How much does it cost to manage CAD data?

May 14, 2015

cad-free-pdm

CAD files. Everyone who is dealing with design and engineering is familiar with this type of data. Large files, many dependencies, hard to store, share, change. That was the place where originally Product Data Management – PDM was born (if you long enough in this industry you might remember EDM or TDM acronyms too). Until very recently, PDM tools were hard to install, configure and use. Engineers didn’t like them and tried to avoid it as much as possible.

There are some good news on the horizon. CAD and PLM vendors are recognizing the need to release engineers from PDM pain and focusing on how to improve it from both user experience and license cost. If you recall one of my earlier blogs this year, I was talking about some interesting changes in PDM licensing from GrabCAD and SolidWorks – The future of free PDM.

Recent announcement from Autodesk about changes in Fusion360 packaging is not directly related to PDM. In a nutshell, it was about moving bunch of premium Fusion360 features into standard package with subscription price $25/month. At the same time, Fusion360 is providing PDM functionality and it is part of the subscription license which cost you 25$/month. Navigate here to learn more.

Another my post “Onshape quietly developed Google Drive for CAD” will give you a perspective from another cloud CAD disruptor – Onshape. A set of CAD data management (PDM) functionality is part of Onshape product. The subscription has free option as well as $100/month option. Navigate here to learn more.

It made me think about how much are we going to pay to manage and share CAD files in a near future?

The more “traditional” CAD / PDM approach is bundling CAD data management and integration functions into PDM/ PLM products. It forms a group of relatively expensive CAD data management tools. Navigate the following links to see examples – Aras CAD data management, Autodesk Vault, ENOVIA CAD data management, SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, SolidEdge SP, Siemens TeamCenter PDM, Windchill PDM Link. The license cost and TCO is not always obvious and transparent (not very different from many examples of on premise enterprise software). At the same time, the functionality of these packages are often goes much beyond just managing revisions and sharing CAD files.

Another group of vendors and products are formed by new “cloud products” that can give you an option to manage and share CAD data. All of them are subscription based. For some of them, PDM is an integral part of a bigger product. There are products with free subscription option under some conditions. Here is the list of vendors – Autodesk Fusion360, Autodesk A360, GrabCAD Workbench, Onshape, Kenesto Drive, Team Platform. I’m sure missed some of new cloud outfits, so please let me know about new cool names to be added.

What is my conclusion? I can see a strong trend for making CAD data management ubiquitous and near free is a reality we might face very soon. Cloud CAD vendors will lead this trend because PDM is an fundamental part of cloud CAD delivery mechanism. It will take trajectory of cost for CAD data management and collaboration to zero. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Onshape quietly developed “Google Drive for CAD”

May 11, 2015

onshape-vision

Cloud storage and CAD files. This topic always created lot of controversy and questions. File sizes, speed, security, CAD formats and viewing. At the same time, the need to collaborate and share files is obvious. In my early blog – PLM Cloud Concerns and Dropbox Reality for Engineers 3 years ago, you can find some interesting statistics about how engineers are using Dropbox services. I don’t have updated numbers, but my hunch that usage of public cloud storage services is not decreasing.

GrabCAD was probably the first widely adopted CAD storage and share service. I debated usage of specialized CAD storage and collaboration service – 3 pros and cons to have a special CAD file sharing tool. You can find some more comments in my chat with Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD.

Onshape cloud storage and collaboration

I’ve been watching recording of . It is a bit long, but if you have time, watch it. Here is a skimmed version with my comments .

Onshape developed a platform that allows users to store, view and collaborate with CAD files. It allows to export and import files, manage revisions, view and edit models and drawings. The list of export and import file formats is not comprehensive yet, but in my view can easy cover the needs of many small and mid size manufacturing shops.

There are 4 main scenarios explained in the webinar – 1/ use Onshape as cloud storage tool; 2/ vendor collaboration; 3/ design review; 4/ access for people with no CAD (viewer). Slides below can be give you some additional explanations.

1-cloud-storage-tool2-collaborate-with-vendors3-design-review-tool4-increase-access-nocad

There are few interesting things that are not obvious in my view if you think about Onshape as CAD tool only.

You can upload and store any type of files to Onshape. Embedded browser viewer is available and you can see them online (you need to convert file into Onshape geometry for viewing). The ability to share and comment on files inside of browser brings “social element” into collaboration. Revisions will help you to keep baselines of files shared with subcontractors.

Onshape’s pricing model can support collaboration. I guess, as soon as somebody with paid Onshape license will share file with you (via email), it will give a free access after registration steps.

What products Onshape is competing with?

