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

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

Autodesk PLM360 and cloud PDM trajectories

September 3, 2015


I’m slowly digesting information from Accelerate 2015 – Autodesk PLM360 event that took place in Boston earlier this week. If you missed that, try to catch up by searching for #XLR8PLM on twitter. Although, most of sessions at the even were dedicated to customers and partners, the last keynote presented by Jared Sund, Autodesk Sr. Product Manager – Autodesk PLM360 Sneak Peek – provided a good portion of information about latest PLM360 development.

One of the topics that caught my special attention was cloud PDM. Those of you following my blog regularly won’t be surprised – cloud PDM is fascinating and important topic. Despite the fast development of cloud technologies, majority of cloud enterprise applications are running in a browser and have no or very little dependencies on files. Opposite to that, engineering environment is different and significant portion of design these days is still done by desktop CAD software.

You might recall My first take on Autodesk PLM360 system and technology. The original PLM360 incarnation excluded CAD data management. My first take to articulate the scope of PLM360 back in 2012 was: PLM360 = PLM + Cloud – CAD Data Management.

However, things are changing. Last year, at Accelerate 2014, we’ve seen a presentation and demo of how Autodesk is planning to solve a problem of managing CAD data in the cloud – Autodesk early preview of cloud (PDM) document management.

Cloud PDM vision and implementation becomes even more mature. In my view, it is an important element behind capabilities of Autodesk products to handle CAD data. It empowers ADSK Cloud by providing “first CAD data management (PDM) in the cloud“.




The following slides can give you an update about Autodesk CAD data management in the cloud, examples of Fusion360 PDM functions and CAD data management preview in A360 and PLM360.




What is my conclusion? CAD data represents one of the most important sources of information about products. Design systems are transforming engineering vision and ideas into reality. It is important to plug-in CAD and related design data into the overall product lifecycle. So, to have future cloud PDM environment tightly integrated with PLM360, Fusion360 and A360 is a very good news for users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg and bridge to CAD & PLM cloud

July 15, 2015


Back to my trip to Develop3D Live conference earlier this year, I shared my thoughts about future of cloud competition. The cloud space in CAD is getting more dynamic. It also shakes other traditional applications surrounding CAD – product data management, simulation, etc.

In my first slice of PLM cloud service comparison, I provided a view on how PLM companies are applying different cloud architecture approaches to get into cloud business – from just leveraging IaaS layer to run existing system and up to full rebuilt of systems from grounds up. While traditional applications doesn’t fit very well new cloud technological schemas, it gives a way to come faster with mature implementations. On the other side, to build system from scratch takes time (especially in rich applications such as CAD and PLM).

One of the approaches that driving some attention is virtualization of existing applications via browser. Since my Develop3D live conference, I’ve been following – software outfit building technologies allowing to virtualize and run any existing desktop software in a browser. Earlier, at Siemens PLM world in Dallas, I’ve seen how Siemens PLM is running SolidEdge on the cloud using

My attention caught by SolidSmack article – Frame Secures $10 Million to Put All of Your Apps (Yes, Including SolidWorks) in the Cloud. It looks like is up to provide a bridge to existing mature CAD and potentially PDM products to the cloud. is planning to provide 3 levels of service – personal, business and platform. Here is the passage, which outlines strategy:

While there are dedicated Cloud-based apps, Bozinovic’s Frame allows users to install their own software on the company’s servers which can then be used in real-time from any device with a web browser – which effectively gives users the power of a finely-tuned desktop PC workstation within their much lighter $200 netbooks or a Macbook Air.

“After we previewed Frame at Develop3D LIVE in March, we were blown away by the interest to run SOLIDWORKS and other CAD software on Frame from users and businesses from around the world,” said Bozinovic in an email to SolidSmack. “We’re in the middle of the biggest computing platform shift in decades and we’re excited to be bringing the power of the cloud to engineers and designers everywhere.”

It made me think about virtualization service as a bridge to the cloud for existing CAD and PLM vendors. While building new software architecture takes time and resources, to run existing applications using service like can be a good shortcut vendors would like to us.

What is my conclusion? The advantages 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. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of digitalart at

Cloud CAD/PDM and mass customization future

June 25, 2015


The era of mass production is near the end. The demand for mass customization is coming. We can see signs of customizable products everywhere – e-commerce configurators, personalization in apparel industry, individual shoe design, personalization in medical devices etc.

At the same time, the opportunity around mass-customization is facing challenges in engineering and manufacturing environments. I shared some of my thoughts about PLM, mass customization and BoM vertical integration last year. The problem with management of bill of materials to support manufacturing integration is real. We can achieve an improved product customization by improvement of BOM management and providing configurable BOM solution integrated with manufacturing systems. However, in many situation, product configuration capabilities are defined in the core of product design – CAD system.

You can manage product configurations using CAD system. Most of 3D mechanical CAD systems are supporting the ability to create some sort of product variations. But here is the thing, it is very hard to connect CAD product configurations to engineering and manufacturing systems.

