Can Frame make cloud CAD & PDM irrelevant?

November 27, 2015


Few months ago, I discussed Frame – a technology to bring your existing CAD and maybe PDM / PLM environment into the cloud. My earlier post is here – Frame and bridge to CAD / PLM cloud. The advantages of Frame are clear – same software, no need to change and re-architecture things. However, it comes with price. In case of CAD, users will keep existing paradigm of file storage. It will require some additional effort to enable collaboration between users (feature that usually comes natively with cloud CAD platforms today). I can see some opportunity for PDM vendors to run existing PDM/PLM platforms using However, the architecture of such deployments as well as customization / configuration can be tricky.

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

Here is my favorite passage from the blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg

A piece of cloud in data center- SaaS PLM path to large manufacturers?

November 25, 2015


All PLM vendors can delivery some sort of cloud solutions today. You can see my recent update to PLM cloud service comparison here. You can see solutions are simply divided between SaaS services and Hosted products.

Hosted solution are dominant since majority of vendors are simply upgrading and adjusting existing platforms to run in the virtual environment like AWS EC2, Microsoft Azure or using private hosting service providers. It seems to me a favorable competitive position for established PLM platforms. Majority of existing PLM customers are large companies and my hunch that IT departments are feeling comfortable with “hosting” message. It is cloud buzzword compliant and provide some sense of safety at the same time.

PLM SaaS vendors are talking about “true cloud”, but essentially it comes down to supported functionality and cost. CAD integration story is creating an additional mess for “true cloud” PLM SaaS companies. The cloud PDM story is not complete for PLM SaaS to compete with integration provided by hosted platforms.

So, what can change a status in this competitive standing between PLM SaaS and hosted PLM? Is there something that can bridge two options? My attention was caught by Oracle announcement – Oracle Private cloud machine for PaaS and IaaS.

Enterprises looking to combine the agility of the public cloud and the control of their data centers finally have a solution—Oracle Private Cloud Machine for PaaS and IaaS. The best of both worlds is coming soon to a data center near you.

To address this dilemma, Oracle CTO and Executive Chairman Larry Ellison announced the Oracle Private Cloud Machine for PaaS and IaaS at OpenWorld 2015. This new platform allows enterprises to combine the cloud benefits of agility, simplicity, and low operational cost with the control and security of running applications within their own data centers. Oracle Private Cloud Machine for PaaS and IaaS will be an on-premises Oracle Cloud Platform running the exact same software and hardware as Oracle Cloud and will offer 100 percent compatibility with Oracle Cloud. Using a platform deployed at the customer’s data center, Oracle Private Cloud Machine for PaaS and IaaS will deliver the identical PaaS and IaaS software used on the Oracle Cloud, enabling customers to address their specific business or regulatory requirements, data control, and data location requirements.

The following video shows Oracle’s Larry Ellison speaking on the stage of OpenWorld 2015 conference.

It made me think that OPCM for PaaS and IaaS (such a crazy name) can be an option as a path PLM vendors to combine both “hosting” and SaaS world. It is a pure speculation, but imagine SaaS vendors taking their “only SaaS” available environment deployed to private cloud environment. It can open a new competitive niche for them. At the same time, traditional PLM solutions (Enovia, Teamcenter, Windchill and Aras) can think about future SaaSification of their solutions and taking advantage of public cloud. The last is questionable – none of these solutions are multi-tenant for my best knowledge.

What is my conclusion? Oracle is trying to merge two words – SaaS and Hosted environment by providing infrastructure to deliver identical solutions using both public and private cloud. It is probably a good news for SaaS vendors, since it can provide a potential path to deliver existing PLM SaaS solutions to large manufacturing companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM IoT platforms: complexity and data scale

November 20, 2015


Manufacturing companies, analysts and software vendors are sharing excitement about huge potential of IoT and connected products. This is a very good news – I love the idea of things getting connected and optimized. I wish manufacturing industry will operate as smooth as my Waze navigation system by checking road condition, traffic jams and informing me in a following way – changing route, new ETA is 19:40p, you saved 5 min.


So, I’m dreaming about about product lifecycle management system that can tell me – “there is a better component selection for chosen BoM configuration, you saved 12’300$ in the next production batch“. This is probably still a dream in 2015.

However, dreaming during this Friday morning, made me think about complexity and scale of data problem can be discovered in order to make manufacturing work similar to way Waze navigation system works.

Yesterday, I shared some of my thoughts about how future of IoT – digital twin can crash PLM platforms with the scale of data. I want to continue this discussion with two examples I captured earlier this week during PI Congress event in Boston.

The first example came from Airbus presentation made by Tristan Gegaden, Head of Operation of PLM Harmonization Center. He spoke about leveraging of data in a modern digital environment and scale of data. Below you can see few data points about A350 digital model – 3 million part instances in 30’000 configurable items. This is just a single aircraft model.



The second example came from the Ford presentation made by Gahl Berkooz, Head of Data and Governance, Ford Motor Company. In his presentation he spoke about big data driven PLM systems and Hadoop based data technologies Ford is planning to use for data analytics. The following pictures shows how much data Ford vehicles are generating and comparing it to Google data scale. Actually, Google looks a smaller case of Ford data complexity.