Onshape is clearly not the only vendor to support collaboration and storage of CAD files. I just want to mention few of them. I mostly focus on public cloud tools. I’m sure missed few tools, so please feel free to add them in the comments to the blog post.

[Update: 11-May 2015] As expected, I’m getting comments about tools I forgot to mention in this section. So, I’m re-arranging the list. It is alphabetical and will be expanded. Watch for updates…

Autodesk A360 is a cloud project collaboration tool that can support different CAD formats, viewing and collaboration. Navigate here to learn more.

GrabCAD (even after acquisition by Stratasys) is around and after GrabCAD announced Workbench is free, it can be an attractive option too.

Kenesto is an outfit that recently announced the availability of “Kenesto Drive” – cloud tool that can help you to collaborate on CAD files instead of using shared network drive. I’ve been sharing my thoughts about Kenesto here. You can get more info here.

TeamPlatform is a tool that was acquired by 3DSystem. More info is here. It can give you a set of viewing and collaboration capabilities with CAD files.

What is my conclusion? The think I like the most with Onshape is simplicity. The ability to follow Google Drive or Dropbox scenario of File download, Save As, Translate and browser (URL) based model is something you can appreciate if you are doing a lot of work online. Onshape feature set is limited and it is not clear how fast it will grow. It can be a good opportunity to discover what Onshape can give you, but you should consider Onshape beta status. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Bad PDM experience? After all, it is CAD systems’ fault…

May 4, 2015

bad-pdm-experience

PDM. Product Data Management was one of the topics engineers are really hating. It was always about slow implementations, complex user experience, slow check-in and check-out, unsupported CAD versions and many other things. The relationships between PDM and CAD vendors aren’t simple either. I shared some of my thoughts about that in my blog – How CAD vendors “murdered” PDM business.

So, what is the root of PDM complexity? Actually, it goes deep to the nature of CAD system. Jon Hirschtick, founder of Onshape, speaks about PDM complexity in his last blog – Say Goodbye to CAD File Checkout & Copies. Here is my favorite passage

REMEMBER: IT’S NOT PDM’S FAULT. Even when engineers and designers love their CAD system, the odds are high that they’re grumbling about their PDM. I frequently hear the word “hate” come up in conversations about PDM, regardless of vendor or brand. But as frustrating as file checkout and file locking can be, it’s not PDM’s fault that you’re angry.

Traditional CAD systems were never designed for distributed teams. We know because we built traditional CAD. It used to be that a product was designed and manufactured under the same roof. Today, the design and manufacturing chain is often distributed across the country or even across the world.

Jon’s blog post made me think again about how cloud can transform engineering environment and solve some very painful engineering problems related to collaboration. It took me back to my post – Cloud PDM can make file check-in and check-out obsolete from last year. The power of cloud technologies can eliminate complexity of data transfer and scenarios. I was talking about PDM, but cloud CAD can take it even future by eliminating the need to transfer files to the desktop and operate from any device.

What is my conclusion? Cloud technology will change the traditional workflows of engineering systems. It is related to the amount of data moving between desktop and servers as well as the way system and people are accessing information. In my view, cloud technology can bring a paradigm shift and will allow engineers to focus on their work and less worry about check-in, check-out and data complexity. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Can we see CAD-PLM unicorns on a horizon?

April 16, 2015

3d-unicorn

I’m on my way to COFES 2015 – annual gathering of people discussing a future of engineering software in Scottsdale, Arizona. It made me think about an intersection of startup and engineering software world. Last year I shared my thoughts about a potential surge of CAD / PLM startups driven by new cloud technologies, web, open source and multiplied by large amount of unsolved problems in engineering software such as globalization, slow ROI, complexity and cost. So I want to continue a startup theme today.

My attention was caught by article by Dave McClure – Bubble, My Ass: Some Unicorns Might Be Overvalued, But All Dinosaurs Gonna Die. Article speaks about Unicorns – an unofficial term used to call a startup with valuation greater than $1B. According to recent WSJ article, there are 82 startup companies in the world with such valuation. You can see companies from consumer and enterprise space there. The following picture (from 2013 TechCrunch article) can show you the split:

2013-unicorns

My favorite part in Dave McClure’s article is actually related to a great summary of reasons why Dinosaurs companies are going to die – 1/ Dinosaur companies don’t innovate; 2/ Dinosaur Companies have a tough time recruiting & retaining top technical talent; 3/ Dinosaur Companies don’t get how critical internet marketing is becoming. The following passage is my favorite:

Fundamental to all of the above is the following observation: most public companies have not taken to heart how absolutely mission-critical software technology & internet marketing have become to business competitiveness. Thus, almost every Dinosaur Company is extremely vulnerable to a Startup Unicorn eating their lunch (stated so eloquently this past week by none other than JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon).

