Can Frame make cloud CAD & PDM irrelevant?

November 27, 2015


Few months ago, I discussed Frame – a technology to bring your existing CAD and maybe PDM / PLM environment into the cloud. My earlier post is here – Frame and bridge to CAD / PLM cloud. The advantages of Frame 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 However, the architecture of such deployments as well as customization / configuration can be tricky.

I raised a question about PDM cloud installation using Frame environment on Design & Motion blog few months ago. I was happy to see that my question caught an interest. Michael Thomas is sharing his experience about installing and configuring AutoCAD and Autodesk Vault using Frame for Business. Blog is here – it has a very good technical coverage of what do you need to do, including some potential pitfalls.

Here is my favorite passage from the blog:

This proves that Product Data Management(PDM) is possible “in the cloud,” at least within Frame. I was expecting much more effort to make this work, but there wasn’t, it was not different than setting it up in the office. Other than enabling the Utility Server and capturing my desired App Persistence, I did not require Frame Support… all the hooks were already in place. This is a real testament to the robustness of their offering.

I think, it creates an interesting dilemma for users. As an individual engineer or small design or manufacturing firm, I can install existing software (for example Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault) using Frame and move to the cloud (hopefully) without much pain. At the same time, Autodesk is providing “cloud” native configuration of of integrated CAD software – Autodesk Fusion 360, which includes PDM functionality. AutoCAD 360 is available as well integrated with Autodesk A360 for data management. So, which one is preferable? And the most important is what are benefits of new cloud development if problem can be solved using technology like Frame?

While thinking about how to answer on that question, I came to Develop3D article – How is design software changing? It is a commentary on recent Al Dean’s presentation at Techsoft3D event in Munich. Al’s presentation is not publicly available, but the name – Design and the Cloud: Same Soup (Reheated) speaks for itself. Read the following passage:

The premise was that, looking at the systems I’ve personally used over the last twenty years, a theme emerges. If you break those systems down and compare them to what is considered ‘state of the art’ today, there’s not a huge difference. Parametric modelling, surface modelling and yes, simulation, are all common factors of the old and the new. Yes, in the ‘old’ days, you could generate associated drawings. And yes, you could connect to data wherever you were — although it was a lot less quick and easy than it is today. Essentially, my thesis is that the only real difference is cost — both in terms of the software/service itself and the hardware we run it on.

If I look from Al’s perspective on a dilemma of choosing between Inventor/Vault and Fusion360, the question would be only cost. I use Autodesk products as an example, but similar thing can be said about Solidworks and SolidEdge CAD/PDM bundles too. I guess usability and functions are important. While old desktop UI can be not obvious choice especially if you try modern mobile/ touch devices, it can be perfectly fine to operate using laptop and desktop.

However, cost is a very tricky thing, especially when you want to compare cloud software service with sales of licenses and software CDs . Operation of cloud service can be costly. Installing and running virtual desktops and especially PDM servers with low utilization can become costly too. Which makes a comparison between native cloud services and old client server environments deployed using virtual machines not simple as you can think from the beginning.

What is my conclusion? It is hard to make “apples to apples” comparison between new native cloud tools and virtual cloud environment using existing cloud-server CAD/PDM bundles. My hunch – Frame doesn’t change much in the way future cloud technologies will evolve. However, it can stress the economical points and efficiency of new cloud developments to compete with “bridge solutions” between CAD desktops and full-cloud CAD. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape technological trajectories are getting close

November 13, 2015


An interesting news came yesterday from Develop3D – Autodesk launched project Leopard – Fusion 360 in a browser. Which brings a new swing into technological trajectories between two front runners of cloud CAD world – Fusion 360 and Onshape. Here is a quick explanation about what does it mean:

Codenamed Project Leopard, this sees another to access Fusion’s tools made available, directly in the browser. If you’ve not played with Fusion 360, while the data is stored and synchronised with the cloud, the majority of the functions are held in a locally installed client. That’s not a traditional install, rather it updates itself automatically and streams the updates in. This is a different beast. Grab your Fusion 360 log-in (assuming you’ve been accepted), log-in and the tools are there. No install, no client.

It’s also key that this shouldn’t be seen as “Fusion Moving to the Browser”. Nope. This looks to be about giving folks access to their data and tools in those cases where they need them and the software isn’t to hand, can’t be installed or in emergencies. That’s something we know, from our own research, is what’s driving an interest in the cloud-based technologies.

A video below (credit to Develop3D article shows how it works).

Autodesk launches Project Leopard: Fusion 360 in the browser from DEVELOP3D on Vimeo.


Earlier on my blog I shared my thoughts about development of Fusion 360 and Onshape as well as discussion between Carl Bas and Jon Hirschtick. If you missed that, navigate to the following blogs to catch up – Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about the future of CAD and Autodesk and Onshare are disagree about cloud technology and focus.

The news about Project Leopard is confirmation that Autodesk didn’t sleep for the last months since Onshape turned on its beta version. And it looks like Al Dean was looking at the right crystal ball back in April, 2015. Here is his passage from the article The cloud- a bright future ahead.

Eventually, Fusion will be available via the browser (I’d put a fiver on that being before the end of the year). And hopefully, OnShape will have a way of working when you’re offline, as well as internet connected.

I’d love to have an opportunity to try Fusion 360 in a browser and share my take about how data management (PDM) functionality is integrated.

