as cost and complexity of these tools, integration often end up as SQL hacking into two databases of PLM and ERP. Software vendors are not appreciating this approach, but usually face the reality of large implementation complexity and just live with it. In most of these situations, vendors would not jeopardize PLM deal by preventing customers to access databases directly. The result is high cost of maintenance and problem during upgrades.

Cloud technologies are simplifying IT and deployment. But, at the same time, cloud can create an additional integration complexity. Traditional integration code, including SQL often not applicable without direct access to databases in web environment. But cloud environment is still very complex. It contains PLM, ERP and many other systems and services companies are using. Few months ago, I shared my thoughts about how to avoid cloud integration spaghetti. One of the biggest dangers is that closed data paradigms and data duplication between silos can bring well-know data spaghetti from on-premise applications to the cloud.

For the last few months, I’ve been learning about what cloud PLM companies are doing to simplify cloud PLM-ERP integration. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it

Autodesk PLM360

PLM Connect is a complete solution portfolio provided by PLM360 integrate business systems. First of all, it applies to PLM-ERP integration, but not only. Earlier this year, at PLM Accelerate 2015 conference in Boston, Autodesk promised to integrate PLM360 with everything. PLM360 is using Jitterbit middleware for integration.


In addition to that Autodesk seems to be inspired by IFTTT -like tools announced “evented web” integration for PLM360. Read more here.


From the side of Jitterbit, it looks similar to traditional middleware. The fact it runs on the cloud doesn’t change much. But it has nice UI for integration and mapping. Also, granularity of REST API and ease of code can potentially make PLM360 / Jitterbit environment more efficient. Evented-web integration style has advantages, but it is not clear to me how effectively it can be used to synchronize data between PLM and ERP environments.

Arena – Kenandy integration

I’ve been learning about Arena PLM integration with Kenandy ERP. My attention was caught by the following article and Arena-Kenandy partnership press release. You can get some details about the integration by navigating to the following data sheet.

I spent some time looking into specific ways integration is done. Arena and Kenandy is not using middleware style integration. At the same time, both are supporting modern web based APIs to code integration behavior. Which allows the both solution to leverage service APIs on both sides for efficient and granular data integration. Arena and Kenandy is synchornizing data by transferring XML documents.


Administration console can show you status of data synchronization.


In my view, Arena-Kenandy is a modern variant of point-to-point integration with realization using Web services API. It makes code easier, but still requires implementation of synchronization logic between systems.

Razorleaf – Clover Open Integration Platform

Companies doing implementation services for PLM usually have high sense of urgency to work on PLM-ERP integrations. It is part of their implementation schedules. My attention was caught by Razorleaf announcement yesterday about Clover Open Integration platform. Read more here – Razorleaf Introduces Clover™, a New Open Integration Platform that Supports Any-to-Any Endpoint Integration for PLM Applications. The following passage provides some high level explanation about what Clover does.

“The Clover platform is a result of our long-standing experience in creating CAD/CAM/PLM integration endpoints,” stated Eric Doubell, CEO of Razorleaf Corporation. “We now have created an industry standard application integration platform that has a flexible architecture and can scale easily based on its endpoint applications. This platform helps our customers retain the feature sets they have come to rely upon in their application investments and allow for a more controlled migration path forward when upgrading is a requirement. Making up-to-date data available across applications accelerates decision-making and process efficiency across the organization.”

Razorleaf is providing services for different cloud and on premise PLM environments. Learn more here. You can see on-premise and cloud systems including Autodesk PLM360 and Jitterbit. I’m still learning about Clover technology and platform. So, stay tuned for updates.

What is my conclusion? Cloud brings some limitations to integration techniques. Very often integration was done using direct SQL-code injections and batch processing. You cannot do it anymore in cloud-based / web environment. Web based APIs can compensate it, but it requires products to support granular REST APIs for specific operations. This is something you want to be sensitive to when choosing cloud PLM vendor. Web API can make cloud-based integration easy to code and implement. However, cloud integration patterns are still the same – middleware or point-to-point integration. Cloud didn’t bring anything new here. At least from the standpoint of systems I learned. Integration remains complex and requires planning and resources during PLM implementations. A note or PLM architects and strategists. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

It is time to stop marketing CAD/PLM cloud and move to deployment

October 28, 2015


Do you remember the time when the term “dot-com company” was booming around? Getting back to late 1990s, so called dot.com or “internet companies” were around to attract people using internet access. After stock market crash around a year 2000, most of these companies dropped “.com” suffix from their names. Fast forward 20 years – it is unusual to see a business that is not connecting to customers using internet and websites.

