Will manufacturing companies put CAD files in AWS Snowball?

October 13, 2015


I’ve been following Amazon re:invent event last week. One of the largest Amazon events is totally focused on Amazon Web Services (AWS) business. Amazon presented few interesting news services. Znet article here gives you a skimmed review of what was presented. It is all about data – how to migrate databases, import data from outside, stream and visualize data.

Although all of these services are very interesting, the following one was outstanding and caught my special attention – AWS Snowball. In a nutshell, Snowball is an appliance that used by Amazon to ship data from customer side to Amazon data center. The data will be delivered in a physical ball via FedEx to Amazon data center in Oregon (the support for other data centers is under way). The following TechCrunch article gives you more explanations.

The following passage gives you the story:

The appliance is a bit larger than an old-school desktop case and it can hold up to 50 terabytes of data. It has a Kindle on the side, which functions as an automatic shipping label.

Amazon says the case can withstand a 6 G jolt and is entirely self-contained, with a 110-volt power supply and 10 GB network connection built-in.

Every import/export job will cost developers $200. The first 10 days of onsite usage are free, each extra day on site will cost developers $15 days. Amazon won’t charge for importing the data from Snowball into S3, but it will charge $0.03 per GB for export.

After the user sets up a Snowball job on AWS, Amazon will ship them a Snowball appliance. They then import their data into the appliance and ship it back to Amazon, with the built-in Kindle functioning as the shipping label.


It made me think about an interesting scenario that might be relevant for manufacturing companies of all sizes. Many of these companies are checking their options to move into cloud-based environment at least for some specific user scenarios. Practical examples that can come to my mind is service and sales, supply chain, etc. Engineering documents is a vital part to support these scenarios and provide a quality data. Today it is locked somewhere on company file servers. To get information from there is complex and sometimes not efficient. It would be much easier to pull all design and related data on AWS Snowball, bring it to data center. Then data can be analyzed, visualized and organized for future use.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies accumulated huge amount of data related to engineering, design and operation that can be useful to optimize their decision making and services. Cloud technologies can help to crunch this data and make it available for customers. To have relevant specification or drawing available for service technician located on customer site via mobile device can save a lot of money. I’m sure there are more examples. But, the information is locked in old fashioned vaults or just computers under engineers’ desks. To bring this data to life can be a big deal. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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

October 8, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How hardware changes will impact CAD and PLM software

October 2, 2015


The world is changing. The power of manufacturing industries in the past was predicted by money, manufacturing facilities, assembly lines with workers and expensive equipment combined with advantages of mass production manufacturing model.

Now take a deep breath, close Facebook app on your smartphone – things are going to change. 3D printers, new electronic, cloud technologies and data platforms are going to change the world of manufacturing forever.

My attention caught by the article – Why Hardware Startup Matter. The following passage is my favorite. It quotes John Bruner, O’Reilly’s IoT and Hardware Director keynote from recent Solid Conference. John explains how new hardware development is becoming agile discipline and how is it different from traditional manufacturing.

…new hardware movement and IoT, claiming hardware is becoming agile. He went on to say that this “practically makes it applicable to a lot of problems.” The impact of the new hardware movement goes well beyond electronics and touches any industry that produces physical goods.

It works twofold: it’s cheap and accessible. Hardware components prices have dropped by 35%. Moreover, they can be produced via platforms such as Shapeways, 3D Hubs, and Fictiv. Purchasing parts online is not only inexpensive, but also highly flexible since all these 3D-printing platforms allow for great customization. So, costs of prototyping are going low thanks to new tools and materials. And so are costs of marketing and distribution.

You don’t need reseller like the local electronics store anymore, given there are platforms such as Amazon and Etsy, or why not even your own website as a primary point for pre-orders and sales. Not no mention crowdfunding: the perfect marriage of funding, sales, and marketing. You can reach people in Asia, in the States as easily as you could people in your own country.


It made me think how the changes in hardware development can impact development of engineering and manufacturing tools. CAD and PLM are two most fundamental category of tools used for design, engineering and manufacturing planning. The complexity of these tools is skyrocketing. It is like embedded programming in the past – only highly skilled engineers were able to do so. Today, you can program embedded devices using Java Script. Here is just one example how to do so – Node.js for embedded software. I can see similar changes making impact on CAD and PLM tools. The software will be more web friendly, won’t require complex installation and implementation cycle. New tools will protect users from unnecessarily complication related to upgrades and maintenance.

I can see a beginning of this trend in the last development of CAD and PLM tool. I can bring few examples. In CAD domain – Autodesk Fusion360 (integrated cloud enabled environment for CAD, CAM, simulation and more), Onshape (full cloud CAD in a browser), Upverter (electronic and hardware design platform). The trend towards removing complexity and upgrades is clear for PLM tools as well – Aras (upgrades are included in subscription), Arena Solutions (the oldest SaaS PLM), Autodesk PLM360 (cloud only PLM system).

