How CAD vendors “murdered” PDM business

March 23, 2015

cad-ambush-pdm

Here is the passage I captured during my weekend reading – We only sleep at night because Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Elon Musk don’t want our businesses. Yet. It came from the Warren Ellis’ article The New Tech Disruption: Murdering Businesses and Haunting Their Corpses. The article is a very nice summary of examples demonstrating the dynamics of businesses these days and aggressiveness towards earlier partners and future competitors. It is must read for everyone who is building business these days. Here is one example:

If you build your business on top of someone else’s system, eventually they’re going to notice. Just last week, the livestreaming app Meerkat, which uses Twitter to transmit, felt a cold breeze pass through the room when Twitter bought the competing system Periscope, which will doubtless be baked into Twitter as soon as possible. Digital businesses can murder and haunt their own parasites.

The article made me think more about what happens in product data management (PDM) businesses. Let me go back in time into 1990s or maybe even earlier. Do you remember the beginning of PDM (product data management) or how it was called TDM (technical data management)? PDM was born to manage CAD files. The fundamental idea was to solve a problem created by CAD system. CAD systems used files to store data. But, as you know, most of CAD systems are not creating single file, but use MANY files to store data. These files are interconnected for different purposes – parts are used by assemblies, drawings are created out of parts. If you are user of AutoCAD, you must be familiar with the mess that can be created by usage of XREFs. Trying to re-use and share design was painful. You can hear customers screaming for decades about how to find a last revision of a document.

So, the problem was clear identified. The pain was here and PDM vendors came up with a value to help customers – data management system that can keep record of all these files and provides a set of functions to search, share, change, etc. More than 2 decades later, there are no so many PDM companies left. Most of them (successful) were acquired by CAD vendors, many of less successful disappeared. However, what I found mostly interesting is that pain is still here. Users are struggling to manage CAD files, revisions, re-use, search and share files.

During last few years, we had a renaissance of PDM driven mostly by cloud technology. Cloud is an ideal paradigm to share data. So, the idea to develop cloud products to share and view CAD data was appealing to many companies. Some of them developed very good products customers really like, but I can carefully state that none of them turned into sustainable businesses.

So, what happened? Here is my guess – all PDM businesses were murdered… by CAD vendors. Think about acquisition as a kind of murder too. Each CAD vendor acquired (or developed) PDM product, which was “the best for a specific CAD”, but never provided an equally good solution for multiple CAD systems. Most of “other CAD integrations” are developed by partners because of limitations of licensing and partnership agreements. Independent PDM vendors put their focus on developing of multi-CAD strategies and struggled to keep up with CAD features development and API support.

The things are getting more interesting these days. The new era of cloud CAD systems is coming. The most interesting part of cloud CAD systems is that in order to make them successful, CAD vendors will have to solve fundamental PDM problem – to store design data, manage revisions, search and re-use existing designs. You can read more about this in my earlier post – Cloud CAD will have to solve PDM problem at first place.

Last week I attended Onshape webinar where Jon Hirschtick explained why Onshape decided to develop new generation of CAD systems using cloud platform and new browser based technologies. You can see recording here. . The following slide caught my attention. You can clearly see – Onshape is going to provide PDM functionality with no additional license cost to all Onshape users.

onshape-data-management

Autodesk, which is strategically focusing on development of cloud technologies and applications for the last five years, is coming with the similar functionality in their Fusion360 product. I captured the following table at Autodesk Fusion360 website. As you can see core PDM functionality is included into Fusion360 subscriptions.

autodesk-fusion360-pdm-functions

The following video is a good demo of Fusion360 data management.

What is my conclusion? PDM business is built on top of CAD systems. In the past, CAD vendors had “love-hate” relationships with PDM businesses. Depends on the time and specific situation, PDM was out of CAD priorities. In some periods PDM businesses helped CAD vendors to collaborate and compete. Things are changing today. Data management is very critical for CAD business. CAD vendors cannot avoid it and let other companies to manage their data. Data management (PDM) is an essential part of cloud CAD success, since it is a part of their “platform” and data management strategies. I can see some interesting competition in front of us about how to get data management done right from cost and user experience standpoints. If your technology knows how to manage CAD data in the cloud, you can be a valuable asset for CAD vendor. If you are building PDM business, you probably will be a target for a future murder. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of nonicknamephoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus

March 18, 2015

onshape-fusion-apples-to-apples

For the last few years cloud became such a fuzzy buzzword, that to say about some software “cloud application” is basically means nothing. All companies are shifting towards cloud. So, to understand “how” actual product is leveraging cloud technology is absolutely important to make a comparison. I’ve been discussing the topic of “how to” with regards to different cloud approaches – PDM/PLM. Why cloud? Wrong question… I think, recent appearance of Onshape generated a large amount of industry discussion about how “cloud CAD” tools can be using different cloud technologies.