Few days ago, I came across a very interesting article – The Deployment Age. It is a bit long, but worth reading. The article speaks about theory of technological revolution.

[It] describes the path a technological revolution, like the Industrial Revolution, takes and the social, economic and institutional changes that go along with it. The jury is still out on the theory, and there are plenty of reasons to doubt it. But if it successfully predicts what happens over the next ten years it will have in good part proved its power.

Prediction is a tough job, but I found some thoughts and conclusion resonating. I captured the following diagram that demonstrates and compare cycles of technological development.


The interesting conclusion about ICT (Information and communication technology) revolution. The conclusion is that we are moving into “deployment age” of ICT. You can see some characteristics of what is typical for deployment period.




What does it mean for software companies and how to adjust development and marketing strategies?

Stop considering the technology a feature. Using the technology where it fits is no longer a feature, it’s a requirement. Connecting a thermostat to the Internet wirelessly is awesome, but calling it an Internet-enabled thermostat will start to be like calling a vacuum cleaner an electricity-enabled broom. And if your thermostat does not connect to the Internet, it will be bought only by retro-chic hipsters. But if you use ICT in your product, it needs to be seamless. Your users shouldn’t need an instruction manual. Don’t scrimp on user interface and user experience design.

The technology becomes ubiquitous, as noted, but innovation itself becomes ubiquitous. The deployment age is not an age of exploration, it’s an age of extending the paradigm into all parts of society. What people want to do with the technology is pretty clear, and the technology’s improvement trajectory is pretty clear.

The article was really resonating with my earlier blog this week – How to change PLM user experience. The idea of coming from user experience to technology is absolutely right approach. But if we took a look on examples of companies in CAD / PLM development, we can clearly can see some differences.

The example of PTC innovating in parametric feature-based 3D modeling is one of them. PTC clearly made huge progress in 3D modeling. But, Solidworks leveraged PTC technologies in full also deploying it to a maturing Windows platform back in 1995. The transparency of technology was clear and Solidworks focused primarily on user experience.

The recent example of “cloud” and PLM is another one to mention. Hosting was a technology that developed for the last 10-15 years and it came to some level of maturity – AWS is the best example for that. Cloud PLM was a way to leverage technology to host PLM environment in different forms and approaches. The clear goal is to eliminate IT complexity, speed up ROI and ultimately decrease TCO. However, not everything is going well with cloud PLM, in my view, because cloud is not a differentiator during the “deployment age”.

As we can see, most of CAD and PLM vendors today are gravitating towards cloud technologies and checking options how to differentiate their products. The last thing is complicated. Cloud itself is not something that can create differentiation. We can often see marketing controversy, which is not helpful either. User experience, efficiency and cost are critical. Users don’t care how PLM vendor is hosting its products, but how easy to implement it and what is the cost. The same about CAD systems – does it have right features, performs well and has the right cost?

What is my conclusion? The challenge for most of CAD and PLM companies today is stop marketing ‘technology’ and shift their focus into deployment of technologies to support new type of products and business models. It could be free products for some segment of the market, no installation, easy upgrade or implementation. But it is clearly not a word “cloud” which will differentiate product for customers. So, it is a time to drop “.cloud” suffix from CAD and PLM marketing. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Engineers are not asking about cloud and it’s okay..