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing is changing. It will demand new tools that can fit a new eco-system of hardware manufacturers, component suppliers, contractors and individual makers. The systems that need 20 months to get installed and implementation is not an option anymore. This is where things can go big. Engineering and manufacturing software will have to learn from the experience of social network, online payment and on-demand transportation application to become agile in a new world of manufacturing networks. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

What do I want from Onshape and future CAD & PLM “unicorns”?

September 28, 2015


Onshape’s $80M additional investment led by Andreessen Horowitz was clearly one of the big news last week. I shared some of my immediate thoughts here. Onshape valuation wasn’t shared. But according to many analysts and publications it stands between $750M-$1B. Which created the first “Unicorn” in engineering and manufacturing software domain.

You might be unfamiliar with the term “Unicorn”. The term Unicorn was coined by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures back in 2013. Read more here.

They’re called “unicorns”—companies that have soared to a $1 billion valuation or higher, based on fundraising. The billion-dollar tech startup was once the stuff of myth, but now they seem to be everywhere, backed by a bull market and a new generation of disruptive technology.

You can find an updated information about current Unicorns can be found here – The Unicorn List or Unicorn Leaderboard.

Among many articles about Unicorns, the following one is my favorite – We’ve Got This Whole Unicorn Thing All Wrong! The main point from the article is that “valuation” is probably the least important thing about Unicorns. Here is my favorite passage:

Google Maps was a unicorn. The original multi-touch iPhone (even before the App Store) was a unicorn. Heck, the World Wide Web was a Unicorn, even though it didn’t make Tim Berners-Lee a billionaire. I still remember showing someone the World Wide Web in 1993, clicking on a link and saying “That picture just came from the University of Hawaii.” People didn’t believe it, thought we were sh*tting them. Siri, Google Now, and Cortana are unicorns. Uber and Lyft are unicorns.

These things are unicorns not because of their valuation, but because they are the kinds of apps that make us say WTF?! So what makes a real unicorn of this amazing kind? (1) It seems unbelievable at first. (2) It changes the way the world works (3) It has enormous economic impact that is not all captured by the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who birthed it.

So, do you think CAD / PLM companies in the past made something that can make you feel about it like “unicorns”? Here are few examples to consider. To make drawing on PC (AutoCAD) changed the way many people did drawings. To make parametric 3D model changed the way engineers are designing things (Pro-Engineer). To make 3D design tool on Windows was a big thing too (SolidWorks). Will Onshape change the way we do design by merging 3D design work and ubiquitous web browser. Do you think people will say “WTF?!” when they will load 3D model for every browser in the world. Would it be different from existing applications? These are questions we want to ask and if the answer is yes, than of course Onshape is the next CAD Unicorn.

It is hard to me to bring an example of PLM “unicorn” tool. In my view, all PLM tools we’ve seen in in the past were just good to survive and force companies to buy them. They are not unique among many enterprise software tools. The objective of PLM tools was to help engineers and other people in organization to control the information and force an “order” of thing.

At the same time, I certainly want to see some of today’s characteristics of modern Unicorn in the future CAD / PLM software. Here is my dream list:

(1) Intelligence or AI. I want the tool to be smarter than I by analyzing information that I cannot analyze because of my human nature. The level of intelligence the will make me to say – WTF?!

(2) Data ubiquity. It must be easy. Period. Data control is an important function in CAD / PLM systems today. We made it complex. Interoperability and data sharing is complicated. The implementation of a PLM system is one big hassle starting from the way you capture information in the organization down to the level you can use this information.

(3) Predictive decision support. I want systems to help engineers to make decisions in a natural way. I want system to help me to decide about future supplier based on past records and engineering and manufacturing decisions. I want recommendation how to make design optimal. I want system to help me to find a defect in the design that cost a fortune in maintenance.

What is my conclusion? Engineers are innovators by nature. But when it comes to engineering software such as CAD, PLM, engineers is one of the most conservative group of people to sell new software. I wish future developers of CAD and PLM software will take a look on Unicorns and think how to re-imagine things, so engineers will be able to say WTF?! and jump in to use it. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image credit: Domenichino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Onshape, 3D CAD competition and my favorite quotes about startups

September 24, 2015


Few days ago, my attention was caught by the article in BizJournal – Exclusive: Cambridge startup aims to raise $80M for 3-D design software. According to the following assumption, Onshape is probably the best funded CAD startup today.

