Bertrand Sicot Reinforces SolidWorks Cloud Plans

In a comment to my post titled “SolidWorks Gets A New CEO“, Rick McWilliams asked “Does he have to courage to flush the cloud?“. SolidWorks, its new CEO or its parent Dassault Systemes have absolutely no plans to “‘flush out the cloud”. This is quite evident from Bertrand’s post on the SolidWorks blog in which he wrote:

“I am also excited about the technology we’re building with our next-generation platform. The benefits are clear–access from anywhere and with no restrictions on product versions or platforms. Online delivery mechanisms mean that we can provide our products and services in new ways, and give customers the power to work how they want, where they want. In effect, we’ll have three platforms–desktop, mobile, and online. New offerings will be rolled out as they are available but in tandem with existing applications so that customers can choose the option that is best suited to their needs.”

The good thing is that Bertrand is making it clear that all three platforms will exist and users will be able to choose between them. That was a lot of confusion about that in the months following SolidWorks World 2010 where the cloud plans were unveiled (see “The Deafening Silence From SolidWorks On The Cloud“). But recent blog posts from SolidWorks have been aimed at undoing the damage (see “Jeff Ray Clarifies SolidWorks Stand On The Cloud“).

Now we can argue whether all platforms will be developed at the same rate or whether one will get preference over the other. For example, in my recent interview with outgoing CEO Jeff Ray, he told me the new SolidWorks will have direct modeling and it will be implemented differently than other MCAD systems because it would not be constrained to Windows, whatever that means. We know that the current SolidWorks is constrained to Windows. So does this mean that it will not be invited to the Direct Modeling party. I don’t know.

Listen up people. These plans of taking CAD to the Cloud that Dassault Systems and SolidWorks have got going on are not going away. I have interviewed a bunch of people in my role as media. I am not a shrink but I think I can read body language to an extent. I think I know when people are giving me marketing bullshit as opposed to when they are saying things they mean and are really excited about. I remember a recent conversation I had with Dassault Systemes CEO Bernard Charles involving the Cloud. The man was at the edge of his seat and his eyes were sparking like a child about to open his Christmas present. He truly believes from the deepest part of his heart that design is going to happen this way in the future. He wants his company to be the one leading the way. And why the hell not?

I was in the audience when Bernard Charles was speaking at the India PLM Summit 2010 recently in Mumbai. During his speech, he recited a very interesting personal incident. His daughter had received a digital rose from a friend on her birthday and he asked her whether that made her happy. She replied that it did. He went on to remind her that it was not a real rose and his daughter replied him that it didn’t matter. What mattered was that her friend had thought about her and showed it in some form. Bernard then asked his wife if she would be happy if he sent her a lovely digital bouquet of roses. She replied, “Don’t even think about it“.

Bernard was making the point that the next generation views things completely differently as the present one. My point is that CEO’s are paid to understand things like these and steer their companies accordingly, not just run day to day activities and make their quarterly numbers. Users have day to day problems that they need to solve. Sure they are interested where their tools are headed. But that is not their primary concern.

How far into the future do you think your CAD vendor is looking? Do you even care? Or are you more interested in getting the bugs fixed and seeing what’s new in the next version? How far into the future are you looking?

  • Neil

    The blather put about by various people to rationalise the cloud as highly desireable is very annoying and insulting but what damage DS do to SW and which CEO is at the helm is no longer my concern.
    I’ll use my present SW install until its past its use by date and then its going to be replaced with another vendors solution.
    Not only will I be flushing the cloud but I will be flushing SW as well.

  • Quin

    The Future is very exiting! I cant wait to see whats around the corner!

  • Great article again Deelip. Closing paragraphs were a great touch with looking at perceptions and the future.

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  • Dave Ault

    Your last few paragraphs made me think of the folly of some CEO perceptions. This same child who liked the rose no doubt is one of those adept at the double thumb twitter thing. I remember one of these types trying to sell me on text messaging. While he was talking he was interupted with one. In the mean time I got on the phone and in short order had communication in real time far more quickly and had also a greater perception of what was really going on as I heard tone of voice to. While I had many more times the “data” through put that the texting guy did he just couldn’t see it.