October 27, 2015


I like surveys. They can help you to discover what people think and motivate to make analysis. My attention was caught by a survey Worldwide CAD Trends done by British-based Business Advantage. This year it surveyed 635 CAD managers and users in several countries. Thanks upFront.Ezine article The state of MCAD industry 2015, which skimmed results of the survey. You can see the visualization (a-la Gartner Quadrant) below

The state of MCAD industry 2015

The following passage is outlining the results:

The results are shocking: Highly-hyped technologies — like cloud-based CAD, virtual reality, and pay-as-you-go monthly subscriptions — suffer from low use and low importance. Few design firms care about them, let alone use them. The media darling, 3D printing, fares better by making it into the Emerging category. Newer technology, like mobile CAD, just gets its nose into the all-important Leading category, while 3D modeling blows away everything else.

I’ve been writing about cloud and implication of these technologies on CAD, PDM, PLM for the last few years. So, probably my blog is one of these that created a hype around “cloud based” technologies? I thought, this survey is a good opportunity to discuss it. So, how important is “cloud” for engineers and other end users?

Digital disruption

The conversations about digital disruption is one I’d like to start with. Fortune article IBM: Modernize your business or risk being Uber-ized put an interesting perspective on transformation in the industry. It is impossible to keep status-quo when your business can be potentially disrupted by digital transformation and data technologies. So, big blue is concerned Here is my favorite passage:

Big Blue executives took the stage at an IBM conference in Las Vegas on Monday to urge companies to undergo a so-called “digital transformation”. “You better figure it out, because there’s an Uber out there that’s already figured it out,” warned Glen Finch, IBM’s global leader of big data and analytics. When talking to customers, Finch said he’s noticed that companies are worried about more nimble startups like Uber overtaking their business. Uber, of course, has upended the taxi industry, which was seen as being slow to counter its fast-rising rival.

SolidWorks 2016 – technology and productivity

In light of digital transformation, it is interesting to see how Dassault Systemes, one of the top leaders in CAD/PLM market segment is reacting. Recent announcement about SolidWorks 2016 is a good example. Dassault is actually adapting by allowing SolidWorks 2016 to run in a browser. SolidWorks is using Fra.me platform for that. The following article by Engineering.com can bring additional details – SOLIDWORKS 2016 All About Productivity and Technology.

“I am spending 80 percent of my time on the road, all over the world,” says Bassi. “I talk with lots of people and I see there is a mutual love. There isn’t another word. It’s love. We understand very well what makes people successful and productive,” says Bassi. “Every time we disconnect with that thinking we make mistakes. [But now] I hope we are connected.

“It’s not only the technology, though that is critical,” he says. “SOLIDWORKS Online shows we are changing our way of thinking. Our way of relating to customers with easier access, faster access and more flexibility. Today it isn’t easy to get SOLIDWORKS. You have to deal with VARs, licenses, CD installs, and computer hardware,” said Bassi. That is why Bassi believes that SOLIDWORKS online is a good step forward. It empowers as many people as possible with CAD technology.”

No one wanted faster horses, they wanted less horseshit

So, engineers are asking about 3D modeling and not about cloud. Does it mean cloud technology is irrelevant? The famous Henry Ford statement about faster horses is a good example. The following article by HelloErik blog can bring an interesting perspective and explanations – No one said they wanted faster horses, they wanted less horseshit. The real problem of horses wasn’t about speed. It was about flies, disease, smell, dried manure dust, soaked manure mire, cruelty to horses, horse related traffic deaths. Another problem was inefficiency.

Believe it or not, there was a time when there were so many horses that it was part of the 1898 International Urban Planning Conference summit in New York. There were a lot of problems with horses that were reaching a tipping point of inefficiency. Something had to be done, but talking to the “users” about solutions wasn’t going to solve anything – looking at the pain was.

The real problem of Henry Ford was actually different than creating faster horses. It was about manufacturing efficiency and cost.

Henry Ford was trying to solve the high cost of automobiles through assembly lines, interchangeable parts, and financing. If that was the case, the problem he seemed to be solving wasn’t really about horses, but people of the time might have thought he was. Or better, they might have seen it as a car problem; cars are too expensive. Instead of focusing on the problems with manure removal machines, Ford instead solved it, intentionally or not, by bringing the automobile to the common person. This could be considered parallel innovation and revolution. It is the parallel innovation that attacked and began to solve the real pain of the problem.

Cloud technologies – cost and efficiency

I picked the following slide last week during Jon Hirschtick’s presentation at TEC Talk in Boston.