SolidSmack came with a great idea of simultaneous interview featuring parallel Q&A with Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick. 6 questions, 100 words to answer. Short and sweet. Navigate you browsers to the link – Carl Bass + Jon Hirschtick = CAD in The Cloud Interview of the Year and enjoy the read.

I’ve been reading Q&A and was trying to find a key difference between Onshape and Autodesk Fusion 360 approaches. You probably had a chance to read my previous article – Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of cloud CAD. The last Q&A didn’t change my opinion about that. I still believe both Autodesk and Onshape are recognizing cloud as a biggest trend and opportunity to improve design, engineering and manufacturing tools. At the same time, SolidSmack’s Q&A helped me to find a two important differentiations between Autodesk Fusion 360 and Onshape.

Full CAD in a browser

You can clearly read Jon’s statements about “full cloud”, which goes across all his answers. Technologically, it translated in the tech approach to provide full Onshape 3D design capabilities completely in a “browser”. Here is the passage, which explains that in the best way:

Jon: We at Onshape have a very clear and unique strategy: full-cloud 3D CAD. Our full 3D CAD system runs in browsers — no downloads or installs — and on phones and tablets. Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iPhone, iPad — full 3D CAD on any of these.

You still need to install Onshape app to run on mobile devices (I use Onshape iOS app on my iPhone and iPad). So, pure browser solution is applicable approach for running Onshape on Mac, Windows and Chromebook. Yesterday, I had to re-install a very early Onshape app on my iOS because it was crashing to run with upgraded version of Onshape (this is just my guess). Which is again a confirmation that any installation is potentially creating an additional barrier of complexity.

An integrated cloud-based experience

Autodesk Fusion 360 is focusing on how to provide a complete workflow for users going from the early design stage to manufacturing and fabrication. Here is the passage from Q&A:

Carl: We wanted to solve many of the problems that people experience today in terms of the workflows necessary to accomplish their overall jobs—so we used the best of cloud and mobile technology to build a comprehensive CAD system that goes all the way from ideation to fabrication.

Experience is a popular word in a lexicon of modern software. And this is absolutely important for users these days. The traditional experience is to run dozens of tools on a desktop and use files for interoperability between them. This file-based approach has many flaws and, I think, time finally came to change that. Autodesk’s focus to use cloud technologies to connect workflows and integrate between different stages of design is absolutely important.

Next week, I will have an opportunity to attend Develop3D Live where both Jon Hirschtick and Carl Bass are going to speak about cloud CAD. Agenda is here. Develop3D will live stream the event – registration link is here.

What is my conclusion? Autodesk has more mature product, which leverage almost 5 years of Autodesk development and experiments with different cloud tools and customers. Integrated cloud product experience on top of Autodesk A360 platform can be an advantage for many users. Coming later in the game, Onshape is more focusing on developing of unique “pure browser” technologies that can provide differentiation to users – ease of access and simplicity of data collaboration. I don’t see two approaches as mutually exclusive. Onshape apps on mobile devices is a confirmation that Onshape tech can be used with installed software too. At the same time, Autodesk focus on integrated workflows can become more important for Onshape later in the game. At the same time, Autodesk can innovate future with the ways applications are installing and used. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Jomphong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


Offline cloud and why CAD / PLM industry discussion is important

March 10, 2015

cad-plm-industry-discussion

Yesterday was a very busy day for online community of people involved in engineering and manufacturing software. Onshape, the new cloud CAD ventured founded by Jon Hirschtick and the team announced about availability of public beta. It was hard to miss that announcement in the spike of publications about Onshape. Tons of opinions, initial experience, concerns – this is all good stuff.

My special attention caught by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass blog post – Setting the Record Straight. For the last five years, I’ve seen Autodesk as one of the most visible and prominent supporters of cloud technologies in CAD / PLM business (full transparency – I was Autodesk employee for the last 2.5 years). Autodesk for sure gathered a lot of experience in development and operation of cloud software. So, Carl’s opinion was very insightful. In one of my earlier blog posts I put some of my thoughts why I think Jon Hirschtick and Carl Bass are in the agreement about cloud CAD. But it was clear to me, there are differences as well. I captured few of them in the Carl’s post and wanted to share my thoughts about that.