    So this visionary Bernard has a daughter who likes a cyber rose. I notice his wife did not. So is this the example of new cutting edge tech bringingin a new era with eager adoptees or a great sounding story with the sequel in time not to be discussed that his daughter discovers that a real rose with smell, texture and body and could not be lost in cyber space was the better thing. Kind of like how I percieve how cad users will act. SW’s time at the helm is certainly in jeapordy with this direction and I don’t know one user happy about how things are headed except for the reseller fan club.

    • Dave, with the utmost respect to you, I think you missed the whole point about the digital rose. By a mile.

      • Zalexss

        I don’t think Dave missed the whole point. The children – which typically have much of their freedom rightly curtailed by parents- will grow up. Mr.Bertrand thinking that his child will be imutable and represents the will of a generation at that age is purely whisfull thinking if not outright silliness.

  • Joe B

    I understand the power and benefits of cloud based computing. We are very insterested in certain aspects of what it would do for our company.

    I do worry about what will happen to third party applications and custom programs. Will the cloud versions support user customization and apps? If the CAD software automatically updates in the background for the user, will a customer get the ability to use older versions until they update their add-ins? We rely on a decent amount of customization to help design and to integrate into our ERP solution. I know many people skip releases to give themselves the time to test a release, wait for 3rd party products to update, and update any customization. I’m not sure how this is handled in the cloud.

    • Indeed. As a SolidWorks add-in developer myself, as you can imagine, I am worrying about this myself. I’m pretty sure that we will need to move our add-ins to the cloud as well or have local running versions that do a subset of things or something along those lines. The day I come to know and I am allowed to write about this, I will.

  • Ken

    Interesting as this all is, it is all speculation about whether it will or won’t be the next best thing. Truly revelutionary stuff is generally never predicted, it just sneaks up on you. For whatever Dassault is planning to be a success, it must not just be a OK replacement for what they have now. It must be something that everyone wants and hopes to have. It must become a household name in the engineering community. Kind of like “Xerox” or “Crescent” wrench…

  • Guest

    Regarding the rose story, a wife expects a great deal more from her husband than she does from an online friend not because the wife is a different generation but because the relationship with her husband is on a whole different level. Perhaps SolidWorks users, many of whom have a deep and long-standing relationship with their software, just want to be treated like a wife and not like a one-in-a-million Facebook friend.

  • Dave Ault

    Well Deelip give me your take on it then. It is just what my impression was in that yes it is how a next generation percieves it now but when a little age happens what was cute to a child is not to the adult. I think they are banking way to much on what is appealing to generation “whatever”, to borrow a word from them, and not how things will pan out in the real world where security and reliability and usefullness will trump every time. Don’t you remember all this same cutting edge hyperbole around 2000 just before the crash? I do.

    • Dave,

      Something to bear in mind is that when released, any cloud-enabled applications will co-exist with the current applications. No one is being forced to migrate or change if they don’t want to. And ultimately, the marketplace will decide the fate of both versions. So if customers don’t want to take advantage of the options created by a cloud-enabled solution, that’s fine. They can ignore it. But we think that once people start to see what leveraging online resources makes possible, they’ll want to move sooner than later. As the bard said, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

      Matt / SolidWorks

      • Dave Ault

        I think they will have to cover both bases forever if they want to survive any where near their current market share. I believe the majority of customers see no advantage in the cloud until someone else proves it to be a valid concept and none of the users I personally know want to be a guinea pig. The problem is that when words are spoken they have meaning and people do listen to things like “when the pain becomes to great they will switch”. That is Jeff’s statement and implies no choice at some point in time. Have they promised yet that they will preserve the ability to have a seat of software autonomous on your own workstation for more than a nebulous undefined period of time? When released indeed but cad users and companies have to plan long term and what about two years from now?

        I like new usefull technology and I am an early adopter where it makes sense. I am interested in the cloud concept I just don’t see any way to address all the numerous fundamental unavoidable problems it will suffer from for the foreseeable future many of which are totaly out of Dassaults control.