My attention was caught by an article Building Adaptable CAD Databases—How and Why written by Chris Loughnane. In a nutshell, it speaks about how to make a traditional CAD design more data driven. The idea is fascinating and goes much beyond discrete configuration parameters. Here is my favorite passage explaining that.

Adaptable databases. By implementing additional techniques on top of traditional best practices, design intent is able to be so thoroughly baked into an adaptable database that its flexibility is no longer limited to a few discrete parameters. Instead, it’s able to read user-specific scan data and adjust the height, length, width, and surface curvature such that the resulting database is now custom-fit to the user.

It made me think about potentially mind blowing future of adapting CAD models. Imagine CAD design that can be changed based on customer data scanned using your mobile phone. Whoa… that would be amazing, but I stopped dreaming for a moment… The data integration chain in engineering and manufacturing systems is broken in many ways. CAD design is hardly integrated with PDM databases. Engineering BOMs are not synchronized with manufacturing BOM and shop floor and production facilities. To connect dots is possible, but it is a very complicated and expensive process.

The industry is discovering cloud CAD systems these days. One of the significant advantages of cloud CAD is the fact it includes data management functionality. In fact, these data management functions are giving us an option to control design on a very granular level. You can see an example of how cloud CAD systems are capable to control versions and collaboration between people.

Cloud based CAD systems can leverage data management capabilities to control more design parameters and product features. By doing that, it will enable better integration between design configuration and product features. Today most of these parameters are hardly can be captured. New cloud CAD systems can provide data driven environment to control important design parameters and to support data-driven design.

What is my conclusion? Mass customization and personal product developing is a future. One of the problems to solve in order to make it happen is to integrate engineering and manufacturing environments. The wall between design models and manufacturing product configuration should be removed. The first step into that direction is done by cloud CAD / PDM systems today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture Strati BAAM 3D printed car. (c) Photo courtesy of Local Motors.


PDM and future trajectory of versions comparison

June 11, 2015


Version control is one of the most important function in PDM. Regardless on what type of data you are managing, the capability to manage changes and to have an access of history of versions is important. Version control was the first functionality every PDM system developed in the past. The following video can show you how SolidWorks Enterprise PDM is solving version management challenges

The functionality like you can see in EPDM is provided nearly by every PDM system (or maybe I should say, good PDM system). In the following video, you can see how you can compare parts in CATIA V5.

What is important and I guess you’ve seen it on both example – comparison of geometry is an important element of versions comparison. For many of us, the fact that somebody made a change is almost meaningless and we want to understand what was the change and to have an access to more specific information which is geometrical when it comes to 3D design.

The modern cloud based PDM systems are focusing on good user experience. Compare versions is a functionality that can become a significant differentiator for customer to purchase a product. In one of my previous blog posts about GrabCAD Workbench, I put an example of how GrabCAD Workbench is visualizing differences between CAD file versions.

You may ask what happens if you don’t have PDM environment. In that case, versions are just different files on the disk, server or cloud storage like Dropbox or Google Doc. You can use available 3D CAD file comparison products. The following CAD Digest blog – Overview of CAD Geometry Comparison Tools gives you a list of products to compare 2D/3D CAD files. The article is a bit long, but I found very useful.

One of the tools you can consider to use to compare revisions is KeyCreator Compare by Kubotek. Watch the video below. The interesting aspect is the list of CAD formats that KeyCreator Compare can support. Navigate here to see the list

If you want to integrate revision comparison in your own solution, you can consider a product from LEDAS – a software outfit located in Russia with a history of providing development services for companies in CAD/PLM industry domain. The product LGC (Geometric comparison) can give you a library of functions to use in your project. Product is available for OEM.

Modern cloud-based CAD systems are providing integrated PDM functions as part of their core product. Two best examples are Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape.

The following video shows Autodesk Fusion360. You can clearly see how revision management became a natural part of Fusion360 functionality. You can browse revisions and visualize it. Unfortunately I didn’t find an example how to compare versions (If you’re aware about such command, please let me know in comments).

Onshape is providing an integrated product data management (PDM) functions. Recent Onshape release introduced new “compare function”, which can give you a possibility to compare revisions and see what happened during the changes. Onshape user experience is slick. However, as I can see from a video, Onshape is probably only capable to compare changes made using Onshape (I will try to discover more about this functionality in the next weeks).

What is my conclusion? Versions comparison is an important function. In the past the functionality was often split into two domains. PDM was managing versions and storing history of changes and files. Viewing technology was focusing on how to compare 3D files visually and functionally. New trends in cloud CAD development made PDM functions embedded into design environment. It improves usability and makes it easier for customers. At the same time, it might not cover all functional use cases such as comparison of CAD files created without history of features, which can be a case for supply chain systems sharing files. I can see an increased role of versions comparison to streamline design workflows and change management. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How much does it cost to manage CAD data?

May 14, 2015


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


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