What is my conclusion? I think, there is misalignment between “grand strategies” of future IoT driven PLM environments, digital twins, etc. on one side and data platforms and technologies PLM systems are using today in production. The future data scale of IoT enabled manufacturing products (starting from very complex avionic systems and ending up with connected toothbrushes collecting information about every single person combining it with your health history and adapting your dental insurance rate) can be overwhelming. A note before weekend for PLM IoT architects and technologists. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape technological trajectories are getting close

November 13, 2015


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg

Updated blog: How to compare PLM cloud services?

November 9, 2015


It has been few months since I published my first comparison between PLM cloud services provided by different CAD, PLM and ERP vendors. You can see my first blog about it – PLM vendors: cloud service comparison. This blog raised many comments and questions online and offline. I’ve been following it for some time trying to learn more and present an updated version of PLM cloud comparison. I wanted to share something that can help customers to make an intelligent decision about cloud PLM selection as well as to provide additional source of questions to be checked with PLM vendors during the selection process.

So, here is a new version of comparison table.


Few comments about the changes I’ve made. I decided to replace complex IaaS, PaaS, SaaS definition into something more simple – SaaS / Hosted. Multi-tenancy is an important characteristics that indicates the architecture of software platform for cloud deployment. Public vs Private cloud differentiation is pretty much straightforward. I added a column that indicates that availability of software from 3rd party hosting services. It looks like a growing trend among PLM vendors to partner with companies providing services to maintain and run cloud PLM environment for customers.

Some additional articles that can help you to make a decision. My article on – PLM is the best Hosted, SaaS or On Premise… Let’s sort it out. Another publication I found is very useful – All PLM Clouds are not created equal created by CIMdata and provided by Arena Solutions.

What is my conclusion? Cloud remains a complicated topic for manufacturing companies to decide about. Although the adoption of cloud PLM solution is growing, it is still hard for companies to decide about what is the right PLM cloud. A divide line is clearly Hosted vs SaaS multi-tenant environments. I think, the advantages of multi-tenant SaaS over Hosted cloud PLM solutions is not obvious for large manufacturing companies. At the same time, all cloud PLM implementations are still require “implementations” and hardly can be used out-of-the-box, which prevents easy adoption. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

3 challenges to develop cloud storage and collaboration tools for engineers

November 6, 2015


For the last few years, we’ve seen a number of attempts to develop specialized CAD data collaboration tools by leveraging cloud technologies. GrabCAD was probably the most successful one. More than one million engineers joined GrabCAD. In addition, before acquisition by Stratasys, GrabCAD developed cloud PDM tool – Workbench. Few years ago, I had a chance to discuss CAD collaboration topic with Hardi Meybaum, founder and CEO of GrabCAD. You can catch up on my discussion with him here. Few other small and large vendors jumped to the engineering collaboration domain. You can read more about it in my last year blog – The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive.

Things are changing fast in cloud development these days. One of them, cost of cloud storage is going to be zero very soon. It appears as a problem for vendors planned to leverage cloud collaboration. The competition is getting tough and they are thinking how to develop ways to differentiate solutions. Dropbox is a good example. Started as a pure consumer tool, it is actively moving into business domain. My attention was caught by Techcrunch article – Dropbox lays out an updated enterprise playbook. Navigate here to read more. Here is my favorite passage:

And the biggest tool the company unveiled was an enterprise tool set called Dropbox Enterprise, which includes some additional tools above its Dropbox business product. It’s essentially giving IT managers more tools to onboard employees to a corporate Dropbox account and have visibility into their collaboration processes, and also gives those managers a dedicated customer service representative.

The competition is very much heating up in this space. Both Box and Dropbox have to basically sell their services not as a bucket of storage, but as a set of powerful collaboration tools that sit on top of that service.

So, Dropbox, Box and other cloud storage and collaboration vendors will push to deliver tools on top of their cloud storage platforms. At the same time, these vendors will invest into additional security and other technologies to convince business customers to use their services. Box platform is another example – How Box platform will compete with PLM vendors.

This trend made me think about challenges that can experience large and small vendors developing special "dropbox for engineers".

1- Engineers in companies are already using Dropbox, Google Drive or similar tools. So, tools from CAD vendors and startups will have to become an additional tool, while portion of data is already managed by Dropbox-like tools.

2- The interplay and integration between specialized engineering collaboration tools and Dropbox can be a challenge and an additional level of complication. Who wants to think about syncing files between Dropbox and other collaboration tool?

3- Cost of CAD collaboration tools is relatively high, so the barrier for engineers and very small companies can be too high and value proposition too small to use them.

What is my conclusion? Cloud storage providers have to bring more business value to justify their cost and compete in the environment where "cloud storage" becomes a commodity. It will create a problem for all engineering cloud collaboration tools. The barrier to entry is high and companies are already using cloud collaboration tools from Google, Dropbox, Box and other companies. It is hard to convince a company to use multiple cloud storage collaboration tools. So, the only opportunity to CAD and PLM providers I can see is to develop specialized business functions to justify their existence. An alternative to integrate with products provided by Dropbox, Box and others. Tough choice. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of kibsri at

Will “cloud” change the way we integrate PLM and ERP?