You cannot spot engineering and manufacturing software companies in these lists. However, we can see few companies that can be associated with enterprise software business and used by manufacturing companies – Dropbox, Box, Tableu, Workday, Palantir. The largest valuation of CAD / PLM startup that was mentioned recently was $295M for Onshape – here is the Fortune article mentioning that:

Onshape, a Cambridge computer-aided design (CAD) software startup, has raised a total of $64 million in funding from New Enterprise Associates, North Bridge Venture Partners, and Commonwealth Capital. The funding values the company, which has operated stealthily for the past three years, at $295 million, including the funding.

Here is a question to think about. Can engineering and manufacturing software industry create a unicorn startup in the next decade? As a reference you can take a look on available information about market capitalization of some CAD / PLM companies – Dassault Systemes ($16.1B), Autodesk ($14B), PTC ($4.26B). But these are public companies with 20+ years of lifetime. At the same time, I’m not aware about any startup company in engineering software domain that has revenue close to $100M. According to latest CIMdata analytical researches, PLM market (which includes CAD business too) grew up 6.8% to $37.2B in 2014. Onshape is probably the only company on a horizon that (based on funding and buzz it created) can think to be a unicorn in the future. However, Onshape is still very early in the lifecycle and it is hard to predict its future trajectory.

What is my conclusion? From traditional engineering software viewpoint, it is hard to see how CAD / PLM industry can bring a new company that will be valued with $1B in coming 5-10 years. However, here is the thing…. Look on companies in the list of unicorns. Many of them made a transformation in the traditional industry landscape (transportation, hospitality, communication). That was the main reason for their premium ($B) valuation. Until now, CAD companies made CAD and PLM companies made PLM in the way we knew that for the last 15-20 years. The future might be different. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image credit GrabCAD


Cloud CAD can solve hardest PDM problem

April 3, 2015

cloud-data-management

Document management is hard if you do it manually. To manage versions of documents requires you to follow some rules or naming conventions. I remember one of my first lessons in configuration management many years ago. It was about how to use file names in versions. Simple rule for starters – never ever use words “last” or “final” in names, otherwise (guess what) all you versions will be “last” of “final”.

To manage versions of CAD files is harder than manage Word documents. For many engineering organizations, it was the main reasons to bring PDM tool. I can tell you endless stories about people spending days of work because overwriting the deleted version or companies losing weeks of work trying to restore project baseline in their communication with subcontractors.

Unfortunately, to manage CAD files using PDM is a hard job too. CAD projects are combining multiple files. These files are interconnected and it is hard sometimes to resolve the complexity of these connections together with management of proper versions. The main reason for that was related to the need to keep multiple files in some location on your computer (usually called workspace) and switch between these files in order to get a desired version of your project with right parts and sub-assemblies.

Here are some good news, in my view. Cloud and more specifically cloud CAD systems can finally solve hardest PDM problem. The main reason for that – cloud CAD system should build a solid data management foundation to manage CAD data in the cloud. So, it will fix a broken link between CAD files saved on your computer and PDM storage.

The main outcome of cloud CAD data management is the ability to manage versions and merge branches design. In my view, this is a functionality CAD / PDM users dreamed for years. I remember many requests to support the ability of branching revisions and applying changes done by two engineers together.

In the past I speculated about future of CAD / PDM data management and how cloud can simplify management of design versions. You can read my old posts from 2010 – PDM and management of CAD files and Future CAD and Assembly version management. The technologies are getting mature and we can see some interesting results these days. I captured two recently published videos from Autodesk Fusion 360 and Onshape demonstrating how you can branch design, collaborate and merge results using cloud data management tools.

Autodesk Fusion 360

Onshape

What is my conclusion? Back in 2010, I was dreaming and speculating about “invisible CAD data management”. Fast forward in 2015 – it is a time to see changes in new products. Cloud technologies are reshaping traditional boundaries of engineering tools. For many years, CAD and PDM tools were separate. Integration between CAD and PDM was complex and painful. Cloud allows us to focus on user experience and hide data management form users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Develop3D LIVE: The stage for “cloud CAD” competition

March 27, 2015

stairways-to-cloud

I attended Develop 3D Live yesterday in Warwick UK. It is probably the only vendor independent event focusing on CAD, 3D, design and engineering. It was my first time at Develop 3D Live. I think number of attendees was about 1’500 – 2’000 people at its peak time. All major CAD vendors presented at the event – Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, PTC and Siemens PLM. It was also first time public appearance for Onshape. The event was live streamed to U.S. time zones and had good twitter coverage at #D3DLive. You can follow the history of twitter stream here. I’m sure Develop3D will make recording available too.