The first point is about offline and cloud. Here is the passage I captured:

How do we know offline is important? Because when we first rolled out Fusion 360, the single biggest complaint we got is that people wanted access to their data and tools even when they had limited or no Internet connectivity. And how do we know about the tradeoffs? Because we built the tools that more engineers use on web, mobile and desktops than anyone else in the world. Our goal is to make sure our customers have access to the tools and data they need on any device they want.

I think the key point here is "tradeoffs" and real experience. Each customer scenario can be slightly different. If you have limited access to internet, you probably not cloud CAD user. However, in case you are going in the basement of manufacturing facilities or product site with no access, or (this is classic sales example) you want to design on board of airplane, you will appreciate offline access to a snapshot of the data.

My personal experience with Gmail and Google Docs about the same topic shows that you want to get some offline access and there are moment of times, it is very important. Some of them are covered by apps synching a snapshot of your last few days of emails on the device and some of them can be added to the list of actions I can handle when I go back online. What would be very important for me is how seamlessly software can go between online and offline mode. In many situations, I would prefer not to have offline mode if it will make my sync process cumbersome. My hunch, people favorite Google Apps because their online access first. Microsoft Outlook is one of the best tools I used that can provide smooth email sync. However, CAD data relationships and dependencies can introduce a significant challenge to make offline access efficient. But this is an interesting and complex feature to watch.

The second point I captured is related to browsers and installed applications. Here is the comment from Carl post:

Now let me directly address the question of access to the cloud via browsers or apps. Look at your phone or tablet where both the browser and apps exist. Which one do you choose to use? It depends. If I’m accessing my email I tend to use the mail apps on my devices. If I’m using Evernote or Twitter or A360, I prefer the apps. But there are many times where the browser is more convenient and over time, the browser will definitely get better.

The key point I care about is what is my experience. This is what really matters to me. We live at the time roles of operation systems, browsers and applications are often exchanged. While you may think about Chrome as a browser, for Chromebook users, it is an entire operation system. For the last few years we considering installation of software as something disturbing things we like to avoid. At the same time, we are installing tons of apps on our mobile devices and browsers. For many situations, I don’t care about installation until it can update itself when it needed and unless it doesn’t impact what I do – experience is a thing to remember.

However, despite some level of disagreement between Jon and Carl, the following summary is really important. In my view, it is an excellent summary of why cloud is important for the future of engineering and manufacturing software. Here are few passages:

First and foremost, the cloud provides access to nearly infinite and scalable computing power at reasonable costs. In the world of engineering, this is incredibly powerful. We have used the cloud for compute-intensive tasks like visualization, simulation and analysis. The second thing that the cloud is ideally suited to do is be the central coordination point for storage, data management and collaboration. Behind all of our cloud-based products are the tools that allow people to manage their data and their projects.

What is my conclusion? Onshape availability is a great news for the industry of engineering and manufacturing software. Fusion360 and Onshape are two very important products to watch for the next few years. The competition means there is a market to compete for and there is an interest from customers. We can clearly see it now. Beyond that, open discussion is a very good thing to build a healthy industry. Vendors will be innovating and competing – customers will be the first to leverage that. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


How cloud CAD can avoid “double PDM tax”

March 5, 2015

cloud-cad-API

My yesterday post – Will cloud CAD inherit data interoperability problem? raised few interesting discussion about cloud data management in PDM/PLM implementations. How cloud CAD/PDM will make our life simpler? In my view, the most important part is to exclude files from data management chain. By doing that, new cloud based CAD systems are able to make data flow much easier. Existing check-in/out behavior will become redundant in cloud systems, cloud applications can save data instantaneously and redundantly and will allow you to restore to any point of changes. I also hope cloud CAD systems will have lock function in case you want to prevent somebody else from changing your design. The same mechanism will also provide a way to branch design options much easily by leveraging direct data access to all design data stored in the cloud databases. This is my dream scenario.

However, data interoperability of new CAD/PDM bundles seems to be a potential point of failure. And it is can slow down adoption of cloud CAD systems in environments that require integration with existing desktop CAD, PDM and PLM systems. The following Engineering.com article can give you some context to the problem –Dassault or Siemens PLM? The Contrasting Paths of Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo Cars. It speaks about challenges of large manufacturing companies related to usage of CATIA V6 / ENOVIA PDM. Here are few passages that caught my attention:

Volvo invested in Siemens PLM solution Teamcenter as a backbone, and kept CATIA V5. However, the automaker is reluctant to switch to CATIA V6 and the 3DEXPERIENCE/Enovia V6 platform. "We will not use the V6 version if it requires double PDM installations", says VCC’s Andreas Westholm, IT Director – Geely Liaison.

