SolidWorks As A Service – Part 1

Yesterday I chanced upon this post by SolidWorks blogger Devon Sowell, wherein he quotes some things that SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray said in June about Software As A Service. These are the points that struck me.

SolidWorks & SaaS (Software as a service (SaaS, typically pronounced ‘sass’) is a model of software deployment where an application is hosted as a service provided); this is coming.

Once SolidWorks is “on the cloud” (SaaS), your designs will be “live” and “on” all the time. No need for File Open, no need for Check In and Check Out. Just like video game environments.

Service Based Charges; when SolidWorks is hosted SaaS, SolidWorks is considering working towards Service Based Charges, for example; pay a fee, based on time, to use a SolidWorks application.

I decided to get it straight from the horse’s mouth and so sent Jeff an email. I joked with him:

Are you saying that a user will be able to run SolidWorks on a remote server similar to how a user uses BluePrint Now. Just so that you know I think the idea is completely nuts ;-). Could you put me through to someone who thinks otherwise?

Jeff put me through to Laura Kozikowski, Strategic Brand Manager, who in turn put me through to Matthew West, Social Media Manager. I would have preferred to be directed to someone on the technical side of things, but I guess SolidWorks is smart not to let their technical staff too close to nosy people like me, as can be seen from Matthew’s response:

Jeff would prefer not to elaborate further, and rather note that we’re constantly looking at all available technologies, focusing on the best ones for the needs of the design community.

Of course, I did not expect SolidWorks to spell out exactly how they planned on putting SolidWorks “on the cloud”. But in time I intend to spell out on this blog why I think the idea maybe completely nuts. In the meanwhile, if you have anything to say about this, please do leave a comment.

  • I could point out examples that would seem to make cloud computing seem problematic — such as the recent failure of the Microsoft/Danger servers, which lost all of the data belonging to T-Mobile Sidekick users. Yet, I can’t point out any examples that are not inherently implementation issues.

    Ultimately, I’m left having a hard time finding a reason to dismiss the idea as “completely nuts.”

    I do think, however, that the ability of SolidWorks to deliver such a service in practice, and avoid serious pitfalls in implementation, is going to be inherently tied to both architecture and object model issues.

    Dassault may already have many of the technology pieces necessary to do a cloud-based solid modeler. (I’m thinking particularly of the technology that’s currently sold under the 3DVIA name.)

    I wouldn’t necessarily expect that SolidWorks would deliver a cloud-based clone of what they currently deliver in a box. Nor would I expect that it would work analogously to Blueprint Now.

    But it’s all speculation, isn’t it?

  • I could point out examples that would seem to make cloud computing seem problematic — such as the recent failure of the Microsoft/Danger servers, which lost all of the data belonging to T-Mobile Sidekick users. Yet, I can’t point out any examples that are not inherently implementation issues.

    Ultimately, I’m left having a hard time finding a reason to dismiss the idea as “completely nuts.”

    I do think, however, that the ability of SolidWorks to deliver such a service in practice, and avoid serious pitfalls in implementation, is going to be inherently tied to both architecture and object model issues.

    Dassault may already have many of the technology pieces necessary to do a cloud-based solid modeler. (I’m thinking particularly of the technology that’s currently sold under the 3DVIA name.)

    I wouldn’t necessarily expect that SolidWorks would deliver a cloud-based clone of what they currently deliver in a box. Nor would I expect that it would work analogously to Blueprint Now.

    But it’s all speculation, isn’t it?

  • Matt Lombard

    Wow, that’s bad form for SW to pass you off to so many people, especially when you end up as far from the information you seek as you could possibly get. And the answer is that same blow-off answer that echoes at user group meetings and what not.

    Ray wasn’t the first to talk this sort of nonsense. There have been hints for years of CAD running across the web as the best way to share data. I think before the actual infrastructure arrives, people will smarten up and realize that just because you “can” doesn’t mean you necessarily “should”. Recent Microsoft Sidekick failure throws a wet blanket on cloud aspirations, and Autodesk’s recent experiment with running AutoCAD as a service has not been met with great enthusiasm, from what I have seen.