There are two things cloud technology are going to change – cost and efficiency. CAD, PDM, PLM are expensive, the ROI is slow, the mistakes are happening because of misalignment of CAD versions, poor data management and long implementation cycles. Can engineers perform their work now? Yes, they can. Is it possible to make their work more efficient? I guess, cloud technologies have a chance to make this change happen. But a single engineer in an large organization often is not responsible for data management, work organization and IT. Primary responsibility of engineer is to design – hence the quest for better 3D design technology. The hope of engineers from IT and vendors to solve it.

What is my conclusion? Do not get confused by “engineers are not asking for cloud CAD” survey results. Cloud is about business efficiency, speed and cost of software. New technologies will disrupt the formula of software businesses. Existing CAD and PLM vendors will have to adapt or they risk being Uber-ized. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

CAD and cloud marketing controversy

October 21, 2015


CAD and PLM marketing folks have tough time these days. It has been just five years ago, when Jeff Ray, former CEO of SolidWorks shocked everyone at SolidWorks World 2010 by introducing the SWAT team with the objective “to kill SolidWorks”. You can navigate back in time to SolidSmack article – Jeff Ray on V6, the Cloud and Killing SolidWorks.

Five years later SolidWorks 2016 is coming with “online functionlity” that allows to run SolidWorks anywhere. Read more on SolidWorks blog. My attention was caught by Cadalyst article SolidWorks 2016 Goes Online. It gives an additional insight on SolidWorks online functionality. Since now, you can run Solidworks via browser using Fra.me platform. In my everyday lingo, I’d probably call it “cloud enablement”. But here is the thing… The latest interview with Gian Paolo Bassi proposed an interesting clarification of terms between “cloud” and “online”. Here is the passage:

During discussions of the Online Edition, SolidWorks executives were careful to avoid the term cloud. “A lot of people flap their mouths with ‘cloud, cloud, cloud,’” scoffed Bassi. “We don’t need to fill up our mouth with big words.” “Cloud” starts whenever you have some part of your workflow, your data creation, outside your desktop, he clarified. “We don’t believe that cloud means you run everything in the browser.”

According to Peter Rucinski, director of product portfolio management for SolidWorks desktop products, not many customers are asking for “CAD in the cloud” in particular, but they are asking for flexibility. “They are asking for anytime, anywhere … and SolidWorks Online gives you that flexibility,” he said.

The definition of “online” functionality is coming across with already existing marketing dispute about cloud between Autodesk’s and Onshape. Cloud is vitally important for both Autodesk and Onshape. Therefore, Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD and the cloud. But, for the moment, I can see some disagreement related to technological approach taken by Onshape and Autodesk.

The best way to get into that is to read read SolidSmack’s parallel interview with Jon Hirschtick and Carl Bass. I can see an acknowledgement of cloud. But I can read some marketing controversy at the same time. Carl addresses it in the following passage with the “cloud” as a key word:

Carl – We’ve been saying for awhile that there are two benefits the cloud brings: first, it gives you virtually unlimited amounts of computing, which is critical when you’re talking about solving real engineering problems, specifically simulation, rendering, CAM and even generative design. And secondly, it serves as the central point for sharing, collaborating and managing data projects—critical for distributed teams and those working across the supply chain. Fusion 360 was imagined for this new world, and because it’s built on the cloud, it will be able to easily evolve over time as our customers’ needs change and all the various platforms they use improve.

You can see a different marketing approach taken by Jon which brings “full-cloud” marketing notion based on the technology to run Onshape in a browser.

Full-cloud has been a great new strategy for improving reliability. Because desktop and semi-cloud systems rely on installed CAD software, bugs cause crashes and data loss. Our full-cloud system is distributed across many servers and has no crash-prone installed software — so even when we have bugs they never result in any interruption or loss of work. This improved reliability from our full-cloud architecture has been astounding to users who suffered from typical installed software crashes.

What is my conclusion? Vendors are trying to find a way to market technologies and products in a best ways they can. It resulted in some marketing controversy. I think we will live in a “cloud CAD” marketing limbo for some time now. What is more important is technology and functionality developed by all vendors – Autodesk, Dassault Systems and Onshape. Al Dean of Develop3D made an interesting prediction earlier this year about cloud CAD technologies (read full article here):

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.

