SolidWorks As A Service – Part 5

Here are the links to Part 1,Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

In this concluding part I am going to talk about what will really happen when (not if) SolidWorks as a Service comes to pass.

You can forget the notion that you will be able to simply fire up a browser, point it to a url, log in and start doing 3D modeling. A server farm is not going to have thousands of servers having SolidWorks installations doing the modeling in the cloud for you, while you sit at a browser on any computer in the world and mouse around.

Since SolidWorks is not really telling us what it actually means by SaaS, we are left to guess, which just happens to be my favorite pass time. The key lies in the last point that I quoted in Devon’s post in Part 1:

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.

The “when SolidWorks is hosted” should actually read, “when SolidWorks licensing is hosted“. Basically, I believe you will still need to download and install the same old mamoth SolidWorks installer (which happens to grow larger every release) on your computer. The only difference being that that you need to be connected to the internet while you are modeling, just like you need to do when your are using an instant messenger like Skype. This mandatory internet connection will open up a range of possibilities such as realtime collaboration with other users, offloading resource intensive tasks like analysis to another computer or server and a whole lot more. But I do not believe that the core modeling is leaving your computer anytime soon. What I mean is that if you start a shell command, SolidWorks is not going to send your instruction to a server where your model will be shelled and then shown to you, at least not in the forseeable future. Don’t get me wrong. This is not impossible. In is definitely possible even today, but not to the extent that you have thousands of users working all at once.

Frankly, I look upon this talk about SaaS in CAD as an alternative business model for the CAD vendors. First we had CAD vendors selling permanent licenses and that was it. Then came this “wonderful” thing called subscription, something without which some vendors deny their customers service packs and even bug fixes, which I believe is pathetic. And now we have this thing called SaaS which is being glorified and twisted to mean whatever the respective marketing department wants it to mean.

The way I see it, SaaS in the CAD world is going to become another PLM. Everyone is going to give it their own meaning depending upon how their tweak their revenue model to suit it. For example first thing tomorrow morning, I could start offering all my file import and export plug-ins under SaaS. All I need to do is modify them to connect to a database on my server and increment a count before the user imports or exports a file. Then bill the user based upon the number of files he has imported or exported for a month. This is not SaaS. Saas would be hosting my file conversion software on my server and giving the user an interface (browser or otherwise) to talk to my server side software, where the actual conversion happens.

Actually the SolidWorks installations on the servers in the server farm that I spoke about in my previous posts in this series were just to put my message across. In a true Saas environment, these would most probably be low level Parasolid based applications without a GUI running off the servers that take a user’s 3D data and process it based upon instructions they received as input. Not real SolidWorks installations like the one you download and install on your computer. But I believe that even this is not what SolidWorks users will see in the immediate future.

With the current and foreseeable state of hardware and internet connectivity, the applications that I feel can be offered under SaaS are things like lightweight business applications. For example, you can create a web based version of an accounting program and offer it under a pay-as-you-go system, which is essentially what SaaS is all about. But to say that we are going to have servers do solid modeling for us is, for the nth time, is completely nuts.

  • Matt Lombard

    The licensing for SW has been web-based (activation) since 2007. It doesn’t require an active internet connection to run the software, but it does to activate the license, just like Microsoft.

  • Matt Lombard

    The licensing for SW has been web-based (activation) since 2007. It doesn’t require an active internet connection to run the software, but it does to activate the license, just like Microsoft.

  • Matt,

    True. So its pretty easy to switch to an always online system. Like I said, I could do it to my products tomorrow morning.

  • Matt,

    True. So its pretty easy to switch to an always online system. Like I said, I could do it to my products tomorrow morning.

  • Cristian

    Future users of solidworks should be glad your not the C.E.O. of solidworks. Imagine if you had been around in the days writting blogs about how crazy jon hirshtick was saying he was nuts for thinking high end cad (your words from one of your parts) would someday run on a desktop pc instead of some super work station. Would you have also said solidworks was crasy when they decided to try to make complicated fea software run on the same pc?

    Your close mindedness and inability to look outside the box are two big reasons any company would ever need to keep you from charting it’s future course. How long ago was it that a 100mb hard drive seemed unreal? How about wondering what in the world we would ever need 512mb of ram for? A pentium 4? Who will need all that processing power? And lets not forget internet connection speeds. I remember buying a 14400 modem because my 9600 modem was too late.