    I think SW likes to titillate the future addicts, and making vague references to SW in the cloud certainly does that. But I think the reality he was talking about is much more humble. If you go to the SolidWorks Labs site, you will see several tools for data sharing which are web based tools. I think this usage of the cloud is appropriate. I do not believe that putting an organization’s complete body of intellectual property on-line is an idea that anyone is going to take very seriously. In addition to the bloated data, CAD software is getting immensely complex, and unless this trend reverses itself, it is highly unlikely that infrastructure will catch up with code bloat.

  • Matt Lombard

    Wow, that’s bad form for SW to pass you off to so many people, especially when you end up as far from the information you seek as you could possibly get. And the answer is that same blow-off answer that echoes at user group meetings and what not.

    Ray wasn’t the first to talk this sort of nonsense. There have been hints for years of CAD running across the web as the best way to share data. I think before the actual infrastructure arrives, people will smarten up and realize that just because you “can” doesn’t mean you necessarily “should”. Recent Microsoft Sidekick failure throws a wet blanket on cloud aspirations, and Autodesk’s recent experiment with running AutoCAD as a service has not been met with great enthusiasm, from what I have seen.

    I think SW likes to titillate the future addicts, and making vague references to SW in the cloud certainly does that. But I think the reality he was talking about is much more humble. If you go to the SolidWorks Labs site, you will see several tools for data sharing which are web based tools. I think this usage of the cloud is appropriate. I do not believe that putting an organization’s complete body of intellectual property on-line is an idea that anyone is going to take very seriously. In addition to the bloated data, CAD software is getting immensely complex, and unless this trend reverses itself, it is highly unlikely that infrastructure will catch up with code bloat.

  • Deelip,

    I’m interested to hear your opinions. I can definitely see SaaS as an option of working with SolidWorks in the future. I can think of situations where SaaS will absolutely not work or not be an ideal model, but it could still be an option for some users.

    Technologically, it should not be much of an issue to run a CAD application such as SolidWorks as SaaS… If OnLive (http://www.onlive.com/) can work at delivering high-end games in a SaaS flavor, CAD should not be that difficult to get up and running (I wrote about this on my blog back in April – http://www.cadfanatic.com/2009/04/onlive-unveils-gaming-on-demand-will-cad-other-apps-follow/).

    And Jeff Ray is not the first from SolidWorks I’ve heard speak of this; maybe you should have emailed Jon Hirschtick. He spoke of looking into SaaS at SolidWorks World 2009 during his Tuesday keynote this past February in Orlando.

    Brian

  • Deelip,

    I’m interested to hear your opinions. I can definitely see SaaS as an option of working with SolidWorks in the future. I can think of situations where SaaS will absolutely not work or not be an ideal model, but it could still be an option for some users.

    Technologically, it should not be much of an issue to run a CAD application such as SolidWorks as SaaS… If OnLive (http://www.onlive.com/) can work at delivering high-end games in a SaaS flavor, CAD should not be that difficult to get up and running (I wrote about this on my blog back in April – http://www.cadfanatic.com/2009/04/onlive-unveils-gaming-on-demand-will-cad-other-apps-follow/).

    And Jeff Ray is not the first from SolidWorks I’ve heard speak of this; maybe you should have emailed Jon Hirschtick. He spoke of looking into SaaS at SolidWorks World 2009 during his Tuesday keynote this past February in Orlando.

    Brian

  • Hi, Deelip!
    There’s CAD-online service: http://www.cad-online.ru
    KOMPAS-3D provided via internet. It’s not SaaS, because the service is free (after mandatory registration). It’s better than trial version – all you need is an internet browser. You can use almost all functionality of KOMPAS-3D: create parts, assemblies, BOM ect. All files are stored on server. Unfortunately this service is provided only for russian-speaking users. But if you want to try it I can give you login and password.

