CAD and cloud marketing controversy

October 21, 2015


CAD and PLM marketing folks have tough time these days. It has been just five years ago, when Jeff Ray, former CEO of SolidWorks shocked everyone at SolidWorks World 2010 by introducing the SWAT team with the objective “to kill SolidWorks”. You can navigate back in time to SolidSmack article – Jeff Ray on V6, the Cloud and Killing SolidWorks.

Five years later SolidWorks 2016 is coming with “online functionlity” that allows to run SolidWorks anywhere. Read more on SolidWorks blog. My attention was caught by Cadalyst article SolidWorks 2016 Goes Online. It gives an additional insight on SolidWorks online functionality. Since now, you can run Solidworks via browser using platform. In my everyday lingo, I’d probably call it “cloud enablement”. But here is the thing… The latest interview with Gian Paolo Bassi proposed an interesting clarification of terms between “cloud” and “online”. Here is the passage:

During discussions of the Online Edition, SolidWorks executives were careful to avoid the term cloud. “A lot of people flap their mouths with ‘cloud, cloud, cloud,’” scoffed Bassi. “We don’t need to fill up our mouth with big words.” “Cloud” starts whenever you have some part of your workflow, your data creation, outside your desktop, he clarified. “We don’t believe that cloud means you run everything in the browser.”

According to Peter Rucinski, director of product portfolio management for SolidWorks desktop products, not many customers are asking for “CAD in the cloud” in particular, but they are asking for flexibility. “They are asking for anytime, anywhere … and SolidWorks Online gives you that flexibility,” he said.

The definition of “online” functionality is coming across with already existing marketing dispute about cloud between Autodesk’s and Onshape. Cloud is vitally important for both Autodesk and Onshape. Therefore, Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD and the cloud. But, for the moment, I can see some disagreement related to technological approach taken by Onshape and Autodesk.

The best way to get into that is to read read SolidSmack’s parallel interview with Jon Hirschtick and Carl Bass. I can see an acknowledgement of cloud. But I can read some marketing controversy at the same time. Carl addresses it in the following passage with the “cloud” as a key word:

Carl – We’ve been saying for awhile that there are two benefits the cloud brings: first, it gives you virtually unlimited amounts of computing, which is critical when you’re talking about solving real engineering problems, specifically simulation, rendering, CAM and even generative design. And secondly, it serves as the central point for sharing, collaborating and managing data projects—critical for distributed teams and those working across the supply chain. Fusion 360 was imagined for this new world, and because it’s built on the cloud, it will be able to easily evolve over time as our customers’ needs change and all the various platforms they use improve.

You can see a different marketing approach taken by Jon which brings “full-cloud” marketing notion based on the technology to run Onshape in a browser.

Full-cloud has been a great new strategy for improving reliability. Because desktop and semi-cloud systems rely on installed CAD software, bugs cause crashes and data loss. Our full-cloud system is distributed across many servers and has no crash-prone installed software — so even when we have bugs they never result in any interruption or loss of work. This improved reliability from our full-cloud architecture has been astounding to users who suffered from typical installed software crashes.

What is my conclusion? Vendors are trying to find a way to market technologies and products in a best ways they can. It resulted in some marketing controversy. I think we will live in a “cloud CAD” marketing limbo for some time now. What is more important is technology and functionality developed by all vendors – Autodesk, Dassault Systems and Onshape. Al Dean of Develop3D made an interesting prediction earlier this year about cloud CAD technologies (read full article here):

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

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

So technologies and functions will evolve. Meantime it is very important to demystify cloud CAD marketing and explain the meaning of technologies and product functions to customers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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

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PLM Vendors: Cloud Service Comparison

June 15, 2015


Cloud is taking PLM vendors by storm. Just few years ago, the question if manufacturing companies will adopt cloud raised lot of debates. You probably remember my posts – PLM competition and true cloud solution and PLM cloud: differentiation and anti-cloud rant. Fast forward into 2015 – I can see almost all PLM vendors are actively engaging into industry discussion about cloud solutions. Public cloud is getting more traction and I stated it in my earlier post – Is public cloud reshaping PLM landscape? Time to recheck…

Earlier today, the PTC article – Demystifying Cloud Services by Christa Prokos caught my attention. The article provides a good insight on different aspects of providing cloud services such as IaaS, PaaS, SaaS. The article is also connecting it to the notion of public, private, hybrid and virtual private clouds.

