1 2 3 First Previous 114 Replies Latest reply on Apr 13, 2010 10:11 AM by Mark Larson

    CAD Forecast - partly cloudy

    Gerald Davis

      I've had some angst about workstation vs. networked CAD.


      When confronted with the concept at SolidWorks World 2010, I saw these as competing and mutually exclusive tools.  I was delighted to exchange correspondence with SolidWorks about my panic.  I've received some very thoughtful replies.  It seems quite possible that resources are available to develop and support both kinds of CAD tools for at least the next several years.


      I still have a concern about SolidWorks with regard to Dassault's vision.


      In order to keep this post somewhat shorter, I've attached some background thoughts as separate documents.  I'm sure Bernard and Jeff would find my fumbling attempts at strategic and future thinking to be naive and myopic.  However, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that similar documents are circulating inside the decision maker's circle.


      To the great benefit of its users, SolidWorks has developed and nurtured a community spirit.  This support network includes the VARs, various web sites, bloggers, and in particular this discussion form.  It is courageous to invite any and all to comment and criticize in such a public venue.


      The SolidWorks culture extends in many dimensions - into the free access to the API, with the terrific support of their Gold Partners, promotion of Sustainability, distribution of Educational seats, as well as their welcoming attitude towards those who let the subscription service lapse.


      Having Product Developers visit and spend time in the offices and factories of their customers is invaluable to improving the focus of the tool.  The CSWP program, SolidWorks World events, the Enhancement Request system, and the SWUGN network are expenses that reflect a profound commitment to keeping the user experience first and foremost in the strategic planning of SolidWorks.


      Compared to SW2002, SW2010 is extremely well tested.  They are listening to us and making huge investments in an effort to release stable and reliable software.


      My concern is that Dassault's hands-off attitude has shifted and is accelerating towards fully hands on.  Over the past 4 years the tool has been increasingly rebranded to emphasize the ownership.  As Vélizy-Villacoublay supplants Concord as the center of day-to-day decision making, will the value of my experience within the SolidWorks community play any significant role?  I'm intending to include the experience of my peers in that question.


      Of course Dassault cares about its customers.  Just as much as SolidWorks cares about its customers.


      However, I sense that Dassault's ideal customer is a multinational organization that demands massively collaborative functionality.  I feel that I'm more of the ideal customer for SolidWorks - a participant in a small manufacturing network.  The fact that my little network is one of hundreds of thousands is reflected in the number of seats that are installed.


      The expense of maintaining this rather USA-centric culture will weigh heavily in the product planning over the next few years.  When the the clouds roll forth, how shocked will the culture be?


      One of the handouts that all attendees received at SolidWorks World 2010 was a magazine titled Time Compression.  On page 36 there is an article by Gary Vasilash - "Market Research: Emotions Matter".  To roughly summarize, he recommends consideration of how the customer will feel about themselves while using the product.


      I've felt great about using SolidWorks since 1998. It allows me to appear to be a far more brilliant cadjockey than I actually am.


      I'm resisting change.  I'm demanding change.  I just want the new thing to be the same as the old thing only different.

        • 1. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
          Anna Wood



          Thanks for taking what was a considerable amount of time to post your thoughts on this topic.  Very interesting reading.  I hope that it is a seed for some well reasoned and thoughtful discussion on the Future of CAD here on the SolidWorks forum.


          Everyone be sure to read Gerald's pdf's he has attached to his post.





          • 2. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy

            I like your final line in the article. Quote: "I'm resisting change.  I'm demanding change.  I just want the new thing to be the same as the old thing only different."

            I feel the same way.

            I also enjoyed reading the attachments to the article.


            I guess one thing for everyone to consider is that if we want a more seamless interface between Catia and SW, we are going to have to get used to the fact that Desault will have to get involved. Be careful what you ask for.


            Gary Hall

            • 3. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
              John Sutherland

              I remember when the owner of my favourite word processor announced that future versions would ship with a timer that could be kept alive by paying an annual subscription (an ingenious method of assuring cash flow).  The installed base of users protested "what happens if you go bust?".  Well they withdrew the idea and went bust anyway.  The product still works.


              I think the same applies to "cloud" or "network" or "software as a service" computing, with the added concern that Google's international experience suggests that they are not confident of maintaining security of customers' data.


              I suppose I am in the same boat as the man who forsaw the GFC and Christians who forsee the return of Jesus; I don't expect to be taken seriously, but I avoid connecting mission critical Windows computers to the internet and I transmit financial identity data by fax or postcard knowing that someone will key it into a back office computer if they want my money.


              If SW and their VARs are listening to me, then something is inhibiting them from doing what is neccessary to get more of my money.