That would put total funding to date for the three-year-old company at $144 million, with a pre-money valuation of about $800 million, according to data from Seattle-based venture capital research firm PitchBook Data Inc.

Onshape press release this morning is confirming the rumors. Navigate to the following press release to learn more – Onshape Raises $80 Million in Funding Led By Andreessen Horowitz.

Andreessen Horowitz, a leading Silicon Valley firm, has been an early investor in such companies as Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Box, GitHub, Pinterest, Skype, Slack, and Zenefits. General Partner Peter Levine will be joining the Onshape Board of Directors

It made me think about Onshape trajectory as a startup company. $144 million is a lot of money by any mean and it will put Onshape in some sort of uncharted territory for CAD company. At least, something we never seen before. The list of companies above funded by Andreessen Horowitz speaks for itself. The following two quotes from Marc Andreessen can give you an idea about the place Onshape is stepping into:

We’re funding imperial, will-to-power people who want to crush their competition. Companies can only have a big impact on the world if they get big. – Marc Andreessen

“What would you do if capital were free?” is a dangerous question to ask an entrepreneur. It’s kind of like asking a fat person, “What would you do if ice cream had the exact same nutritional value as broccoli?” – Marc Andreessen

As a professional 3D CAD, Onshape is doing many things differently from others – it runs only in the browser, has embedded version control, allows you to edit 3D models on every device, it has new business model allowing you to use it for free. The following Marc Andreessen passage is a good explanation of what 3D CAD industry is going through.

You are cruising along, and then technology changes. You have to adapt.

I discussed what Onshape is doing with many people for the last months after Onshape made its beta available for public. The following quote from Sam Altman of Y-Combinator can give you a feeling of what people think about Onshape:

Everyone who has done something impressive remembers someone telling them "that will never work" – Sam Altman, Y-Combinator

One of my favorites books about startup is Ben Horowitz’s – The hard things about hard things. And this another great quote (it would be interesting to ask John McEleney and Jon Hirschtick if they are feeling the same):

As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every 2 hours and cried. Ben Horowitz.

What is my conclusion? Onshape has money, vision, team and experience. In my view, Onshape is embracing the struggle to make a dent in CAD industry. The trajectory of Onshape will be interesting and it has a potential to change many things. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How to close collaboration gaps in CAD and PDM

September 10, 2015


We don’t have to share the same room to work together these days. Business are discovering globalization option following customers across the globe, skilled workforce, capital and supply chain option. In such environment, it is an imperative goal to develop reliable collaboration option.

There are many technologies these day that can support global teams with variety of collaborative options. However, with all respect to technologies and products, our ability to correlate the work with do on everyday basis with other people in the team is not following the demand for collaboration.

How can we better connect our business output with the work teams and individuals are doing in different offices and locations? Conference calls, video conferences, webcasts, instant messages, social tools. All these tools are supposed to help, but in fact very often these tools are one of the biggest productivity drains. After all, fancy collaborative tools are becoming an expensive and inefficient “file share” servers and most of our effort is how to keep these complex shares in sync between teams and locations. When it fails, companies are creating new data silos to help people to coordinate their work.

There are many examples of how CAD and PLM tools are solving collaboration problems in design, engineering and manufacturing. I just want to bring two that just came to me yesterday.

I captured my first example at Siemens PLM Analyst Event in Boston. Siemens PLM and Teamcenter has big plans to develop variety of tools to support supplier participation in high-value business processes. My human translation – Teamcenter will help organizations and people to collaborate.


The following example of Design Data Exchange shows specifically how portion of data can be retrieved and shared for collaboration with a supplier. Rules are supporting automatic data retrieval from Teamcenter.


This is not very unique process. The devil is in details and the way data can be extracted and shared in the context of work done by other people at the same time is critical. I hope to learn more about that later today.

My second example comes from the blog post about new feature developed by Onshape (a new software outfit founded by Jon Hirschtick and few other members of early Solidworks team). The fundamental premises of Onshape cloud CAD tool is support online collaboration between people working on the same design.The design teams spread across the room or across the world can collaborate on the same CAD model at the same time. You can learn more about Onshape collaboration functionality here. The last Onshape functionality – Onshape Teams allows to share information with a group of people and simplify the process of sharing.



What is my conclusion? You can get around using different tools to collaborate by sharing information between users and groups. What seems to me important is to be able to manage information boundary for collaboration. You can do it using variety of technologies on premise or cloud. However, the most important thing is to create a real time collaborative context. It can be tricky. To get data export / import and exchange information can be relatively easy, but it won’t help you to collaborate on the same piece of data at the same time. To support real time collaborative context can be a potential gap. By developing technologies to support it we enable a greater level of collaboration efficiency in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

September 8, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of mapichai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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