Jeff Ray Clarifies SolidWorks Stand On The Cloud

In January this year, SolidWorks decided that it was time to tell their users about the work they were doing regarding CAD of the Cloud which was probably a good thing to do. What I thought was unwise was their decision to put out half baked information out there and then do absolutely nothing to reply to questions posed by their customers, partners and the media. This lead to people, myself including, reading between the lines and coming up with all sorts of conclusions, rightly or wrongly. Wherever I went and whoever I spoke to, the most common question that people asked me was “What do you make of this cloud thing that SolidWorks is doing?“. As if I was supposed to know more than they do.

In all this time, SolidWorks let the rumors and speculations run wild. Whether that was a wise thing to do or not, I leave it up to you do decide. In an earlier post titled, “The Deafening Silence From SolidWorks On The Cloud“, I wrote:

If the whole point of the deafening silence that followed the Cloud announcement at SolidWorks World 2010 was to create confusion and cast doubts on the future of SolidWorks, then the company achieved that with flying colors. If the point was to just get people talking about SolidWorks on the Cloud then they achieved that objective as well. Just that there are so many good things to talk about SolidWorks, quite frankly I don’t see the point in going through pains looking for negative press.

The main point of debate was whether SolidWorks would force their customers to move to the Cloud by removing the option of having a desktop installation like how it is today. There were a lot of statements made by SolidWorks people, some pointing in different directions. One of the most damning statements came from SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray when Ralph Grabowski asked him whether the Cloud version of SolidWorks would be the only version in the future. Jeff replied, “When the pain of the status quo becomes greater than changing, then they will.

Statements like these, especially when they were not followed up clarifications, were music to the ears of SolidWorks competitors. At first they were quiet and adopted a wait and watch approach. Then later, some started becoming more vocal about their contrary view towards the Cloud. See “PTC states its agnostic on the cult of CAD-on-the-cloud” on the DEVELOP3D blog. Today Karsten Newbury, SVP and General Manager of Velocity Series at Siemens PLM, left a comment on my blog stating:

“We currently have no plans for “pushing” our Solid Edge users to the cloud. In my view cloud technology is just that: technology. The main question really is how we as software providers can drive productivity and ease of use enhancements for our customers… [snip]… Of course we don’t mind SolidWorks talking about the cloud and scaring their users. 😉 Seriously, maybe this reminds folks that there is a great CAD alternative in the market (Solid Edge), which we (Siemens, UGS, …) honestly just haven’t marketed well in the past (working on that, but that’s a separate story).”

Some readers of this blog who happen to be long standing SolidWorks users have publicly stated that they are not going to renew their SolidWorks subscriptions. Others have mentioned similar intentions in private email conversations that I have had with them. So I know for a fact that all this has had some negative impact on the SolidWorks customer base. And I believe SolidWorks has begun to realize that because Jeff Ray wrote a piece on the SolidWorks blog the other day titled “Following up on announcements we made at SolidWorks World 2010“. If you are a SolidWorks user, I suggest you read that post in its entirety. I believe that blog post is eight month late. But nevertheless its there now.

Jeff talks about the questions that people have been asking him during the past eight months and answers them in his post. In my opinion, this is the most important one:

“People are asking if the introduction of cloud applications means the end of installed software. Rest assured—moving resources online is not an “either/or” decision. In Anaheim, we committed to supporting three platforms—the desktop, online, and mobile devices. We will continue to offer locally-installed desktop CAD, data management and validation solutions, and will allow our customers to move online only when they are ready.”

Since I was one of the people drawing conclusions from the various vague comments coming from SolidWorks for the past eight months, I think I have a responsibility to my readers to point them to this clarification by Jeff Ray, which is why I have written this post.

  • Neil

    You have a good blog here Deelip. I like the fact you are willing to do something other than publish fluffy entertainment pieces. We really need some intelligent and unbiased commentary on the world of CAD.
    In fact you do a better job of reporting on SW business than they do themselves. Unfortunately DS/SW dont seem to know what their business is so it doesnt help them explain it to others.
    The blog squad infomercial service they optimistically broadcast doesnt by design connect with their customers serious business interests and concerns.
    When there are serious matters to be put right SW management go into recluse mode which makes it even worse.
    As I commented in another thread here what Jeff has had to say in that article doesnt go anywhere near far enough to detailing what it is they are doing. It clarifies very little.
    If they are gay they should just come out and say it.
    This whole endeavour has been a complete mess.
    They had feedback fairly early in the scheme of things that ought to have told them this wasnt a goer and yet they went ahead with it anyway…or have they.. I cant tell and possibly they still dont know themselves. Totally inept and potentially ruinous.
    This is something they themselves need to take responsibility for and endure the ridicule both of their users and their competitors.
    I dare say VARS and 3rd party people like yourself also dont have SW management on their Xmas card list.
    We arent talking cloud promotions anymore we are talking rescue and resuscitation.
    Jeff probably misheard and thought the word was regurgitation.
    Am I a p***ed customer looking elsewhere? You bet.