Future CAD – #1 topic on the list

The future of CAD was the #1 topic on the list. The theme was set clear – cloud CAD. The agenda included keynotes from all CAD vendors – Carl Bass (Autodesk), Jon Hircshticsk (Onshape), Dan Staples (Siemens PLM), Gian Paolo Bassi (Dassault / SolidWorks), Brian Thompson (PTC) and the panel discussion (Future CAD) with Jon Hirschtick, Mike Payne, Kevin Schneider, Gian Paolo Bassi and Nikola Bozinovic (Fra.me / aka Mainframe2). Presentation, panel, off line conversation made me think about this interesting “cloud moment” in engineering software. I’ve heard it from many people during the event – it is a time to shake CAD industry again.

A new history of cloud CAD

I think, the first time time, word “cloud” was mentioned out loud by one of major CAD vendors was SolidWorks World 2010. That was the time when SolidWorks introduced SolidWorks cloud prototype, which worked in browser and on Mac OS. Here is the passage I captured from Cadalyst article back in 2010.

Next came the buzz-worthy preview of SolidWorks on the cloud (aka software as a service, or SaaS), wherein software is hosted on powerful server farms and users access it using an Internet browser. “This is designed not for flash, but to solve problems and make your life easier,” Ray said, adding that the technology has been in development for three years. Cloud computing overcomes the challenges of software installation and maintenance and, according to the company, keeps data secure. It is multi-platform by its very nature, meaning it is accessible to users regardless of operating system, and it can accommodate touch-based modeling and finger and pen interaction — that is, any wireless-connected device from anywhere could link the user to the full functionality of the 3D software

The period of time between 2010 and 2015 is a good demonstration of the speed of changes in engineering industry domain. It took long five years, lot of debates, many technological changes and here you go – cloud CAD became mainstream topic in the conference agenda. It still doesn’t mean the majority of CAD users are moving to the cloud. But the trend is clear – people are exploring the opportunity and potential of cloud CAD today. The reality – we are just scratching the beginning of a much bigger change of what cloud CAD will do to engineering and manufacturing software. The fun time is ahead.

Business and licensing model changes

Cloud is a topic that often brings confusion between technology and licensing. Cloud based business models are taking their roots back into ASP business (Application Service Provider) and, lately, to SaaS (Software as a Service). SaaS is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”. The “hosting” element of SaaS is not required and you can provide subscriptions for the software installed on a desktop too.

Subscription based licensing popularity is growing in engineering and manufacturing software. Many of CAD and PLM vendors are shifting their licensing into “subscription only” these days. Although, licensing is very important, it is not specifically related to “cloud CAD” discussion in my view. There are many examples of software that delivered as installed application, but sold on subscription basis.

Technologies

The discussion is heating up when it comes to cloud CAD and technologies. I want to mention some of them – data management, graphic, geometry modeling, browser, security, virtualization.

Data management is one of the key components of cloud CAD. Some of you can be surprised, but cloud CAD is coming first to solve PDM problems related to poor data management of CAD files – accessibility, locations, references, copies, sharing, versions, collaboration. To make it happen, cloud CAD should come with solid data foundation capable to manage data using modern database and cloud storage technologies.

Graphic systems. The debates here are going around how rich CAD graphic can be available on different devices – laptops and mobile devices. Remember, original CAD high performance workstations had impressive performance characteristics. Very often, CAD systems worked with dedicated graphic cards and specific memory requirements. How is it going to change? Time will show that.

Geometry modeling is important for CAD and in defines critical foundation characteristics. Interesting enough, this technology is not much in focus for the moment. I didn’t capture many discussions about that. It looks like CAD vendors are going to leverage existing geometrical kernels and will focus on geometric modeling later. Although, I can see some interesting potential to simplify migration from existing CAD systems to new cloud products using same geometric modelers. The most interesting one here is SolidWorks and SolidEdge to Onshape migration (all systems are sharing Parasolid kernel).

Browser. This is an important technological component to deliver cloud CAD. The debates “cloud vs. browser” are heating up. The ability of browser to run full CAD system is an interesting opportunity that cannot be underestimated. If browser will be capable to deliver full CAD functionality, it can become a big deal in removing entry barrier for customers. It is also connected to the discussion about “offline” use. Internet is still unreliable in some places and we are going to hear many debates how to get advantage of cloud CAD without internet access.

Security. This is “red herring” discussion. The topic of security is important, but it is equally important for non-CAD domains. Each group of customers will take their own path and speed in cloud adoption and security requirements will follow these groups.

