Cloud, Head’s-down CAD Drafters and Technological Analogies

October 28, 2011

Earlier this week, my attention was caught the article Cloud is Dead by Ralph Grabowski. Following some of Ralph’s thoughts, I found myself in a strong disagreement with his position and decided to share my view. The main point of talk is around two aspects – head’s-down drafters and technological analogies.

Cloud and Head’s-Down Drafters

Ralph is raising the point of CAD cloud and so called "head’s-down drafters". Here is the passage:

The cloud is no utility to head’s-down drafters, the kind who work hard to push out drawings, the bulk of which are still 2D. (If that were not the case, then AutoCAD LT would not be Autodesk’s non-stop best-selling CAD package, year in and year out.)

I found this association is very narrow. In my view, cloud (as well as some other technologies) creates the opportunity to optimize your work. Mobile access and cloud are going to revolutionize the way information becomes available. Getting back to head’s-down drafters, it will give them the ability to access information remotely as well as share drafts with people in different locations. Paper will be gradually replaced by tablet devices in the field, as well as the information about "the cost of change" can become available to a sales person working with a potential customer far-far-away from the engineering department.

Technological Analogies

Another place where I felt the need to clarify Ralph’s claim is related to the cloud technology. Here is the passage:

Furthermore, cloud technology is not so new. Those of us who started in computing more than 20 years ago are likely familiar with client-server computing (also known as "mainframe-terminal" or "time-sharing" computing) and so are well-acquainted with its failings. Cloud computing is the new clothes for the old emperor, who today struts again naked.

Here, the association with mainframe and time-share terminals is absolutely wrong. To take the cloud down as a "transmission service" only is too narrow too. I’ve heard similar claims among IT people trying to present the cloud as "no big deal" and something like "just take my servers to another location". In my view, the real power of the cloud is in application of elastic computing, multi-tenant systems and finally re-definition of software cost-structure.

Appropriate Use of the cloud, please

Here is one thing, I agree with Ralph about the cloud. Appropriate use of the cloud, please. The power of workstation, especially when it comes to the combination of local storage and size of information required for 3D and 2D drawings cannot be replaced by the cloud. This is can keep existing CAD systems alive. At the same time, growing storage capability and low cost can bring emerging technologies empower cloud-based rendering (i.e. just published OTOY-Autodesk announcement) and outperform local workstation.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is dead. Long live the cloud. No, this is not about future Dassault V6 technology :). Let’s define what cloud technology we are talking about. If this is a technology that allows you to virtualize computing power, deliver elastic scalability and high availability, push cost down and enable easy data sharing across multiple locations and devices – thumbs up! However, if this is about how to move existing 15 years old CAD / PDM / PLM servers to hosted location and use the same slowish client-server technology over the internet – this type of cloud is dead. Just my thoughts… YMMV.

Best, Oleg


PLM-less AutoCAD Users And PLM Strategies?

May 25, 2010

A short note on WorldCAD Access by Ralf Grabowski got my attention few days ago. In a very competitive world of PLM, Ralf’s statement “PTC will bring PLM to… AutoCAD users” sounds very provoking.

I had chance to hear multiple discussions related to this topic. The most noted, in my view, is CIMData analytical work earlier this year – CIMData Entitles Autodesk’s Evolution as a PLM supplier.

I will try to clean up this space and discuss what is potential relationships between AutoCAD and PLM.

Organization, AutoCAD Users and PLM
AutoCAD is everywhere. I remember, somebody told me- you can find AutoCAD in every manufacturing organization in the world. Because of such wide adoption, every organization decided to create some of their products related information in AutoCAD. It can be data provided by suppliers, tools design and many others. For a company that doing all in 2D, AutoCAD can be still used as a design tool. In most of the cases, this status quo is absolutely not related with the potential interest of this company in Product Lifecycle Management implementation.

ProductPoint and PLM
Windchill ProductPoint implements an interesting strategy of bundling Microsoft’s SharePoint as a tool to manage CAD data, but not only. Because of wide SharePoint adoption, ProductPoint has a potential to find a path to user’s desktops in a much easier way. From the standpoint of PLM portfolio ProductPoint is just following CAD/PLM practice to get CAD data under control and enable collaboration.

PLM vision and CAD
CAD is playing a significant role in the mindshare of the top three PLM vendors. This vision primary came from CAD direction. The first objective for this type of the implementation is to get CAD data to be managed by PLM system. In my view, this strategy is different from more business oriented strategy in PLM proposed by non-CAD PLM vendors including ERP-PLM apps. There is nothing wrong with this strategy. However, it can steer PLM implementation goals from business direction and to focus on CAD data only.

What is my conclusion? Users are more interested in a practical outcome and less in marketing strategies.There are no dedicated “AutoCAD users” in an organization. Depending on the organization, people may use AutoCAD for multiple purposes, but in a manufacturing organization AutoCAD is just another tool to accomplish a task. AutoCAD data is only part of the overall product data. I think, users can appreciate the fact CAD files comes from multiple provides can be managed by a single system. So, nothing wrong with the ability of ProductPoint to manage AutoCAD files. Will it bring PLM to AutoCAD users? My guess is not. The PLM implementation is not about how to manage CAD files. However, this is an important step in the future ability to implement PLM strategy in the company.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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