              • 4. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                Anna Wood



                You really do not send financial info by postcard do you?  Do you take your letter or postcard to the post office and drop in the box or do you let it sit, unattended, in your mailbox out front?  Easiest way for identity thiefs to get your info is to steal it out of your mailbox.


                That fax that lays in the fax machine for hours or days that can be picked up by any passer by.  The human, who is not to honest, that inputs your personal info unto a piece of paper in their wallet before logging the info into their company computer.


                Wow, I think you use some of the most unsecure ways to transmit your personal data to a company.  Just my opinion.... :-)


                You have a very valid point on what if the company goes bust.  Where does my data go?


                There are also many valid reasons to not wanting to hook up a computer to the internet.





                • 5. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                  Neil Larsen

                  I agree DS is introducing things that are not really appropriate to SW.

                  Catia is developed to enable large complex projects typically done by corporations and SW is for not so demanding projects typically done by small business.

                  Not only is the scale different but I think the mentality is different and thats not a comment on a Euro vs US mind set.

                  Its no good giving someone your best 18" crescent when they need a well handled 6" one for the job.

                  No doubt they appreciate the thought and the extra capability but its more than they wanted or need and they will probably quietly put it aside.

                  The things that are coming across the divide from DS are too big for the need IMO.

                  Even with the best of intentions I think DS fail to grasp important differences between the two solutions.

                  I am not sure why the previously hands off ownership has now become so hands on. I can barely recognise the SW I am familiar with and this is perhaps what is most unsettling. It doesnt seem either necessary, advantageous or useful to have a different directive from what has been successful so far.


                  The cloud idea is one people dont seem to know they want. It comes across as a fashionable idea promoted for the sake having something that foots it with the competition.

                  Despite appearances that this is new tech with a lot of groundbreaking innovation it appears to be enabled by adapting existing DS modules for reuse and incorporate things already available elsewhere like a render farm service.

                  SW have spent 18+ months on this browser based access to CAD but its 18+ months they should have been applying themselves to bettering SW itself.

                  There isnt anything fundamentally lacking in the existing approach and nothing startlingly compelling added by the new one.

                  Indeed it just seems to add a potentially frustrating layer on top of using SW and introduces costs that werent there before


                  The company to their detriment havent provided details about exactly how this is all going to work in reality.

                  Rather than exciting people with a gee whizz gotta get it demo it seems many people have become apprehensive, or are confused or sceptical.

                  At its worst it appears to be a well disguised way to generate a revenue stream from what could become a monopoly.


                  I wonder myself if anyone has really put any serious thought into the rationale for this direction and its practical implementation or whether it has just assumed a life of its own somewhere in management and they will hack together something by way of justification later.

                  Somehow I fear DS are imposing the wrong model and making the wrong choices.

                  Their real focus ought to be improving the quality and capabiltiy of SW rather than changing how it is delivered.

                  If there is to be a change in the business model from being subscription based it shouldnt involve changing it to be compulsion based by pay by the hour installments.

                  • 6. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                    Derek Bishop
                    As the software matures and the market saturates SolidWorks will need to move onto bigger and more rewarding markets. That will be difficult given the current allegiance to the traditional customer base.
                    • 7. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                      Kevin Quigley

                      I'll not regurgitate my comments from various blogs but suffice to say I agree and disagree with the above comments


                      I think Neil said that SolidWorks is used for less complex things by smaller companies and that we don't really need the power of CATIA? This I disagree with. Some SolidWorks users are designing and making incredibly complex devices that are life critical - the medical market is pretty much dominated by SolidWorks. CATIA is a big company application for doing big complex projects, but it doesn't actually mean that the modelling tools are any better than SolidWorks. They are of course, but probably not in the base CATIA package. You need to get into Imagine and Shape and Plastic Parts before the CATIA power really starts to be turned on. Besides, the majority of these complex things are assemblies of lots of simple parts. Think of a car. Yes the bodywork is complex but the rest? The core CATIA is not used for car body design by most manufacturers.


                      The most important thing about CATIA is the file format. One format, one master model, lots and lots of people working on lots and lots of files at the same time.


                      So do I want SolidWorks to use the CATIA kernel? Yes. If it means we get a fraction of the Imagine and Shape stuff, definately. Do I want the cloud stuff? Well ultimately, yes. I say ultimately because there needs to be a get of of jail option for those times when your telecoms go down or you are working off site. But I cannot honestly believe that SolidWorks/Dassault have not got something up their sleeves on this.


                      My own thoughts are that I would have liked more tangible data on when this stuff was coming and what the pricing will be -  technology previews are great for us geeks but they seed lots of doubt as well.