    Alexander

  • Hi, Deelip!
    There’s CAD-online service: http://www.cad-online.ru
    KOMPAS-3D provided via internet. It’s not SaaS, because the service is free (after mandatory registration). It’s better than trial version – all you need is an internet browser. You can use almost all functionality of KOMPAS-3D: create parts, assemblies, BOM ect. All files are stored on server. Unfortunately this service is provided only for russian-speaking users. But if you want to try it I can give you login and password.

    Alexander

  • Anonymous

    I heard solidworks representative talking about this being one of the great future trends. will see…

  • Anonymous

    I heard solidworks representative talking about this being one of the great future trends. will see…

  • Deelip, good post to get people thinking.

    Matt, you are practical as always. Still, as you point out, CAD is complex and there is so much data that goes around it. Having all the data in one place (cloud?) in kind of a pendulum swing back to the old days of CAD does have its advantages.

    Distributed data creates bottlenecks despite the ever increasing increase of network speed. Maybe we don’t have to push all the actual CAD data around, just different views into that data.

    I certainly do agree there are lots of practical issues to address (like backups!) before this ever happens.

  • Deelip, good post to get people thinking.

    Matt, you are practical as always. Still, as you point out, CAD is complex and there is so much data that goes around it. Having all the data in one place (cloud?) in kind of a pendulum swing back to the old days of CAD does have its advantages.

    Distributed data creates bottlenecks despite the ever increasing increase of network speed. Maybe we don’t have to push all the actual CAD data around, just different views into that data.

    I certainly do agree there are lots of practical issues to address (like backups!) before this ever happens.

  • great stuff Deelip. I’ve read the pentaverate of post you’ve put together and yeap, I agree with a lot of it. what it comes down to is this. Currently SaaS doesn’t make sense for cad programs. That doesn’t it mean it won’t though. It’s easy to point to the problems of accessing anything via a server. (I do it as a cad admin every week.) That’s here. That’s now. a frame of reference, all but the space-folding of us are confined to.

    Still, I have high hopes that, somehow hardware/software technologies will be a wee bit different in a few years. maybe it’s quantum states or latency spin-drives or some other fancy word. maybe it’s just being able to use cad untethered.

    Whatever it is, I’m glad you’re bringing it the topic.

  • great stuff Deelip. I’ve read the pentaverate of post you’ve put together and yeap, I agree with a lot of it. what it comes down to is this. Currently SaaS doesn’t make sense for cad programs. That doesn’t it mean it won’t though. It’s easy to point to the problems of accessing anything via a server. (I do it as a cad admin every week.) That’s here. That’s now. a frame of reference, all but the space-folding of us are confined to.

    Still, I have high hopes that, somehow hardware/software technologies will be a wee bit different in a few years. maybe it’s quantum states or latency spin-drives or some other fancy word. maybe it’s just being able to use cad untethered.

    Whatever it is, I’m glad you’re bringing it the topic.

  • by the way, for a great example of some high-end online apps, check out… http://aviary.com/

    a year ago, not all possible.

  • by the way, for a great example of some high-end online apps, check out… http://aviary.com/

    a year ago, not all possible.

  • Dan Bertschi

    I agree with the infrastructure comments, and can state that most companies have enough challenges keeping their own multi-site networks going, not to mention being ‘cloud compatible’.
    The IP lawyers will definitely be all over this one, Matt. It will be interesting to see how it develops.
    Will the cost/time be less than a current license & subscription being used year round?
    Technology aside… I think this paradigm shift will be a hard sell…

  • Dan Bertschi

    I agree with the infrastructure comments, and can state that most companies have enough challenges keeping their own multi-site networks going, not to mention being ‘cloud compatible’.
    The IP lawyers will definitely be all over this one, Matt. It will be interesting to see how it develops.
    Will the cost/time be less than a current license & subscription being used year round?
    Technology aside… I think this paradigm shift will be a hard sell…

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