Cloud CAD and Offline Internet

May 29, 2015

online-offline-cad

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

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

offline-google-maps

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

optimized-download

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg

Google I/O pictures credit Gizmodo.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Re-imagining PLM: One Business Process at a Time?

May 28, 2015

Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins shared her (almost) traditional presentation about internet trends yesterday. The presentation is available here – don’t miss that. In my opinion, if you follow technologies, this is “must see” piece of information.

Among different topics, there is a whole section of presentation focused on enterprise software. It starts from a very clear message of changing business process “one segment at a time”.

mary-meker-change-business-processes

The following inspirational quote of BOX founder Aaron Levie made it even more clear – the shift from process improvements to the opportunity of software to change the work itself.

aaron-levie-enterprise-software-2015

Next few dozen of slides are bringing examples of changing of work processes – Slack, Square, Stripe, Domo, DocuSign, Intercom, Gainsight, Directly, Zenefits, Anaplan, Greenhouse, Checkr, GuideSpark, Envoy. These are great examples of companies that bringing technology into existing inefficient processes and completely turning them around.

It made me think about segmentation of engineering and manufacturing software. The trend for the last year was to consolidate portfolios. PLM vendors were focused on making their portfolio broader and more integrated. For many of them, it was a very successful move. The portfolios were growing, which helped them to grow revenues and increase number of customers. And it was appreciated by customers that were looking how to decrease number of vendors and simplify IT management. The demand for vertical integration between tools was another factor. If you buy PDM/PLM system from the same CAD vendor, the chances are CAD-PDM integration will be better.

The domain of CAD, PDM, PLM and beyond is complex. Customers have high demand for integration. So, how to apply the idea of changing of “one segment at a time” can be even possible? So, I put few ideas below how to make it happen.

1. Cloud Applications

Cloud and SaaS applications are changing the landscape of enterprise software these days. What we have these days is second generation of cloud applications. The first one is clearly associated with first appearance of Salesforce.com. Today we can new apps leveraging from mobile and open source technologies delivering new services for engineers and designers. It took PLM vendors few years to recognize the potentials. There are leaders and more conservative vendors, but the trend is clear.

2. Unbundling Services

In my earlier post – Unbundling strategies in CAD/PLM almost two years ago, I’ve been giving the example of how Craiglist lists were disrupted by multiple companies providing services for a specific vertical niches. The same strategy can potentially work in CAD/PLM space.

craiglist-unbundled-services-1024x768

3. Platforms vs Apps separation and Upgrades

Today’s PLM technologies and products approached their limits in terms of their functional capabilities and speed of ROI. As a result, the organic growth in PLM implementation was very limited, in my view. The upgrades and implementations are taking long time. Large manufacturing companies are not capable to move into new applications and versions.
The idea of split between “platform” and “apps” is not new. But today it became really critical. Large OEMs cannot afford platform changes more often than 3-5 years and it slows everything down. In my view, PLM vendors are working on how to make it happen.

Earlier this month at Siemens PLM Connection 2015, I’ve been watching examples of how TeamCenter strategies to deliver multiple releases and services packs to make adoption of new apps on top multiple platform versions. It is not a simple change for existing platforms.

teamcenter-platform-vs-apps

Aras Corp claims that Aras Innovator model-based approach is solving upgrades problem for many customers. More about that is here. Aras subscription is including upgrade services,so it makes an upgrade transparent for customers.

PLM software delivered using SaaS model has some advantages because of platform, apps and upgrade complexity are hidden behind “cloud wall”. But it doesn’t make it less complex at the same time.

What is my conclusion? Enterprise software is going through the time of changes. The existing status quo cannot stay up to the demands of customers in terms of speed, agility and cost. So, we can expect new apps and services to disrupt existing segments. As we can see from Meker’s presentation it is already happening. How it will come to engineering and manufacturing domain. Will PLM segment survive as a “whole piece”? Are we going to repeat the trajectory of PLM software development again by reimagining CAD, Data Management, processes, BOM, change management, etc.? I don’t think we have an answer now. The changes are in front of us. The disruption can come from any place. In consumer segment, the innovation came from a garage environment. PLM vendors, watch carefully for garage innovators. The chances are competition will come from that place. Gradually and then suddenly. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 284 other followers