    • By that logic, we should all be using paper and pencil, right? As long as things appear to be risky, they are a risk. There will be a day when you will stop being scared about the things you are scared about today.

      Do you say your last prayers every time you board a plane? I’m sure in the early days of aviation people did. I’m pretty sure astronauts do when they suit up to fly a space craft. The day will come when they won’t do so either.

      I really cannot argue with someone who thinks that tomorrow will be pretty much like today.

      • Dave Ault

        I am not arguing the value of new technology here as much as, at least from my point of view, is it useable technology. Dirigibles started at about the same time as winged aircraft and all they have to this day is niche markets. To be practical about this whole thing how does this cloud for cad concept move from being more than academic to reality when so much of what is involved is beyond the control of the companies like Dassault who want to sell the concept? So am I really a technophobe or someone who just wants to see it work before I gamble my business on it? It took a long time before commercial airlines were an accepted form of travel for many good reasons. I think I will sit this one out and watch how others prosper or fail as early adopters.

        • I get your point about usefulness. But here is the thing. The usefulness of something that is totally new isn’t always apparent. Taking Twitter for example. I thought it was useless and a waste of time. I was a late adopter. Today a great deal of my web traffic comes from tweets that people post about the stuff I write. I have connected with such a wide variety of people on this planet because of Twitter. When I was recently in China where Twitter is blocked, I felt that something in me died. And to think that just a just a couple of years ago, I thought that Twitter was a piece of crap.

        • Brian Garrity

          The spectrum of kinds of users and kinds of needs of the SolidWorks community is broad, and there are many scenarios where an online subscription based model would be useful to many companies & individuals– like the small shops that are the present backbone & hope of the American manufacturing economy & need to have SW on their home machine, their shop machine, and maybe at a client’s facility, or the young product design consultants, recent college grads who need a short term solution for side work to score that project to pay off their ridiculous loans and have be everywhere to do it. It’s amazing how shortsighted some people can be, in a role like engineering where adaptation & ingenuity are hallmarks of true capability. This is about versatility, and reading the landscape to see what will help to drive innovation in light of present development. It takes guts to create useful software platforms that last but also evolve, many companies come & go– cheers to the pioneers.

          • Dave Ault

            I do agree with the cheers for the pioneers statement. Before ST was released I took a cad part in that frequently changes and asked an SE reseller to edit it for me. They took a part created in VX and changed it in 1/4 the time I would have done it with VX. I was floored with the power to edit parts so quickly and easily and from another cad program to boot. It took me about a half hour to decide that this NEW way of doing things was for me. This is what tickles me about those that think I don’t quickly adopt new technology when it makes sense to. But it has to be usefull. For regular MCAD work, and not the 10% or so out there that involve swoopy consumer things like intricate molded parts, I can edit your SW [or others as far as that goes] part faster than you can. How revolutionary and powerfull a tool do you want? And none of the infrastructure problems brought about by web based solutions and relliance on things I can’t control.

            Insofar as portability let me mention this. Portability means a laptop to me. If the device I am going to take out in the field can’t do cad work there really is no purpose in having it is there. So my answer is that free of charge SE provides a home use license that allows me to run a second seat on my laptop. I am completely covered in my small “backbone of America” manufacturing concern and never once have to rely on trendy proven to fail way to much technology that also merely exposes my customer and I to those pesky little confidentiality breaches the web can bring. E Drawings can suffice for showing customers parts over the web if I need to.

            What I find truly amazing about all this is the propensity for unthinking endorsements that happen with all this Dassault and others cloud for cad stuff by people who are supposed to be those who create practical and reliable things for manufacture. And just how does the new way of doing things with total autonomy with SE not rate even more consideration by these “eager free to do as they please cutting edge techies” than does something that has not been shown in anything other than lab experiments in severely controlled environments like cad on the cloud? I take my laptop with total design capabilities to the CSX rail line close by and design parts waiting for trains to go by and I can do this ANYWHERE I want because I have the total freedom to do so since I am not on the cloud.