It made me think about summarizing what I know about PLM vendors strategies and cloud capabilities. I admit that I don’t have full information and can rely only on public sources of information. So, I created the following draft table. If it makes sense to you, let me know. If you have some information and think I missed something, please comment as well. I will maintain updates to this post.


What is my conclusion? In 2015, cloud is probably not a marketing differentiation for PLM sales people. However, the devil is in details. You need to get your hands dirty to figure out what “cloud” vendors are talking about. Earlier this year, at COFES 2015, I gave a briefing about PLM and cloud. You can take a look here to learn more. There are few questions that left not answered and, in my view, will require a heavy focus by PLM vendors – cloud adoption trajectory by manufacturing, economic of cloud offering and how cloud PLM can change an existing PLM implementation paradigm. It seems to me PLM vendors made a first shot to fill a spreadsheet with cloud check boxes. But jury is out to check what and how PLM cloud cloud can deliver. Just my thoughts.

PS. The PLM cloud services comparison table is a draft. I’m looking forward for your comments – I’m sure missed some company specific points and I need your help to finalize it.

Best, Oleg

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Cloud PLM provider check list

April 30, 2015


Cloud is everywhere these days. Despite high popularity of cloud solution, I still can see some confusion on the side of a customer trying to make a decision about moving towards specific cloud services. The discussion I had at COFES 2015 earlier this month made me think about key questions you want to ask your potential cloud PLM provider before signing your SLA.

A server, which is connected to the internet is not automatically cloud (SaaS) application. The devil is in details and by understanding specific cloud characteristics you will save time and money for your organization.

Here is a check list you might consider for your cloud provider due-diligence process. .

1- Infrastructure

Most of cloud PLM vendors are not running their own infrastructure layer to bring cloud solutions to you. This is so-called IaaS (infrastructure as a service) layer is pretty important for the architecture of your solution.

Professional cloud provider and partners used for IaaS should be responsible for maintenance of infrastructure layers. Then this partner is also responsible for the entire maintenance of the infrastructure (servers, operating systems, databases, backups, etc.). Patches are published on a weekly basis (usually for good reasons) and this is alone is a valuable service which reduce a pressure on your IT department. The level of availability guaranteed usually lies close to 99.99%; a level which the market leaders in the cloud segment also actually achieve.

2- Maintenance and upgrades

From the perspective of cloud vendor, the maintenance of cloud based apps is much simpler than on-premise solution. User can see it as a clear advantage. However, you should validate how is that aligned with customization and test environment. It can take an interesting turn on your own IT upgrades to leverage the same time frames and also identify the impact you your own company maintenance schedule.

3- Multi-tenancy

This is one of the key things, in my view. Compatibility to multi-tenancy has nothing to compare with the ability to set an environment for many customers. This is about how application architecture was developed in the way to be used by multiple clients. I touched few years ago in my post, which can give you more details.

Essentially, it is separated into two topics – application multi-tenancy and data multi-tenancy. The first will insure all customers are running the same version of the application. It simplifies maintenance for vendor, but bring an additional level of complexity for application and service providers. To insure your environment and data are compliant with a new version takes time and you want it to be very efficient. Data multi-tenancy is a next level. In some cases, you can consider it as non-important. However, after more thoughts, it might be wise to check how multi-tenant application is working with multiple customer databases. It might be too complex to maintain and it might make an upgrade more complicated.

Be aware, multi-tenancy is a key thing in cloud architecture and it require major re-architecture if you speak about existing on premise software. An on-premise solution cannot be made compatible to cloud overnight. Therefore, anyone who is trying to convince you that technology developed back in 1990s runs on both cloud and premise locations might have a great sales skills, but not much technological competency.

4- Security

One of the most often asked question is about security. For the last 3-5 years, cloud providers developed a set of security procedures. Good vendors have them available online in a very transparent way. Ask for a link. If you cannot get one, this is a red no go flag to work with this vendor.