    We could go on and on about how quickly the computing world has changed in just the last ten years. I bet there were critics out there like you calling all these innovators nuts at the time too, and thankfully they blew rigt pas the likes of you and innovated anyways, and the consummer is gratefull for that.

    You do a great job of always assuming what a company is thinking, yet you have nothing to go on but some general statements. In this situation you use those statements to draw up a five part post where you basically invent your own fantasy of what solidworks is going to do with this, and not one bit of it can be connected to exactly what they may or MAY NOT be doing. And at the end after laying out your fantasy, you say solidworks is nuts for doing it. It’s almost like giving a restruant a bad review before it opens, or saying a movie is terrible before they has even shot a scene.

    Regardless if I think software as a service is usefull or not, one thing can be counted on. Solidworks has a pretty good track record of developing cutting edge technology, and if there is a company out there that can make this sort of thng happen, I think they can. If in the end they see it’s not feasable I bet they would just sit on the technology until it can be.

    In this case, I think it’s you who is just nuts.

  • Cristian

    Future users of solidworks should be glad your not the C.E.O. of solidworks. Imagine if you had been around in the days writting blogs about how crazy jon hirshtick was saying he was nuts for thinking high end cad (your words from one of your parts) would someday run on a desktop pc instead of some super work station. Would you have also said solidworks was crasy when they decided to try to make complicated fea software run on the same pc?

    Your close mindedness and inability to look outside the box are two big reasons any company would ever need to keep you from charting it’s future course. How long ago was it that a 100mb hard drive seemed unreal? How about wondering what in the world we would ever need 512mb of ram for? A pentium 4? Who will need all that processing power? And lets not forget internet connection speeds. I remember buying a 14400 modem because my 9600 modem was too late.

    We could go on and on about how quickly the computing world has changed in just the last ten years. I bet there were critics out there like you calling all these innovators nuts at the time too, and thankfully they blew rigt pas the likes of you and innovated anyways, and the consummer is gratefull for that.

    You do a great job of always assuming what a company is thinking, yet you have nothing to go on but some general statements. In this situation you use those statements to draw up a five part post where you basically invent your own fantasy of what solidworks is going to do with this, and not one bit of it can be connected to exactly what they may or MAY NOT be doing. And at the end after laying out your fantasy, you say solidworks is nuts for doing it. It’s almost like giving a restruant a bad review before it opens, or saying a movie is terrible before they has even shot a scene.

    Regardless if I think software as a service is usefull or not, one thing can be counted on. Solidworks has a pretty good track record of developing cutting edge technology, and if there is a company out there that can make this sort of thng happen, I think they can. If in the end they see it’s not feasable I bet they would just sit on the technology until it can be.

    In this case, I think it’s you who is just nuts.

  • Four words:

    T-Mobile. Sidekick. Danger. Microsoft.

  • Four words:

    T-Mobile. Sidekick. Danger. Microsoft.

  • Cristian,

    Maybe you did not read the part where I said:

    “Don’t get me wrong. This is not impossible. In is definitely possible even today, but not to the extent that you have thousands of users working all at once.”

    Or maybe this part:

    “With the current and forseeable state of hardware and internet connectivty, the applications that I feel can be offerred under SaaS are things like lightweight business applications.”

    I am talking about the present and what I believe is possible with the current hardware and internet connectivity. I have said absolutely nothing about the far future.

    BTW, about me being nuts, I have absolutely no doubt about that.

  • Cristian,

    Maybe you did not read the part where I said:

    “Don’t get me wrong. This is not impossible. In is definitely possible even today, but not to the extent that you have thousands of users working all at once.”

    Or maybe this part:

    “With the current and forseeable state of hardware and internet connectivty, the applications that I feel can be offerred under SaaS are things like lightweight business applications.”

    I am talking about the present and what I believe is possible with the current hardware and internet connectivity. I have said absolutely nothing about the far future.

    BTW, about me being nuts, I have absolutely no doubt about that.

  • Matt Lombard

    Cristian:
    With any new application, you have to ask not just “can it be done”, but also “is it any advantage”. If you are old enough to remember the Dot Com Bubble crash of 2000-2002, you know that the old mantra “build it and they will come” is not always true. Just because something doesn’t exist today does not mean that it will be a success tomorrow.

    Deelip is a software developer, and has a pretty good sense of what it takes to develop software. His guesses are educated guesses, and are often on the mark. Using the words “SaaS” and “SolidWorks” in the same sentence gives a pretty good indication of what they are talking about.