                      If we end up getting the modelling power that Mark demo'd last week in the CORE Solidworks product, every SolidWorks user will be happy. And that I think is the point. If SolidWorks are moving from Parasolid to CATIA v6 then this is a long term project. This is the future of the application after all. Yes they could have diverted every single developer to work on 2010 and 2011 to squeeze the life out of every bug and tune it up but there comes a point when you realize that if you want to get a  family of 5 into a 2 seater, you need to move up to a bigger car, no matter how much polishing and tuning you do. I think SolidWorks - after 15 years - has reached that stage.


                      All the great IT businesses have done this. Look at Apple - they are the perenial changlings. From Motorola chips to Intel, from OS9 to OSX, from expensive professional hardware to consumer priced goods (I paid £6k for a Mac IIfx back in 1990!!) and so on....yet last quarter was their highest grossing ever - despite the recession.


                      There is very little hard info around at the moment so I hope over the next few months SolidWorks will roll out more data on the new platform and, more importantly, preview it to customers.....it IS in the cloud after all, so all we need to check it out is an internet connection.....or do we?

                      • 8. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                        Neil Larsen

                        Honestly I can see them binning SW and developing something similar based on Catia V6.

                        There would be no need for 400+ employees at Concord in that case.

                        They could just produce a cut down or lite version of existing Catia modules and offer that over the internet.

                        If they want to maximise profit they may as well close down SW outright.

                        People like yourself who would like more than is available from SW would have an upgrade path and they could bypass the compatibility issue altogether.


                        In the matter of complexity and size I was thinking of CAD evolved to handle complete aircraft as opposed to making a bicycle.

                        I realised as soon as I wrote that I would end up justifying it to someone.

                        Clearly if you need to access the data for thousands of aeroplane parts and collaborate across multiple organisations and internationally your tools need to be somewhat more capable than SW offers. On the other hand this is overkill for a small business and unnecessary expense.


                        So far I havent actually seen anything that demonstrates a unique modelling power derived from being based on a server somewhere else.

                        There will need to be something compelling about it to attract my custom and so far looping the loop and stretching parts isnt doing it.

                        I  think they should actually stop talking about Clouds because it doesnt really help inform people about what it is they are offering.

                        If people hear 'pay as you go access to SW over the internet' thats something they can grasp.

                        If they are borrowing some streamed viewing and data management tools from DS to do it thats sensible.


                        Engineers like facts and figures rather than fantasy and uncertainty. SW need to present practical detail at this point and re-establish a separate identity in the minds of users if indeed they are independant and going to be around for the long term.



                        • 9. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                          Gerald Davis

                          I'm sort of surprised that this turned into a thread hammering SolidWorks.  That's not exactly what I was hoping for.


                          • SolidWorks is committed to supporting our current platform for at least the next few years.
                          • If the networked CAD becomes a product, we will not be forced to use it - we can stay with the familiar.  Just as we have the option now of using CATIA if it suits our personal business mission better.
                          • Bernard (and Jeff) emphasized commitment to the SolidWorks position in main stream 3D CAD.  Their goal is to capture more of the market under the Dassault umbrella.


                          • What do you see as the 5 year, 10 year or future CAD experience?
                          • Are you as mesmerized as I am with the SolidWorks support network / overall user experience?
                          • What is the ideal development path you see for the tools that you use?
                          • 10. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                            John Sutherland



                            This is off topic but it is fun.  Criminals these days seem to prefer collecting masses of data for ultimate use against accounts with electronic (i.e. remote and anonymous) access.  "Skimming" with a video camera above the ATM keypad or with a trojan card swiper embedded in a retail business (at the MacDonalds drive thru the employee hands a card swiper to the driver who returns a different machine programmed to skim customers data and route it back to crime central) grossed one gang $50,000,000 here recently.  Where they do collect mail they send mules (children or illegal immigrants) to high density dwellings (I live in a rural area).  I feel much less threatened by an opportunistic skim of my data from the fax tray, and more threatened by the thought of a call center operator in a poor nation being intimidated by a criminal relative into wearing a wire whilst taking my details over the phone.  Should I switch to writing novels?


                            I plaigarised the suggestion that a postcard is more secure than the internet.

                            • 11. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                              Neil Larsen

                              Well I usually have a contrary viewpoint but I dont think we have got to hammering on SW -yet.

                              I'll answer some of your answers and questions with some of my own.


                              Perhaps someone can tell me if this new fangled cloud based CAD has a different file format to SW?

                              Does this mean a third type in the DS family?

                              Will I be able to translate between them and will there be any backward compatibility issues?

                              If the cloud really took off would I end up being obliged to follow suit to work in with other businesses like I do presently if a company I deal with moves to the next SW version?

                              To encourage uptake of this service will it be pitched at less than cost and then the price rise over time.

                              If my competitors adopt this because it is either cheaper to use only as needed or somehow faster wont I also be forced to follow suite regardless?

                              Despite what is said about the gradual adoption rate wont my present investment in SW seat(s) become obsolete fairly rapidly?