So technologies and functions will evolve. Meantime it is very important to demystify cloud CAD marketing and explain the meaning of technologies and product functions to customers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Cloud storage “race to zero” will help to create new type of CAD & PLM solutions

October 8, 2015


Did you pay attention what happened to cloud storage? I’m sure you did. The cost is racing to zero. You can get basically any storage size you want today. Even more, cloud giants like Google and Apple are promoting additional services with unlimited storage capacities.

Cloud giants are building their businesses on top of free cloud storage businesses. The following article by TechCrunch can give you a short explanation about that – The race to zero is awesome. Here is my favorite passage:

In cloud storage, the large players are working to build apps on top of their storage stack, so that they can have a unique value proposition when the price of storage itself finally reaches nil. In cloud computing, it could be that the value add that the large players will use to compete will be their app environment. If you build for, say, Google’s app ecosystem, your cloud compute might be free. If Google’s app ecosystem is the best, you’ll want to work over there, but you wouldn’t if Google didn’t offer competitively priced cloud computing; smaller players could use that to their advantage, and potentially hem in on Google’s business. So compute prices would be pretty uniform across the industry, falling in near unison. That is, of course, precisely what we have seen with cloud storage prices.

You may ask how does it connect to CAD and PLM? Here is the thing- I think there is a disruptive play in creating applications and business models. It will result in changing of fundamental functional and business behaviors. Free storage is convenient – many of us are using free storage to keep our information. It is accessible and reliable. It is getting better in terms of security.

In my earlier article last week, I’ve been talking about "unicorns" – startup companies valued by private investors for $1B and more. Engineering community got its own unicorn – Onshape. The interesting aspect of Onshape is a new business model – you can use Onshape for free if you agree to limit the number of projects to ten (as I’m writing this article, but the original number when Onshape just released their beta was five). Another important aspect of Onshape functionality is product data management. Onshape keeps the history of all updates and allows you to back to any point in a history of your CAD models. In my view, this is an example of how to combine a desired business functionality with free storage.

I can see a direct correlation between cost and new technologies. The scale and ability to grow elastically can be a game changer for CAD and PLM technologies to grow faster and cost less than before. Another place where we can see a significant growth these days is IoT and hardware development. The cost of hardware components is going down. The cost of prototyping using 3D printing and other online services is going down tool. The result – a growing number of hardware companies and manufacturing services. It will demand new type of software tools – cloud, agile and cost-effective.

What is my conclusion? Storage is an essential component in business. In my view, Onshape is just first example in a row of CAD / PLM companies building solutions on top of cloud platforms. Two PLM examples – Autodesk PLM360 and Arena solutions. Both products are only available as cloud SaaS services which allows to optimize it for cloud infrastructure. Free cloud storage can become disruptive platform to build cloud solutions that can grow and adapt elastically to the demand of users. It brings huge potential to develop new solutions we never seen before. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

DFM Summit #12 – Cloud Manufacturing Panel

September 25, 2015


I had a chance to attend DFM Summit in Brooklyn, NY yesterday afternoon. More information and program can be found here. You can browse program and recording from previous summits. I hope video recording should be available later, so bookmark the link for your record.

The panel discussion called – Cloud Manufacturing. I was delighted to join and moderate the discussion together with Jeremy Herrman from Plethora, Carsten Hochmuth from aPriori and Jonathan Schwartz from Body Labs. You can see more details below.


One of my observation is related to the growing number of companies providing online services to help companies of all sizes and individuals to manufacture products. Think about globalization, connectivity and growing eco-system of manufacturing services. This is where company like Plethora is coming with a service available for engineers inside their CAD system to validate manufacturability and order a part. This is where aPriority cost management system can be helpful to validate cost online. And this is where 3D modeling services like Body Labs can help to create a realistic representation of humans that can be used by manufacturing to support variety of mass-customization scenarios highly demanded by customers today.