    SolidWorks has a pretty good track record of developing flops. They also have developed some successes, but there are a lot of flops, including in the web-based applications area. Remember 3D Instant Website? 3D Meeting? PartStream.Net? Web Folders? SolidWorks does not have any guarantee that their ideas will fly, and especially web-based ideas.

    Deelip is expressing an opinion backed up by his experience in the industry. Your qualifications to critique his analysis are unclear.

  • Matt Lombard

    Cristian:
    With any new application, you have to ask not just “can it be done”, but also “is it any advantage”. If you are old enough to remember the Dot Com Bubble crash of 2000-2002, you know that the old mantra “build it and they will come” is not always true. Just because something doesn’t exist today does not mean that it will be a success tomorrow.

    Deelip is a software developer, and has a pretty good sense of what it takes to develop software. His guesses are educated guesses, and are often on the mark. Using the words “SaaS” and “SolidWorks” in the same sentence gives a pretty good indication of what they are talking about.

    SolidWorks has a pretty good track record of developing flops. They also have developed some successes, but there are a lot of flops, including in the web-based applications area. Remember 3D Instant Website? 3D Meeting? PartStream.Net? Web Folders? SolidWorks does not have any guarantee that their ideas will fly, and especially web-based ideas.

    Deelip is expressing an opinion backed up by his experience in the industry. Your qualifications to critique his analysis are unclear.

  • Matt,

    I do have to agree with Cristian. Deelip has written 5 posts of speculation.

    But what’s implicit in his comments is something that you hit on the head: “SolidWorks has a “pretty good record of developing flops.”

    This is, by the way, a characteristic common to many of the most successful software developers.

    It’s not going to be easy for SolidWorks to develop a SaaS CAD application that will be good enough to really make their customer base happy. Two reasons: First is that the technical challenge is really big. Second is that SolidWorks users are, as a group, hardcore demanding.

  • Matt,

    I do have to agree with Cristian. Deelip has written 5 posts of speculation.

    But what’s implicit in his comments is something that you hit on the head: “SolidWorks has a “pretty good record of developing flops.”

    This is, by the way, a characteristic common to many of the most successful software developers.

    It’s not going to be easy for SolidWorks to develop a SaaS CAD application that will be good enough to really make their customer base happy. Two reasons: First is that the technical challenge is really big. Second is that SolidWorks users are, as a group, hardcore demanding.

  • Evan: “Deelip has written 5 posts of speculation.”

    … which somehow matches the speculation of someone like Jon Hirschtick. Read http://www.deelip.com/?p=598

    I’d say I’m becoming pretty good at this speculation thing. 😉

  • Evan: “Deelip has written 5 posts of speculation.”

    … which somehow matches the speculation of someone like Jon Hirschtick. Read http://www.deelip.com/?p=598

    I’d say I’m becoming pretty good at this speculation thing. 😉

  • Always to see a good rant against someone expressing an opinion and in this instance, I couldn’t agree with Matt more (a rare thing indeed).

    There’s a lot of potential in SaaS, but for the large dataset driven, heavy calculation world of 3D design and manufacturing, it’s further out than many may think. It’ll happen and for financial reasons (channel removal means greater margins for the OEM) primarily, not for the benefit of the user.

    At present, there is a world of hefty bloated software that’s finally starting to take shape into something more elegant as vendors seem to back away from new gimcracks, bells and whistles and concentrate on improving what their systems do now. That needs to continue and spread, it’s something that’s been long needed and long requested.

    And just for the record, the launch of SolidWorks wasn’t a revolution in the technological sense. Not at all. Yes, it was one of the first major successes on the Windows platform, but that was down to good timing, marketing, a solid channel sales model built and populated by veterans of the industry that had ‘been there and done it’ and wanted to improve things.

    The technology itself was by no means revolutionary. Yes, the company has gone on to do some very interesting and often unique or innovative things, but the early success was down to a good idea that was VERY well executed.

    Oh – and Deelip – LOVING the rambling nature of this post. You should do it in green type mate 😉

    Al

  • Kevin Quigley

    The important question is WHY? Why would a user want or need Cloud CAD? Today I ordered a new macBook pro. 17″ screen, 500GB hard drive, etc etc. For less than I paid for an entry level mac laptop 10 years ago.

    My point is, computing hardware marches on at breakneck speed – monster hard drives, huge RAM, graphics etc. Apps like SolidWorks can be built to handle and exploit that.