What is my conclusion? Cloud technologies can be very different. But, as a customer, you shouldn’t take blind decision about what are you buying. The most important to understand – you are not buying product anymore. You are buying “service”. SLA is your marriage contract if you will. Whatever is in that contract will define how your PLM system will perform. So, check contracts upfront and look for technological and business differentiations. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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PLM software lifecycle and social development roadmaps

December 16, 2014


My post few days about PLM software replacement cycle turned into discussion about the way companies are implementing and maintaining PLM software, upgrades, new versions and planning investments into infrastructure and enterprise software. My attention caught Technia on demand webinar – The future of SmarTeam. It is an example of long software development cycle, maintenance, support and transition of enterprise software. I can see it typical for PLM as well as for enterprise software category, in general.

At the same time, there are some changes in enterprise software domain these days. Software development is getting more social. Social networks and other social activities are helping to develop better communication with customers. It helps to make better alignment with customers and socialize around software rodmap and features. On the last point, I found few examples to share with you from Aras Corp, Autodesk and GrabCAD.

Aras Corp., developer of enterprise open software PLM software – Aras Innovator is maintaining transparency and visibility around customer requests and development roadmap. Navigate to the following link to see Aras roadmap. An interesting feature here is customer voting mechanism, which helps to prioritize development.


Another example is Autodesk community. Navigate your browser to PLM360 IDEASTATION link. It gives you an opportunity to socialize your ideas directly with development team, voting for ideas and discuss details.


GrabCAD blog earlier today – GrabCAD’s product development process: how new features come to life brings some insight about GrabCAD development process, communication and features’ validation process. Here is a key passage from the post:

After testing and making sure things work, we introduce new features to our most passionate power users to get the last round of validation and give the first taste of what’s coming. Even if you are super happy about the solution you came up with internally, always get feedback from smaller group of people outside of the company before unveiling it to the world. Fresh sets of eyes can see your product in a totally different way. This entire process is fast. An easier project might take a day or two while more important functionality might take a couple of weeks to build. If a project gets finished and published, there’s no time to waste. New improvements are waiting to be worked on and the cycle starts again.

I didn’t find a way to see GrabCAD Workbench online- maybe GrabCAD folks can comment on that below.

I’m sure this is not exhaustive list of PLM vendors and examples how they are socializing around requirements and development roadmap. So, if you have more examples, please bring them in comments or send me via email.

What is my conclusion? Enterprise software world is transforming. Social media and networking are bringing new methods of open communication with customers. I can see a significant influence of open source and web development communities. I can see this trend is growing in the future. To communicate first, discuss with customer and then develop will become a new software development norm in enterprise too. Just my thought..

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Rich B-S via photopin cc

CAD, PLM and Top 500 cloud app vendors list

September 5, 2014


The cloud is growing. Few years ago, some of us had a concern if cloud is fad and it will over fast. Since that time, we can see many new companies in cloud space as well as many companies turned their development efforts completely towards the cloud eco-system.

If you like research, ranks and comparison of vendors, you may find the following list of vendors interesting. Apps Run The Cloud web site published the list of Cloud Top 500 Applications Vendors. You can see list of companies and detailed information about top 50 vendors for free. More detailed information requires subscription.

I’ve been trying to see what companies from CAD/PLM space made it to the list. Here is the list of companies with rank (assigned by Apps Run The Cloud) and domain (CAD or PLM):

120 – Autodesk (CAD)

158 – Altair Engineering, Inc. (CAD)

291 – Dassault Systems (PLM)

377 – Arena Solutions (PLM)

407 – Siemens PLM software (PLM)

What is my conclusion? Cloud is here to stay. The question is not "why the cloud?", but "how and what cloud vendor to choose?". I’ve been blogged about it before – PDM/PLM: Why the cloud? Wrong question… The growth of cloud software is fascinating. The fact 3 top CAD providers are in the list confirms the commitment of companies to cloud strategies and development. I didn’t find few names from CAD/PLM domain that I expected to see. I hope we will see more analysis and comparison of cloud strategies and cloud platforms in CAD/PLM space.

Best, Oleg

PLM upgrades, release cycles and legacy software

August 20, 2014


Do you know what is legacy software? Earlier today, Marc Lind of Aras Corp. challenged me by his twitter status about companies complaining about legacy PLM systems and upgrading. Here is the original passage from twitter here and here.

"a lot of people complains about legacy PLM and a lot of companies that have legacy PLM are throwing in the towel and switching these days".