October 29, 2015


Integration has a very important role in PLM implementations. PLM is intended to manage design and engineering aspects of product development. ERP is intended to manage manufacturing resources, process and inventory. Therefore PLM and ERP are complementary. Most of PLM implementations I’ve seen in my life, required PLM-ERP integration.

At the same time, PLM-ERP integration is often the most complicated part. There is high diversity in the ways manufacturing companies manage data about product, bill of materials, parts, inventory and manufacturing processes. Outcome is multiple BoMs, product and item records and the need to synchronize information.

Traditional PLM-ERP integration is complex and never done out-of-the-box. It requires detailed definitions, data mapping and variety of data synchronization techniques. The last one is usually code effort that done by service provider or IT programmers. In some situations PLM and ERP vendors are offering integration tools, but because of different reasons such as cost and complexity of these tools, integration often end up as SQL hacking into two databases of PLM and ERP. Software vendors are not appreciating this approach, but usually face the reality of large implementation complexity and just live with it. In most of these situations, vendors would not jeopardize PLM deal by preventing customers to access databases directly. The result is high cost of maintenance and problem during upgrades.

Cloud technologies are simplifying IT and deployment. But, at the same time, cloud can create an additional integration complexity. Traditional integration code, including SQL often not applicable without direct access to databases in web environment. But cloud environment is still very complex. It contains PLM, ERP and many other systems and services companies are using. Few months ago, I shared my thoughts about how to avoid cloud integration spaghetti. One of the biggest dangers is that closed data paradigms and data duplication between silos can bring well-know data spaghetti from on-premise applications to the cloud.

For the last few months, I’ve been learning about what cloud PLM companies are doing to simplify cloud PLM-ERP integration. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it

Autodesk PLM360

PLM Connect is a complete solution portfolio provided by PLM360 integrate business systems. First of all, it applies to PLM-ERP integration, but not only. Earlier this year, at PLM Accelerate 2015 conference in Boston, Autodesk promised to integrate PLM360 with everything. PLM360 is using Jitterbit middleware for integration.


In addition to that Autodesk seems to be inspired by IFTTT -like tools announced “evented web” integration for PLM360. Read more here.


From the side of Jitterbit, it looks similar to traditional middleware. The fact it runs on the cloud doesn’t change much. But it has nice UI for integration and mapping. Also, granularity of REST API and ease of code can potentially make PLM360 / Jitterbit environment more efficient. Evented-web integration style has advantages, but it is not clear to me how effectively it can be used to synchronize data between PLM and ERP environments.

Arena – Kenandy integration

I’ve been learning about Arena PLM integration with Kenandy ERP. My attention was caught by the following article and Arena-Kenandy partnership press release. You can get some details about the integration by navigating to the following data sheet.

I spent some time looking into specific ways integration is done. Arena and Kenandy is not using middleware style integration. At the same time, both are supporting modern web based APIs to code integration behavior. Which allows the both solution to leverage service APIs on both sides for efficient and granular data integration. Arena and Kenandy is synchornizing data by transferring XML documents.


Administration console can show you status of data synchronization.


In my view, Arena-Kenandy is a modern variant of point-to-point integration with realization using Web services API. It makes code easier, but still requires implementation of synchronization logic between systems.

Razorleaf – Clover Open Integration Platform

Companies doing implementation services for PLM usually have high sense of urgency to work on PLM-ERP integrations. It is part of their implementation schedules. My attention was caught by Razorleaf announcement yesterday about Clover Open Integration platform. Read more here – Razorleaf Introduces Clover™, a New Open Integration Platform that Supports Any-to-Any Endpoint Integration for PLM Applications. The following passage provides some high level explanation about what Clover does.

“The Clover platform is a result of our long-standing experience in creating CAD/CAM/PLM integration endpoints,” stated Eric Doubell, CEO of Razorleaf Corporation. “We now have created an industry standard application integration platform that has a flexible architecture and can scale easily based on its endpoint applications. This platform helps our customers retain the feature sets they have come to rely upon in their application investments and allow for a more controlled migration path forward when upgrading is a requirement. Making up-to-date data available across applications accelerates decision-making and process efficiency across the organization.”

Razorleaf is providing services for different cloud and on premise PLM environments. Learn more here. You can see on-premise and cloud systems including Autodesk PLM360 and Jitterbit. I’m still learning about Clover technology and platform. So, stay tuned for updates.

What is my conclusion? Cloud brings some limitations to integration techniques. Very often integration was done using direct SQL-code injections and batch processing. You cannot do it anymore in cloud-based / web environment. Web based APIs can compensate it, but it requires products to support granular REST APIs for specific operations. This is something you want to be sensitive to when choosing cloud PLM vendor. Web API can make cloud-based integration easy to code and implement. However, cloud integration patterns are still the same – middleware or point-to-point integration. Cloud didn’t bring anything new here. At least from the standpoint of systems I learned. Integration remains complex and requires planning and resources during PLM implementations. A note or PLM architects and strategists. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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