My presentation from the panel is here. Below, you can find few slides from my deck speaking about changes in manufacturing, growing trends of globalization, connectivity and cloud services. Together, it creates a potential future for something I call manufacturing network – an online eco-system of manufacturing companies, contractors, suppliers and individuals.



What is my conclusion? Small is a new big. Manufacturing is changing together with growing demand for mass customization and online services. What was possible only for large manufacturing companies 10-15 years ago becomes available for small manufacturing companies. The number of such companies is growing. Navigate to the following Bolt.io blog speaking about growing investment in hardware startups. And the demand for connected cloud manufacturing services will grow too. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why customers are afraid to lose control of CAD and PLM software in cloud era?

September 8, 2015


Control is an interesting thing. It happens in life and business. Often, we think control guarantees us the life we want. We try to be in control because we want to to guarantee the outcomes. Obviously, the benefits to having control are very attractive. We think if we can achieve all our goals, create an idea environment and to be perfectly happy. Unfortunately, trying to create an ideal environment is more likely to create hell for everyone. Ironically, our efforts to be in control often cause us to be more out of control.

The need to control destroy people, relationships, businesses and even countries. So, what lies behind a "controlling behavior". Very often it comes from a fear and anxiety. At the core is a fear of not having all needs completely met. As a result, controllers are by a fear of failure, rejection, abandonment and disappointment. Controllers hate to be vulnerable, and therefore try to control all aspects of lives and business. They commonly assume that, “If I’m not in control, then someone else is,” – this is scary for controllers and they are trying to avoid it at any cost.

Control is one of the topics that often discussed in the context of relationships between CAD / PLM vendors and customers. Controlling CAD formats is just one example and it was a topic on the table for many years. In enterprise PLM, it was a topic of controlling database and data model. The most typical conflict is between customers’ demand for openness and competition between vendors.

Recent development of cloud technology created a new escalation of discussion about "control". Now it comes to the control of "software". For many years, customers were in a full control of software and licenses they acquired from vendors. It was true for desktop CAD packages as well as for enterprise software licenses. While desktop licenses were usually dedicated per computer, enterprise PLM licenses usually provided as a license to maintain a specific number of users in the organization. Cloud software is going to disrupt this status quo – CAD / PLM vendors are moving to sell subscriptions instead of perpetual licenses. It spurs lot of debates and discussions. In the past, I discussed business aspects of new subscription models.

My attention was caught by Cadalyst article – The Rising Resistance to Cloud-Based CAD. There are two parts in the article – Part 1 and Part 2. Robert Green brings an interesting perspective on CAD industry moving to the cloud (or how some of journalists call "server-based") form of software delivery and corresponding business models. The tagline of the article is following

CAD Manager Column: It’s in software vendors’ best interest to retain control of their customers’ CAD software and data — but what about the users that rely on that software? CAD managers share their perspectives, including concerns about security risks, control over data, and ongoing costs.

It represents the variety of arguments and comments about issues and problems related to the centralization of CAD software. Read an article and draw your own opinion.

There are two type of users here – CAD managers and actually engineers – CAD users. Although, their interests are the same, their perspective on the role of software vendor in delivery of software (and specifically cloud software) can be different. On the other side, there are software vendors. Cloud software and subscription business models are bringing changes to the world of vendors by forcing them to think more about every day user experience and services.

The article made me think about two things – (1) trust and (2) fear of change. One of the fundamental things in subscription business models is trust. In my view, it is something that helps customers to keep buying subscription and using services provided by vendors. You can apply it to any type of SaaS software and it will be the same. The second is "fear of change". This is why anxiety about the future CAD experience is coming from. The world was a good place until now – everyone knew their roles, behaviors and responsibilities. This is a fear about future disruption with unexpected behaviors and potential to lose control.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is here and it will disrupt industries and existing software business. The discussion about the change is very important. It is already happened in some domains – the time for CAD and PLM came. The change won’t be easier and won’t happen overnight. Some segments are more sensitive to the change. Regulated industries, defense contractors and large companies. But many segments are not and this is where change will start happen.It will also come from new people that are coming to CAD industry – the generation of people that formed their habits based on contemporary web software and tools developed for the last 10 years. Providing services is different from selling software. It will come down to responsibility of vendors and customer trust. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of mapichai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