Volvo will not use CATIA V6 if it requires a second PDM implementationAll CATIA files are managed in Teamcenter. Since Volvo does not have any plans at this time to migrate to CATIA V6, they don’t need Dassault’s Enovia PDM as an intermediate step in the data management.

”It is not possible to work effectively with two PDM systems”, asserts the Volvo IT-director. ”And we will not use CATIA V6 if it requires double PDM installations. However, we will bring in a new V5-V6 release that facilitates the import of V6 information”.

Potentially, any cloud CAD (with embedded PDM functionality) can create a situation similar to CATIA V6, which is a problem. Engineering and manufacturing companies have very slow process of new software adoption. So, to be successful, cloud CAD systems will have to co-exist and be used alongside with existing desktop CAD systems. What is even more important, new cloud CAD systems will have to be integrated with existing PLM products to become part of product development processes. How to prevent future cloud CAD systems from a problem described by Volvo? How to avoid future "double PDM tax" on cloud CAD systems?

I think the answer is in a new cloud system architecture. It reminded me one of my old posts – Why PLM needs to learn Web APIs? A potential solution to the double PDM integration problem is future cloud CAD platforms, web APIs and data openness. Think about the way most of modern web platforms are consuming data. Seamless data streaming, avoiding local temp file storage and standard REST-based API is allowing us to create better integration between web systems. This is a way new cloud CAD solutions can be seamlessly integrated into existing PLM solutions and eliminate "double PDM tax".

What is my conclusion? Future of cloud CAD/PDM bundles is promising and can provide many advantages to users – transparent data management, ease of revision management and collaboration. However, it is very important to think how new cloud solutions will be integrated with existing PLM platforms. Openness and web-based APIs are two most critical elements to support integration and adoption of new systems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will cloud CAD inherit data interoperability problem?

March 3, 2015

cloud-cad-pdm-interop

Cloud and CAD are probably getting to the point where it starts become a real thing. Autodesk Fusion360, Onshape, SolidWork Industrial design. It is likely to absorb some PDM functionality to make collaboration, branching, revisions and other data management tasks easier. Cloud CAD means no files, so engineers have nothing to mess with… Life is getting more Googley if you read John McEleney Onshape blog.

However, here is the thing… What if (for some crazy reason, which is easy to imagine when you deal with engineers :)), customer will decide to do a work with two cloud CAD systems? It is not unusual to see multiple desktop CAD systems in engineering organizations, so why cloud CAD will be any different.

In my yesterday blog – Cloud CAD infrastructure is getting more PDM-ish, I draw the picture of cloud CAD/PDM bundle helping us to collaborate and manage revisions. Now how two cloud CAD systems will work together? I’ve been trying to bring my cloud imagination and thought about Google Docs and Office 365 services co-existence. Actually, it is not very nice story- I can easy get my files distributed between my Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive accounts. So, what if my parts will be stored on Google Drive and Assembly on Dropbox? Not sure I will like it…

Similar problem in PLM world created many debates and issues. Do you remember Dassault CATIA V6 story, which required ENOVIA backend to run it? It made few customers unhappy when they discovered that they need to run two PDM/PLM systems. I can see some similarity with multiple CAD/PDM cloud bundles co-existence and interoperability.

What is my conclusion? How engineers will collaborate using multiple CAD cloud software? Cloud technology is great, but it looks like cannot magically resolve some old fundamental problems of multiple systems, collaboration and interoperability. I wish cloud CAD / PDM vendors will think about it upfront before customers will find themselves in the middle of messy CAD / import/export/migrate data scenarios. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud CAD infrastructure is getting more PDM-ish

March 2, 2015

fusion360-cloud-pdm-cad-branches

PDM was long time a step child for many CAD systems. To deal with CAD files, their relationships and dependencies including multiple revisions of document was complex and painful. So, many customers just gave up and stored files on shared drives. It was okay until the our life was disrupted by a new way to get work done – online, connected, collaborative.

The initial intent of collaborative cloud systems was to solve the problem of collaboration and data sharing. The idea to provide a value on top of existing CAD desktop file systems was interested. So, specialized cloud CAD file sharing and collaboration systems got focus and attention.

At the same time, CAD vendors got to think about longer term solutions. CATIA was one of the first systems that announced the disconnect from a traditional file systems. I posted about that few years ago – The future of CAD without files.

These days, the race towards cloud CAD is accelerating development of data management and CAD collaboration technologies for the cloud. Few weeks ago, I shared some of my thoughts about importance of PDM technologies for cloud CAD. Cloud CAD vendors are clear about their intent to make PDM part of their core product technology.