    Yet here I am crawling at home on a 2MB broadband connection watching pages slowly appear. In the office I have a dedicated 8MB line but it is still not instantaneous.

    Internet access is not 100% reliable anywhere. Licensing activation is one thing – running a CAD app over it is quite another. What is the point in having hardware that is 1000x greater than NASA used to get to the moon if we are restricted to using apps that require unreliable technology?

    The day SolidWorks switches to a cloud app is the day I cease to become a SolidWorks customer.

  • Kevin Quigley

    The important question is WHY? Why would a user want or need Cloud CAD? Today I ordered a new macBook pro. 17″ screen, 500GB hard drive, etc etc. For less than I paid for an entry level mac laptop 10 years ago.

    My point is, computing hardware marches on at breakneck speed – monster hard drives, huge RAM, graphics etc. Apps like SolidWorks can be built to handle and exploit that.

    Yet here I am crawling at home on a 2MB broadband connection watching pages slowly appear. In the office I have a dedicated 8MB line but it is still not instantaneous.

    Internet access is not 100% reliable anywhere. Licensing activation is one thing – running a CAD app over it is quite another. What is the point in having hardware that is 1000x greater than NASA used to get to the moon if we are restricted to using apps that require unreliable technology?

    The day SolidWorks switches to a cloud app is the day I cease to become a SolidWorks customer.

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Deelip,
    Guess work, speculation, crystal ball or navel gazing, your comments in these five post have been interestingly spelt out; and in the main I would agree.

    Predictably I am going to add a twist that is tied to the licensing and that twist is that any ‘work in the cloud is and enormous leap of trust’. Trust (or the lack of) forms the basis of most, if not all business transactions, at all levels. Trust is controlled and measured constantly when dealing with people and it is done many ways.

    Placing design IP in the hands of another is a leap of faith and trust I believe is simply a level none of us should move toward. Even discounting the dangers it requires the other parties to FULLY ACCEPT a level of responsibility they will NOT be prepared to accept. This is not a guess it is a fact and can be seen even now in reading the licencing terms and conditions that currently exist.

    As a further demonstration of why CAD developers are not to be trusted just look at the level of intrusions that currently exists with Trojan software embedded in CAD applications that are removing data from users machines without their knowledge. In my personal experience dealing with Autodesk they will not even allow me to validate data they are attempting to take off my systems and while they are refusing to allow scrutiny of their actions they want me to believe they can be trusted. How foolish do they think we designers and draughties are?

    I would probably consider switching tomorrow, away from Autodesk, for personal CAD work, if I could find a software developer that could demonstrate a level of honesty and trust that matches the level of trust they seem to think we customers should place in them.

    If there is a CEO of any company who can demonstrate their trustworthiness and who can answer the questions, I ask, that Autodesk won’t answer I would be happy to hear from h/er/im. But until that time it would not matter how good the ‘cloud’ might be, I’m with you Deelip, it’s nuts.

    Argument improves most thing: Cristian’s spray is somewhat off beat and useless; from where I sit he is not offering argument to support his view only a ‘gut feeling’, he is placing a level of trust in the Solidworks that would be difficult for him to demonstrate or support. I would be very interested to see just what levels of trust Cristian is prepared to put in another’s hands when dealing with his IP?

    I trust many I deal with – Autodesk is not one – and the reason I can trust those I do is because there exist an ability, for both parties, to validate the actions of the other. I am not one to say ‘never’, or ‘it could never be done’ but I am prepared to say this; I will go to my grave (and several generations after me will) and it is highly unlikely any person promoting the ‘cloud’ will, in my time or after, ever be able to demonstrate the level of trust necessary to make the process work for every users benefits and with complete safety.

    “Just because we can does not mean we should” is very true and if trust cannot be proven then in reality we never should go down this road.

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Deelip,
    Guess work, speculation, crystal ball or navel gazing, your comments in these five post have been interestingly spelt out; and in the main I would agree.

    Predictably I am going to add a twist that is tied to the licensing and that twist is that any ‘work in the cloud is and enormous leap of trust’. Trust (or the lack of) forms the basis of most, if not all business transactions, at all levels. Trust is controlled and measured constantly when dealing with people and it is done many ways.

    Placing design IP in the hands of another is a leap of faith and trust I believe is simply a level none of us should move toward. Even discounting the dangers it requires the other parties to FULLY ACCEPT a level of responsibility they will NOT be prepared to accept. This is not a guess it is a fact and can be seen even now in reading the licencing terms and conditions that currently exist.