The part of statement about "legacy software" is really interesting. Last week, I wasn’t able to update a game on my son’s iPad. After few minutes, I discovered that Apple is not supporting the original iPad hardware manufactured 4 years ago. Does it mean iOS software run on that iPad is a legacy? Good question. At the same time, what about properly functioning ERP software that company runs already for the last 10 years without any plans to upgrade? Is that a legacy software?

Wikipedia gives me the following definition of legacy system:

In computing a legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program,"of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system."[1] A more recent definition says that "a legacy system is any corporate computer system that isn’t Internet-dependent."[2]… The first use of the term legacy to describe computer systems probably occurred in the 1970s. By the 1980s it was commonly used to refer to existing computer systems to distinguish them from the design and implementation of new systems. Legacy was often heard during a conversion process, for example, when moving data from the legacy system to a new database.

Software upgrades is an important topic in engineering and manufacturing. Very often, systems can be in use very long time because of product lifecycle and the need to maintain existing data. It happens a lot in defense, aero and some other "regulated" industries. Also, because of significant investment, the ROI from upgrade can be questionable, which leads companies to keep existing outdated systems in operation. I’ve been posted about problems of PLM customization and upgrades before – How to eliminate PLM customization problems and Cloud PLM and future of upgrades.

PLM vendors are aware about the issue of upgrades and difficulties of software migrations . For long time, industry recognized it as something unavoidable. However, in today’s dynamic business environment, the issue of software upgrades cannot be ignored. Customers demanding flexible and agile software that can be deployed and updated fast. At the same time, changes of business models towards services and subscriptions pushed the problem of upgrades back to vendors.

Earlier this year, my attention was caught by CIMdata publication – Aras Innovator: Redefining Customization & Upgrades. Aras enterprise open source model is predominantly subscription oriented. Which provides lots of incentives for Aras engineers to solve the issue of upgrades and new versions deployment. Here is the passage from the article confirming that:

For several years, the Aras Corporation (Aras) has included no-cost version-to-version upgrades in their enterprise subscriptions, independent of how the solution has been customized and implemented. This is a rather bold guarantee given the historic challenges the industry has experienced with upgrading highly customized PLM deployments. With more than 300 upgrades behind it, CIMdata felt it appropriate to find out how Aras’ guarantee was playing out, and discovered that there was much more to the story than just a contractual guarantee. Fundamentally, Aras Innovator is engineered to be highly configurable—even customizable—without resulting in expensive and complex version-to-version upgrades and re-implementations.

One of PLM software leaders, Siemens PLM is also thinking about What is the best release cycle. The article speaks about SolidEdge release cycle.

A few years ago we moved from an irregular release cycle for Solid Edge, maybe 9 months in one cycle to 15 months in the next, to a regular cycle of annual releases (of course there are also maintenance packs delivered in the interim). I believe our customers much prefer this, they can plan ahead knowing that there will be a significant Solid Edge release available to them in August each year.

At the same time, the article confirms that CAD/PLM vendors are looking how to solve the problem of upgrades. As I mentioned earlier, cloud software model is one of the most promising technical ways to solve the issue of upgrades. It is true, but can be tricky in case both desktop and cloud software are involved. Here is the passage from the same Siemens PLM blog:

Working in the PLM area we try really hard to provide our customers with a good upgrade experience. PLM software is itself dependent on both the operating system and database software, and it has to work with specific releases of CAD software (sometimes with more than one CAD solution for our multi-CAD customers) and with office software as well! Moving PLM software to the cloud could potentially take some of the upgrade issues away from the end user, but PLM software does not work in isolation from your data files, or your other software and systems so I believe there is much work still to be done before the cloud really impacts the upgrade situation for real-world customers.

What is my conclusion? From customer perspective, the best option is to make release cycle completely transparent. In my view, this is really high bar for PLM vendors. Customer data migration, customization and sometimes absence of backward compatibility make release transparency questionable. However, since industry moves towards cloud software and service business model the demand for agile release management and absence of upgrades will be growing. So, my hunch, in the future we will not see "legacy software" anymore. New type of enterprise software will manage upgrades and migrations without customers paying attention. Sound like a dream? I don’t think so. For most of web and consumer software it is a reality already today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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