My attention caught Autodesk Fusion360 article – Fusion System Architecture Changes Coming in the Next Release – Why and What. Read it, because it contains some very interesting pieces of information about how files are going to disappear into future cloud infrastructure. Here is the passage I captured:

With the coming release of Fusion, we will be introducing significant changes to Fusion Cloud Service architecture that lays a strong foundation on which we can build an environment that is rich in WIP DM. As part of this change, we are introducing the Autodesk Work In Progress Cloud Service which is designed to model and manage complex relationships that are associated with a design. The service is highly scalable, highly available and optimized for performance. Another important change in the February release is significant improvements to the Fusion Object Storage Service. Taken together, these changes will result in immediate benefits in the way of performance gains and high reliability in the Fusion upload and download data pipeline, and allow the Fusion team to deliver rich DM workflows in subsequent releases.

Another article from Fusion360 blog brings an excellent explanation what these date services mean for end user. These are functions that belonging to PDM system in a traditional file based CAD / PDM setup.

…it solves so many common design problems that we’ve heard from the community, both in Fusion 360 and other programs, and improves workflows for both teams and single designers. Branching and merging lets you easily:Work in parallel with other members of your team. Explore changes or alternatives to a project and keep changes that make sense while leaving behind changes that don’t. Understand how your project evolved over time and what decisions were made (and why). Restore or reuse any design(s) in your project from any point in your project. Use any point in your project as a starting point for a different project.

What is my conclusion? It is hard to bring a value of cloud design collaboration without re-thinking the way CAD-PDM bundle is operating. For new type of cloud CAD systems it means to embed core PDM collaborative function and make it part of CAD system. It sounds like a very exciting time- many collaboration and data management problems are going to be solved by that. However, here is a question. What will happen when two cloud CAD systems will have to collaborate together? Looks like a topic for another blog. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud CAD will have to solve PDM problems at first place

February 10, 2015

ds-solidworks-cloud

The race towards CAD in the cloud is getting more interesting every day. I’ve been watching SOLIDWORKS World 2015 live streaming this morning. Overall SOLIDWORKS show was very impressive, as usual. I look forward to keep watching it following days.

However, what caught my special attention today is a presentation of a new cloud product – SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design. Couple of interesting facts about new product – works on top of Dassault 3DEXPERIENCE platform (in many aspects, think about it as ENOVIA V6); focus on free design with no traditional CAD constraints; leveraging cloud approach for social connection between users and collaboration. And… it is complimentary for SolidWorks users. Demo of product presented few scenarios in which design flow went between new cloud product and old SolidWorks connected by 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Sounds like a big deal.

The story about new SOLIDWORKS/3DEXPERIENCE product took me back to my comparison of Onshape and Autodesk Fusion360 visions few days ago – Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD. In my view, changes in design world towards distributed teams and ability to work effortlessly on any device without installation and manual upgrades are two main driving factors behind new cloud solutions. The story about Autodesk Fusion360, Onshape and SOLIDWORKS made me think about interesting priorities all creators of cloud CAD are thinking about. It was well articulated during SolidWorks World 2015 first day keynote – supporting any device, information is up to date all the time, users are connected (see picture above).

It makes a perfect sense to me, since it is a great reflection of modern cloud paradigm you can see well developed in products such as Google Apps, Office 365 and others. However, this is a place where complexity of CAD data requires from cloud products to be more sophisticated. Traditionally, CAD project is combined of multiple files – assemblies, parts, drawings, etc. As you start making changes you very quickly end up with a complexity of many-to-many relationships between different versions of parts, assemblies and drawings. Move it to the cloud – the complexity won’t disapear. Therefore, you can see both Autodesk Fusion360 and SolidWorks Industrial Design are trying to solve. I had no chance to see Onshape product yet, but my hunch Onshape will try to solve this problem too.

Autodesk Fusion360: revision control, branching and collaboration

autodesk-fusion360-rev-branches

carl-bass-fusion-360-au2014-2

SolidWorks Industrial design: 3DEXPERIENCE collaboration, branches, revision merging

solidworks-industrial-design-1

solidworks-industrial-design-2

What is my conclusion? In a traditional CAD world, the problem of file revisions, collaboration and data control was part of PDM solution. Historically, CAD vendors were reluctant to solve PDM problems unless it became absolutely necessarily. PDM was complex, required services, special pre-sale process, etc. However, cloud is creating a new demand and constraints for new CAD in the cloud paradigm. With the absence of file system exposed to end user, cloud CAD system will have to solve a PDM problem first. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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