    As a further demonstration of why CAD developers are not to be trusted just look at the level of intrusions that currently exists with Trojan software embedded in CAD applications that are removing data from users machines without their knowledge. In my personal experience dealing with Autodesk they will not even allow me to validate data they are attempting to take off my systems and while they are refusing to allow scrutiny of their actions they want me to believe they can be trusted. How foolish do they think we designers and draughties are?

    I would probably consider switching tomorrow, away from Autodesk, for personal CAD work, if I could find a software developer that could demonstrate a level of honesty and trust that matches the level of trust they seem to think we customers should place in them.

    If there is a CEO of any company who can demonstrate their trustworthiness and who can answer the questions, I ask, that Autodesk won’t answer I would be happy to hear from h/er/im. But until that time it would not matter how good the ‘cloud’ might be, I’m with you Deelip, it’s nuts.

    Argument improves most thing: Cristian’s spray is somewhat off beat and useless; from where I sit he is not offering argument to support his view only a ‘gut feeling’, he is placing a level of trust in the Solidworks that would be difficult for him to demonstrate or support. I would be very interested to see just what levels of trust Cristian is prepared to put in another’s hands when dealing with his IP?

    I trust many I deal with – Autodesk is not one – and the reason I can trust those I do is because there exist an ability, for both parties, to validate the actions of the other. I am not one to say ‘never’, or ‘it could never be done’ but I am prepared to say this; I will go to my grave (and several generations after me will) and it is highly unlikely any person promoting the ‘cloud’ will, in my time or after, ever be able to demonstrate the level of trust necessary to make the process work for every users benefits and with complete safety.

    “Just because we can does not mean we should” is very true and if trust cannot be proven then in reality we never should go down this road.

  • “A server farm is not going to have thousands of servers having SolidWorks installations doing the modeling in the cloud for you, while you sit at a browser on any computer in the world and mouse around.”

    I would like to mention that our patented application, SITEOPS, is a SaaS CAD product for land development, capable of stepping through millions of iterations of a site within the parameters you provide, and then coming up with the least expensive options. The heavy lifting (optimization, in our case) IS done by algorithms running on servers in a secured data facility, and our users enjoy exactly the freedom you talk about – logging on via the internet with no installations needed. It is not a competitive product for SolidWorks but it is a hosted, intelligent CAD product.

    Visit our site and sit in on a webinar if you want to see some truly revolutionary generative design software, and definitely the future of CAD.

  • “A server farm is not going to have thousands of servers having SolidWorks installations doing the modeling in the cloud for you, while you sit at a browser on any computer in the world and mouse around.”

    I would like to mention that our patented application, SITEOPS, is a SaaS CAD product for land development, capable of stepping through millions of iterations of a site within the parameters you provide, and then coming up with the least expensive options. The heavy lifting (optimization, in our case) IS done by algorithms running on servers in a secured data facility, and our users enjoy exactly the freedom you talk about – logging on via the internet with no installations needed. It is not a competitive product for SolidWorks but it is a hosted, intelligent CAD product.

    Visit our site and sit in on a webinar if you want to see some truly revolutionary generative design software, and definitely the future of CAD.

  • Always to see a good rant against someone expressing an opinion and in this instance, I couldn't agree with Matt more (a rare thing indeed).

    There's a lot of potential in SaaS, but for the large dataset driven, heavy calculation world of 3D design and manufacturing, it's further out than many may think. It'll happen and for financial reasons (channel removal means greater margins for the OEM) primarily, not for the benefit of the user.

    At present, there is a world of hefty bloated software that's finally starting to take shape into something more elegant as vendors seem to back away from new gimcracks, bells and whistles and concentrate on improving what their systems do now. That needs to continue and spread, it's something that's been long needed and long requested.

    And just for the record, the launch of SolidWorks wasn't a revolution in the technological sense. Not at all. Yes, it was one of the first major successes on the Windows platform, but that was down to good timing, marketing, a solid channel sales model built and populated by veterans of the industry that had 'been there and done it' and wanted to improve things.

    The technology itself was by no means revolutionary. Yes, the company has gone on to do some very interesting and often unique or innovative things, but the early success was down to a good idea that was VERY well executed.

    Oh – and Deelip – LOVING the rambling nature of this post. You should do it in green type mate 😉

    Al