What is my conclusion? I think we are far from normalization in a cloud technologies between different players in CAD and PLM market. There are lot of moving pieces. Project Leopard is an additional confirmation to that. I guess we are going to see many of such examples in a near future related to variety of technologies CAD and PLM vendors will introduce on the way to leverage cloud technologies. 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

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 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

TEC Talk Boston 2015 – hardware, makers, IoT and future CAD platforms

October 22, 2015


I attended TEC Talk Boston organized by TechSoft3D. The event is invitation only. Here is how Ron Fritz, CEO of TechSoft3D explained what is TEC Talk in his blog from a previous event in Boston back in 2013. His blog article TEC Talk the second hottest event in Boston is here:

First, what the heck is TEC Talk? No, it’s not really about technology and it’s not a take on TED Talks. Well, maybe just a little bit of a riff on TED Talks…..TEC Talk is a gathering of leaders in the engineering software industry – ranging from retired company founders who “cashed out,” major company CEOs and senior leaders, young heads of well-funded start-ups and a sprinkling of industry investors.

Yesterday event lined up an outstanding list of presenters from Autodesk, Dragon Innovation, MIT and Onshape. It was very inspirational, so I decided to share few bits of presentations as well as couple of comments that caught my special attention.


Scott Borduin, Manufacturing group CTO talked about the intersection of hardware creators with cloud, mobile and social technologies. All together it creates a complete new environment to manufacturing products.



Dragon Innovation

Thos Niles, COO of Boston based Dragon Innovation shared experience of scaling manufacturing from a prototype to mass production. Dragon Innovation is providing consulting to hardware startups related to DFM (design to manufacturing) and contract manufacturing selection in China.



MIT Bits and Atoms Lab

Absolutely mind blowing presentation by Prof. Neil Gershenfeld – Director of MIT Bits and Atoms. He talked about FAB Labs, Kicstarters for hardware projects, new digital manufacturing methods, CAD research projects and future of digital production. A very interesting perspective of future production in a way of “sending data” that will be “materialized” or 3D printed (not sure this a right terminology to use in this context, since it will be micro-assembled to get a final product)





Jon Hirschtick, founder of Onshape, new full-cloud CAD tool talked about platform shift to cloud, web and mobile. In a nutshell, Onshape is doing two things: (1) moving CAD system into browser and (2) solving a huge mess of PDM CAD file data management. The future of CAD applications belong to browser based integrated applications seamlessly managing data and integrating partner apps.




What is my conclusion? The things are going to change. It is confirmed by large software vendors, startup and academia. The ways we will manufacturing products tomorrow will be different and transition already started. It will require new type of tools – in CAD, PDM, PLM and related disciplines. And there is a tremendous opportunity to leverage cloud computing, open source, data management for that. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit: A custom-built milling machine at the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT. (Jamie Bologna/WBUR)


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 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

Is there a need for “real time” collaboration between engineers?

October 20, 2015


Technology is moving forward. The last wave of the development in cloud and mobile technologies, data management and collaboration created a tremendous opportunity to change the way people think and work together. It can impact company processes strategically as well as a unlock a potential to innovate differently. It applies to internal organizational processes as well as collaboration between organizations, partners and individuals.

HYPERBEAST interview with Nike CEO Mark Parker – Details in Collaboration can give you a broad perspective on how large manufacturing organization can leverage collaboration to empower innovation in various aspects of product development. I captured the following passages highlighting the value of collaboration:

Collaboration takes people from different worlds to places they might not have gone on their own. Of course, it invites new ideas from the outside, but it also accelerates your own thinking. In my experience, when the right creatives connect, it can be like setting off a chemical reaction. I find that incredibly stimulating and potentially very powerful.

Collaboration among individuals, brands, and industries will only continue to accelerate as technology facilitates and enables greater connection in real time from anywhere in the world. It’s why we’re experiencing such an unprecedented pace of innovation in every aspect of our lives. It’s clear to me that if all the ingredients are right, collaboration can help shape your vision of the future and get you there faster.

At the same time, I found interesting a negative notion of “prescriptive” collaboration.

How can a collaboration go wrong? One way a collaboration can go wrong is if your connection is inauthentic or overly prescriptive. Our collaborations aren’t transactions. They are relationships – ones that have been built over months or years before they even come to fruition. You really have to be passionate about the same parts of the universe for any partnership to work.

So, where is a border between collaborative empowerment and prescriptive collaboration? How to translate it into real practice, software applications and functions. For the last few years, CAD and PLM vendors made significant investment into the development of collaborative features in new and existing applications.

Here are few examples of collaborative functions enabled in Autodesk Fusion360, Aras Visual Collaboration and Onshape. If you have other examples, please share with me in comments.

Autodesk Fusion360 Live preview

Aras Innovator Visual Collaboration

Onshape collaboration

At the same time, I can hear some skeptical voices about the fact in real life collaboration might be not as important as it presented in CAD and PLM applications. In a nutshell, the logic of these comments is narrowed to the fact engineers are not really want to work together and most of work is done separately.

How does it come together with a broader vision of collaboration? What is a right level of collaboration engineers and other people in organizations are demanding in modern manufacturing environment? What is a real need and what is a marketing gimmick? These are questions I’m always asking engineers in manufacturing companies as well as software vendors.

What is my conclusion? Collaboration can empower organizations and people. In my view, it applies to engineers too. However, it is sometimes hard to find a fine line between collaboration that empower people and some prescriptive “collaboration processes” and activities that lock people down to a specific functions. How to that? It is a challenge for CAD and PLM vendors are facing today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of nirots at



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