                              Should I be planning to make my SW admin redundant and pay the IT guy more?


                              If people see the new CAD as being better than SW and approaching Catia in many respects wont that mean people will migrate down to the SWcloud to save money or not move up to Catia where they would have done in the past causing DS to lose income overall?

                              It seems likely that the most likely effect is that they will make a profit from being a server provider and lose Catia customers with moderate needs and end up with the same income overall.

                              If  CAD competitors dont follow suit and their traditional approach is just as productive and cheaper and lets the customer retain control of their own affairs its likely SW wont attract any more market share but again may lose some.

                              If the Swcloud doesnt perform and the situation develops where existing customers become disaffected or resent being locked in to pay as you go they may want to move to other CAD providers.

                              Since no one else can, I presume, set up their own cloud and provide SW to customers it would seem likely this is a protected monopoly and anti competitive. Whats to stop SW totally controlling what other 3rd party software if any is available on the cloud and ultimately what they charge for access. Rather than use the SWcloud render farm for instance can I branch from the browser to use another type of renderer and service?

                              Will I be able to have a net independant version of SWcloud on my laptop and download the files to work on or do I always have to access the server and leave the files there?


                              Ok I am going to stop here I dont see why I should provide an unpaid analysis to SW management.

                              As usual they will be looking in and parasiting on peoples thinking and be too arrogant to participate.

                              The cloud is not the path I would choose to go down technically if I was SW but if I was after a captive audience for profit making I would.

                              • 12. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                                Anna Wood



                                Fair enough......  :-)





                                • 13. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                                  Anna Wood



                                  How many CAD systems have you used over the years?  Have you abandoned any because newer, better technology was available?  I would expect you have used a few as the technology has changed over the last 25 years or so.


                                  Seriously, what is your wish for CAD in the Future?  Forget the cloud as a delivery system.  What do you wish to see SolidWorks adopt in future technology.


                                  I do not expect our CAD tools to be the same in 5 years let alone 10-15 years.  What do we envision that future to be like?





                                  • 14. Re: CAD Forecast - partly cloudy
                                    Brian Lindahl

                                    Here are a few ideas to add:


                                    • Where did high end CAD start?  On a PC?  I don't think so.  Why did we move from mainframe to PC CAD in the first place?
                                    • What will happen to our high-end desktop machines in engineering offices?  Yes, I know these machines are generally outdated by the time they are placed on the average desk, but the same will be true of these "cloud farms" - as soon as a company invest in 10,000 to 150,000 cpu's to operate and sell computations, the company designing and making cpu's gets a boost of $$ to put into their own research, and offer the next customer a better cpu, rendering yesterday's cpu farm and the software operating on it outdated.
                                    • If I create a Google Docs account, how much of that account is really secure?  The data in my files?  The id of the people I collaborate with?  The simultaneous web surfing I do while logged into my Google Docs account?  Where is all the spam on today's Internet originating?  We use an e-mail filtering software that generates reports about good versus bad emails.  On a single day (Friday, 5 February 2010), we received 117412 Junk and 1890 Good emails.  Of this, I would guess that over half of the 1890 "good" emails were trashed by the recipients.  This is because of insecure information on the Internet, and malicious hackers finding their way through "firewalls" and security systems, then mining (phishing) for user data.  I don't think the cloud can really offer the security being marketed.
                                    • Is data retractable when I decide I don't like the cloud and it's shortcomings?
                                    • Why would I believe the cloud is less likely to have programmatic errors in an application?
                                    • How secure is data on this cloud when the installation of an upgrade goes bad?  Maybe someone with SW 2010 sp1.0 64bit using PW can pipe in on that one.  It would seem to me that any cpu with access to the cloud data COULD cause corruption in ALL data it has access to.  Not likely, but certainly a possibility.  This is where the malicious intent of people who will do anything to attack MS comes into play- even if the original software is virtually bug free, is it IMPOSSIBLE for these malicious types to ALTER the code?


                                    My guess it that cloud is where CAD is really headed, and that might be OK, if we still have a choice.  Right now, we have the choice of 32 or 64bit, with 2009 we had the choice of XP or Vista, but both of those are pretty much going away in September (XP no longer supported for SW2011, and who really want to use Vista?)  I see going to 64 bit as a wise choice, I just want to make the switch on my own timeline.  Putting my proprietary data outside my four walls is not an easy choice for me, and not a top option.  Buying my own cloud and building it inside my four walls seems expensive when I already have the cpu power at each desk that needs it.  Maybe if this "cloud" could leverage the individual cpu's already in the facility, by using the "idle" time on the computer in the next office when mine gets busy would be the type of "cloud" that would be of interest - remember Conflicker?  The concept of using the next guys computer if they are not using it - within the limits of my local domain - should be the next computing platform.

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