Virtualization. This is an interesting technological topic. Especially, when it comes to the desktop. The potential to virtualize desktop and run all Windows applications “as is” on the cloud is inspiring many companies. It brings many other questions. One of them – do we really want to bring messy desktop experience to the cloud? I’d prefer to leave all file and data management problems behind and not to move it to the cloud. However, virtualization can be a greatest short term opportunity for cloud and CAD.

Cloud CAD: products and differentiations

I assume all CAD vendors are recognizing cloud as a trend, opportunity and change that is coming to the industry. Their strategies and reactions are different. Some of them are using cloud as a jump start to shake up the industry. On the conservative side, vendors accept cloud as a technology for new type of delivery models. Below, I put a short summary capturing position and reaction of CAD vendors on cloud CAD future as it was discussed during Develop3D Live.

Autodesk: Cloud is strategic direction for Autodesk. According to Autodesk, cloud is not a future, but reality Autodesk is living for the last five years. Autodesk developed many cloud products. Autodesk Fusion360 is a central part of cloud CAD offering. The focus of Fusion360 to provide support for design, engineering and manufacturing workflows by leveraging data and social collaboration.

autodeskcloud

Dassault Systems / SolidWorks: Cloud is a delivery technology for SolidWorks and Dassault. SolidWorks Industrial Design is a new cloud product for conceptual design. Cloud is part of a broader vision of 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which support a diverse set of design, engineering and manufacturing workflows.

solidworkscloud

Onshape: As a newcomer company, Onshape is laser focused on technological differentiators – pure browser and no installation required. PDM functions are included in core Onshape product and provide support for versions, branches, undo/redo and collaboration.

onshapecloud

PTC: Unfortunately, I missed PTC session at Develop3D Live. In my view, PTC is slowly moving towards cloud. One of their last announcements was about new “cloud PLM” offerings. I also think, PTC was the last CAD vendor that said “cloud” word in public. I haven’t heard about anything related to “cloud CAD” from PTC. But maybe PTC is baking something for coming PTC Live conference .

Siemens PLM / SolidEdge: Cloud is clearly a delivery technology for SolidEdge. Recently announced cloud trial version of SolidEdge delivered using virtualization layer and it is complimentary to their cloud PLM IaaS strategies.

solidedge-cloud

What is my conclusion? It is a time to shake CAD industry with cloud. I’ve heard this statement many times from attendees of Develop3D Live. It will be interesting to see the development of products and technologies for the next few years. For new vendors like Onshape (and maybe few others in stealth mode) it will be a race towards traction and customer adoption. Established CAD vendors can clearly leverage their existing customer base. It is much easier to preserve existing customers rather than sell to new ones. I’m sure we will see many interesting turns and new opportunities discovered on the road to cloud CAD. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Develop3D Live agenda: Cloud CAD, 3D printing and more

March 25, 2015

develop3dlive-bags

I’m in Warwick today getting prepared for Develop3D Live conference, which will be tomorrow. The full conference agenda is here. Develop3D will be live streaming main stage of the event to US – there registration link is here and information about scheduling.

The number of the bags and main stage session hall can give some indication about potential size of the event. Numbers will be tomorrow… I was reading through the conference agenda and decided to share some of my thoughts.

Cloud CAD is a main topic on the agenda

I got a feeling that cloud and more specifically “cloud CAD” will become the key topic for the conference. Keynotes from Carl Bass of Autodesk and Jon Hirschtick of Onshape in the morning is a clear indication about what will set a stage for Develop3D Live conference. Another two sessions from new SolidWorks CEO Jean-Paolo Bassi “What is next?” and “Trends, challenges and opportunities” in design and engineering by Dan Staples of Siemens PLM just an additional confirmation – CAD is the topic on the agenda. Frame (the new name Mainframe2) is also presentation on the same topic – Why CAD in the cloud is closer than you think?

Start-up business

It is unusual to see a whole track of agenda dedicated to building engineering and manufacturing startups. It includes presentation by Rob Misslebrook of Mylor Ventures about funding of projects and visionary sessions about new industrial revolution by Autodesk and Protoabs UK presenting about how to support manufacturing start-ups with manufacturing resources and advisory.

3D printing is around us

If your interest in 3D printing, you can spend a whole day on 3D printing / make track. It includes industry sessions, visionary and examples of companies using 3D printing in their business

What is my conclusion? No conclusion yet. Look forward to the event. The final session of the event – panel discussion about future of CAD. That should be interested. It is not clear yet who will attend that session. Stay tuned and follow #D3DLive on twitter tomorrow.

Best, Oleg

Few photos from Warwick this morning.

develop3dlive-3

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