CAD, cloud PDM and special cloud sync

September 7, 2015


Once upon a time, all my files lived on my computer. I was able to control it, backup and even search using desktop search tools. When I had to collaborate to others, I usually send them files using email. CAD files don’t fit emails – they are big and have many dependencies. People were using shared LAN drives and special PDM and other collaborative application. Life was simple. Then web software came. It disrupted email by creating web email. Hotmail was first, but then Gmail came. With increased email storage size, email became a new media to store information. Still, CAD files didn’t fit because of size and complexity. Then we discovered cloud file sharing. Dropbox was one of the first to disrupt this place. To store and share files using cloud file sharing services became easy. But, did it changed the way share manage CAD files?

It has been more than two years since I discussed the need for special CAD file sharing tools with Hardi Meybaum, founder and CEO of GrabCAD. The idea of special focus on CAD and engineering data was always appealing. After all, CAD data was always more complex than just Office files and required special treatment with regards to dependencies. GrabCAD ended up developing special application – GrabCAD Workbench. After GrabCAD acquisition by Stratasys, the GrabCAD cloud PDM tool became free – you can download it here.

Meantime, cloud file sharing tools are getting into the phase of active competition. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Dropbox… The storage is getting cheap. To get 100GB of cloud storage is not a big deal and everyone can afford it today. Vendors are competing by delivering new tools with better experience and set of features. Few days ago, I’ve got an email from Microsoft explaining how I can sync shared folders from OneDrive into my computer. The experience of the sync is completely transparent. Here is the passage:

Sync shared folders to your computer. You can add folders shared with you to your OneDrive so they sync down to your computer. They’ll look like any other folder, but when you edit files in shared folders the changes will show up to everyone else with permission for that folder.

I didn’t check if similar feature is available from Google Drive, Apple iCloud or any other cloud file storage provider. I’m pretty sure that in case feature is good, we will see it sooner or later from all other cloud vendors.

At the same time, it made me think about how does it impact the development of cloud CAD file sharing tools and cloud PDMs. We’ve seen some renaissance in cloud PDM development lately. Started from GrabCAD Workbench, we’ve seen vendors trying to leverage cloud as a storage and collaboration medium for engineers. You can catch up on some writing about it on my blog – GrabCAD wants to disrupt CAD file management; Onshape quietly developed Google Drive for CAD. Recently, Kenesto – the software outfit run by CAD / PLM veteran – Mike Payne announced about availability of Kenesto Drive. According to Kenesto website

Kenesto Drive offers companies the perfect alternative to the use of a shared network drive. Subscribers can interact with their files in the same way they do today within their shared drive, but with added benefits such as automatic back-ups, automatic version capture, innovative and simple vaulting, and more. Kenesto Drive supports documents which have been shared across your entire virtual team (either inside or outside your company), and maintains all permission and status levels so that you don’t have to worry about files being accidentally shared, deleted, or overwritten.

Last week at PLM360 conference in Boston, Autodesk provided an update about cloud PDM development. I captured two things that are important – management of CAD files using cloud is important for Autodesk and it comes across all product lines – Fusion360, A360 and PLM360. In addition to that, Connected Desktop will simplify PDM user experience for those customers that are working directly from desktop (Mac and PC)


All together, it made me think about trajectories of future CAD file sharing using cloud. Cloud storage vendors like Microsoft and Google will try to differentiate themselves with user and file sync experience, which is nice. The question of security will become even more important – this is where vendors such Box will try to differentiate themselves with their enterprise content collaboration platform. What does it mean for cloud PDM vendors? As many times before, cloud PDM vendors will have to differentiate by offering additional features that are very specific for engineering data management – viewers, collaborative engineering and change management.

What is my conclusion? Cloud competition is getting stiff. Future improvement of cloud file sharing services and new development of cloud CAD tools can create a greater demand for specialized features and tools focused on collaborative engineering and CAD data management. With increased competition around cloud, CAD vendors that until now stayed neutral can get involved into the game. The future trajectories of cloud PDM competition can be interesting. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[tags cloud, file share, pdm, sync, Kenesto, Microsof


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