    • Roger

      Neil, i don’t think the cloud will make any difference to SW sales for the simple reason that I don’t think any of the other vendors are any more virtuous.
      Here is my experience; a couple of years ago my Solid Edge VAR rang me up and asked me to put my hardware dongle in an envelope and send it back to them because Solid Edge were changing their licensing arrangement and from now on the license would be tied to the hard drive. I explained that I was a one man operation and designed on my workstation and then took my laptop to my clients site for editing and refinement of the design – no problem with a dongle – but how was this now going to work?
      The answer was simple, buy a floating license for x thousand pounds.
      So, without any warning whatsoever, every one-man Solid Edge user got their working practice totally screwed.

      That was 3 or 4 years ago and NOTHING has changed – it REALLY SUCKS! At least SW recognise how people work and provide a home use license.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love what SE are doing with Sync., but when they felt their revenues were being comprimised by the licensing system the user got screwed big time.

      IMO the cloud is primarliy a way to reduce piracy – so if it is successful for SW (revenue-wise) then you can be certain everyone will follow suit.

      • Dave Ault

        I can’t speak for 3 to 4 years ago with SE as I was not with them then. I can tell you that about 8 months ago I was seriously looking at other software and I think the attitude you are referring to is the same one that was alienating me. There has been a complete reversal of that bad practice by Siemens/SE and things really are not that way any more at least here in the US. I was dead serious about changing and had the demo disc of Ironcad in hand when I got a call telling me things were going to change. I agreed to stop my numerous and vitriolic posts about bad management policies dependent upon what I saw with these purported changes in the offing. I have not posted any more because the changes were exactly what was promised and more. Just as I was very critical about what was going on, and it is my right as a disgruntled customer to do so, I have an obligation to support them when they do the things I want as a customer. This is why I post now of good things and not bad as all their promises are coming true. I know things are different in the UK,AU and NZ for some reason and there are pricing standards for one country and then another for others and VAR’s are allowed to do different things. All of these are problems that are being worked on and if you have a beef with a particular VAR or policy you need to let Siemens know, they are listening.
        I have had a Home use license on my laptop for two years now so I am not sure what the problem is you are having in that area.

        I left VX as my primary CAD program 2 years ago because I was unhappy with shortfalls in capabilities and felt that my concerns were not being met and were not important to VX Corp. It is not nice to contemplate leaving time, work and money behind when you look at switching. I like what Neil says about the ball and chain and yoke as I have been there twice in the last 3 years. Once with VX and once with SE early this year. I like what I see with SE now and I am doing my best to see that what is going on continues to go on. It is great to not be angry and not be looking elsewhere any more.

        I agree totally that piracy is one of the chief reasons for SW to be looking at forcing people to be all the way or part of the way on the cloud and once again paying customers are punished for the sins of others. And as many have said there will no doubt be extra expenses somewhere in this as it is a CPA MBA mindset that is driving this whole thing and not one concerned with actual paying users.
        It is strange to see SE rushing away from bad practices and customer relations and a company like SW/DSS rushing into them. Kind of makes you wonder why John McEleney stepped down.

      • Cameron

        Except there are loads of Mac-loving product designers who do 3D and would love to do it on a MacBook Air instead of a tower or PC laptop…

    • Neil, I simply call things how I see them. Nothing more, nothing less.

      • Neil

        Well I appreciate it. Its like a breath of fresh air to step outside of the SW user environment and find other people pretty much see things the way I do.
        After quite a few years as a SW user I actually think it would do me good to get away from it…

  • Quin

    Im really exited to see what SolidWorks is going to do with the cloud, imagine “renting” Flow Simulation for a week without paying huge $$$. Cant wait to see whats around the corner !

    • Neil

      Quin I think we will see quite a few gushing posts like yours planted over the internet over the next wee while. Unfortunately the vast majority of SW customers dont share your enthusiasm. They arrived at their position after thinking for themselves.
      If I had some words of advice for SW management at this point it would be to fess up to your customers with full and proper info rather than propagate feel-good BS in the hopes of turning the crowd.
      It really is that serious for the company.

  • Roger

    Unless Siemens is keeping it a secret from my VAR, home use license is only available in US.

    • Dave Ault

      I don’t know because I have never had to ask for a license outside the US. Would you like for me to inquire further on this?

  • chad

    It’s not just “cloud” based that is so powerful but how you will interact with your models. If I recall correctly there was mention that you use no files? This in itself tells me that it will be more database centric. Automatically making it highly collaborative for data extraction. Dessualt systemes is not being quiet for so long for nothing. I think they want to distance them selves from the competition when this technology comes out and see how long it takes the competition to duplicate their technology.

    • Neil

      Well they are about as far away as anyone could be…we’ll lose sight of them soon…and some of us say good riddance 🙂
      I would love to be in the position to track IP addresses to see how SW propogate their comeback on the net.

  • Rick McWilliams

    Jeff Ray certainly clairified that the cloud is fuzzy, fluffy, without form, or substance. I think that the only use is for sharing models and specific high power tasks like FEA and Flow simulation for large models. I would not consider using a cloud based system for actual modeling. I will not subscribe to SW until the cloud is cleared.