            I am amazed at how narrow minded some are about evaluating promotional hype over demonstrable capabilities and I am left shaking my head over this double standard. I would love to know what percentage of giddy cloud proponents are either resellers or employees of software companies or services wishing to get us locked up in their paradigm or wet behind the ears college grads with little practical real world design or manufacturing experience to speak of. Please let me appologise in advance for the last statement as I know that relegates me to that unthinking neanderthal class of technophobes and I would hate to offend anybody without the requisite PC appology offered in conjunction with it.

  • Anonymous

    I am pleased that Bertrand is clear with respect to Solidworks on the cloud. DS will need plenty of enthusism to get through it. I expect it to be an expensive and difficult development. The giant pitfallof this development will be an attitude that the server will have extreme speed and unlimited memory, thus the code can be a gigantic ball of crap. Of course it will be undebuggable. In addition none of the work will be useful for the desktop version.

    I hope that the B team will work on the mundane solved problems of geometry. They are not really solved. Almost all geometric features of a Solidworks model can be induced to fail. The root geometry needs to be addressed. The file structure is full of meaningless crap for deleted features. Give us one solid gold desktop version a kind of digital rose.

    I am a dinosaur. I like real reality. I cruise on my boat to desert islands in warm tropical seas. I must walk the beach, if I dont walk the beach no-one will walk the beach. I sometimes work in paradise. There is plenty of room for any who dare to leave the security of the office. There is no internet in paradise. Just slow expensive satphone communication. Too bad Solidworks files are too big to send. The bits get to travel by slow boat.

    • Rick, to your point about failure of geometric features, that is really not a SolidWorks problem. You can lay that on Siemens PLM and their Parasolid kernel that SolidWorks uses today and which they will cease to use in the new SolidWorks that they are building.

  • Anonymous

    I feel so much better knowing that Solidworks is just a candy coating on Siemens Parasolid kernel. That candy coating is a bunch of code.

    I rather suspect that sketching and relations are written by Solidworks. Projected curves are well messed up. Surfaces, sweeps and lofts fail often. Trim surfaces flip around and break. The feature tree is such a mess with consumed features. The file structure is full of garbage. So while they are fixing this they might as well remove the engine and replace it with a new design.

    I now understand why there are so few contributors to the Solidsorks ideas forum. Why try and help when Solidworks is focused on bad ideas.

    • Rick: “I rather suspect that sketching and relations are written by Solidworks.”

      That would be another component from Siemens PLM called 2D DCM. They also license 3D DCM for 3D assembly constraints.

    • Rick: “I rather suspect that sketching and relations are written by Solidworks.”

      That would be another component from Siemens PLM called 2D DCM. They also license 3D DCM for 3D assembly constraints.

  • Uwegraphics

    do it again, DS, remember the v4 to v5 migration.
    What have they learned?

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  • Dave Ault

    In regards to the cloud. I am opposed to it with the current state of technology for a number of reasons. I am also philosophicaly opposed to it in that I don’t want to be forced into having software that is a subscription model with never ending payments for use and my files somewhere beyond my control. I don’t want to be subject to bad version rollouts where I have no recourse but to use whatever it is they serve up that day. Or don’t serve up because of failures somewhere in the pipeline to me. A workstation that does all I need can be bought for $1,500.00 so there is no cost savings worth speaking of to go to the cloud. I can reiterate a ton of valid concerns that Dassault has yet to address. They have not answered one and even the idea of you can have a stand alone install or whatever else you want is not a promise because they have not said how long it will be that way.
    SW and Dassault is in my crosshairs not because I dislike the software even though I have chosen to adopt Synchronous technology which I personally find to be much more valuable than straight parametric or a cloud. They are in my crosshairs because if they can make a go of this and succeed financialy my fear is that others will follow. I mean to an MBA CPA type what could be better than forced income from the subscription cloud model as compared to yearly fees on permanant seats where a customer can tell you to go fly a kite if you treat them wrong and their files are on their computer so they can’t be held hostage. And if it is not subscription why have they not said so? They have yet to answer where do files go when if quit paying? I happen to like things the way they are now with autonomy and reliability and a permanant seat I don’t have to renew if I don’t want to for whatever reason. I give up ALL of that if for some reason I could be forced to the cloud. There is nothing Dassault says about so many of these critical things that I have to suspect either outright deceit or internal chaos so great over this can of worms they have opened that they truly have no answers yet and are hoping like heck to find some.

    You can post links all day long but to the majority of cad users, and I think I am right when I say majority, this whole cloud thing stinks and for dozens of reasons Dassault has yet to answer. Lots of smoke and mirrors but cad users are a pretty practical bunch and they want to see under the hood of a car before they buy it.

  • Christian928928

    I can definitely see the potential of working in the cloud and I am trying to fully understand all the pros and cons. I admit I still need to research this area more thoroughly but one point I am trying to understand is:

    If I am working with cloud based software will I still have access to my files and a fully functioning CAD system, based locally on my workstation, for those times the cloud is inaccessible?

    I am not trying to find negative reasons for adopting a future in the cloud but as a business owner I am concerned about what happens when I have no access to the Internet. There can be times when this does happen. For example, a car accident, storm, flood etc. damages the local phone lines that connect our factory to the telecommunications network. Thankfully these are rare occurrences but they have happened and will again in the future. Our friend Murphy and his wonderful law does tend to mean these problems occur at the worst possible time.

    Whichever system we adopt we need to remain in control of the technologies our businesses rely on. Problems such as workstations failing and power loses can and should be relatively easy to overcome but not being able to access our CAD software due to a problem outside our control is a very worrying thought.

    • There will be a day when internet connectivity becomes as affordable, reliable and available as electricity. We are not there yet, at least not here in India. But we will get there. These technologies are being developed for that time.

      • Rick McWilliams

        There is no electric power at my favorite desert islands. Worldwide high bandwidth communication can only come from satellites, these are expensive and have limited power.

        • If you don’t have electric power then you really shouldn’t be worried about internet connectivity since you will not be able to use your computer anyways. 😉

          • Anonymous

            Of course there is on board power generation. I have sufficient fuel for 8000 days of normal power consumption. It gets tougher when air conditioning is needed. In which case I usually change latitude. It is getting weird now that grid based power in the US is almost the same cost as local small diesel powered generation.

            I suppose that I could install my own cloud array of computers on board. Kind of silly for 1 seat of SolidWorks. Cloud based Solidworks may force me to focus on walking the beach, snorkeling and fishing. That is a silver lining.

    • Dave Ault

      The constantly increasing demands placed on computing power by cad programs and the related things like FEA and rendering will place huge bandwidth demands upon an infrastructure that by it’s very nature has to be driven by the typical internet user who will never place these demands upon the system. ISP’s will of course tailor their offerings to getting the best bang for their buck and so the concerns for fast reliable service to meet the standards of .001% [ OK no one really knows what percent do they but it has to be very small ] of their customers who wish to use cad on the cloud will never be met. EVER. The demands for computing power grow with every release of a cad program and so it is not a static performance number that has to be met here but a never ending constantly increasing one that by it’s very nature will always be more than public use internet services will be willing or able to provide.

      “” will take you to a list of questions RE the cloud that as of yet Dassault has to answer. The cloud is a completely unworkable thing for serious cad now and for the foreseeable future.

  • Rajeev

    I guess CAD development has completed a full circle. Long ago I have used Unigraphics running on a mainframe .. accessed through a Tektronics Graphics terminal. The whole paradigm of cloud computing is something similar. It is not necessary that the cloud be hosted through the internet .. you could always have an enterprise level cloud .. where the bandwidth and security is taken care of.

  • Guest

    I think many people are confused about cloud computing. In mcad, the more proper word is “cloud storage” which merely helps user to store/sync data to/from central server. The server ifself can be hosted on the Internet (public cloud) or the Intranet (private cloud). Hopefully, this can help some users to get the concept a bit clear.

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