Some Thoughts On CAD On The Cloud

My keynote speech on the future of CAD at the Bricsys 2010 Conference in Bruges, Belgium, led to a few interesting discussions at the conference and comments on this blog. One person asked me jokingly, “Do you say all these things just to provoke people?” Come to think of it, I don’t think he was joking after all. 😉

At the outset, no matter what you think about me and my views, I must tell you that I am as uncomfortable as most people about CAD moving to the Cloud. However, I believe that the future almost never looks anything like the present. If it were then we would still be using drafting boards and writing letters to each other instead of emails. Also, my observations/views/predictions are not based on any confidential information that I have received from any CAD vendor regarding what they are doing with the Cloud. They are purely based upon how CAD vendors have acted in the past, are acting at present and will/may continue to act in the future.

One of the things I mentioned in my speech was the versionless face of CAD in the Cloud. I pointed that that there was only one version of Gmail and Google Docs, the version currently running on the Google servers. I got a few comments about that.

Bob Mayer of IMSI/Design commented: “Deelip – not sure that I completely agree with the notion that computing on the cloud will be ‘versionless’. While subscribers will always have the most current version of the application, the models and drawings created over time will change in structure as the application evolves. So, in this sense developers of cloud applications will need to insure backwards compatibility with the content previously created. And, of course, there will be continued interoperability issues with consumers of this cloud-created content, when it is used by other desktop CAD apps., as well as other cloud-based cloud apps.”

Here is the thing. In cloud computing, the data resides in the cloud where the computing occurs. So when the software is updated the vendor will automatically port all the old data created by users to the new format. This is what happens in Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter and everything that happens in the cloud. Do you even know or care which version of Facebook you are running? If a user imports some old offline data that he created long ago into the cloud, that data will be converted to the latest version.

Dietmar Rudolph didn’t quite like that scenario. He commented, “… and of course they ensure that such an automatic conversion will keep your data 100% intact, that no outdated objects are lost and that approved designs still are approved.

Frankly, I don’t see how this is very different from what CAD vendors do today with their offline software. When you open an AutoCAD 2007 DWG file into AutoCAD and save to 2010, AutoCAD does the needful and migrates the old data to the new way that it has been defined. The same thing will happen in the cloud as well. Its the same thing and will work the same way when it happens in the Cloud.

As regards interoperability issues with users of offline CAD, this will just be another way to force people to move to the Cloud. Pretty much how all the suppliers of an OEM keep up when the OEM moves to the latest version. That solves another big problem for the CAD vendors, which I somehow forgot to mention in my presentation. There are suppliers who pay through their nose to maintain a seat of CATIA not because they want to, but because they have to, so that they can work with a company that they supply to or work with. If and when that company moves to the Cloud, its suppliers will also have to because they will now need to log into their account in the Cloud so that they can access the required data. If people continue to exchange files as they do now, then moving to the Cloud becomes a pointless exercise.

Personally, I am of the opinion that large companies will be more open to moving to the Cloud than small companies and individuals. But then you only need the large companies to make the move and the rest will automatically follow, whether they want to or not. I know this sounds offensive. But this is just how it has been for years and I see no reason why it will not continue to be.

Another thing that people are all bent about is having their CAD vendor host their data. Henrik Vallgren commented, “CAD in the cloud is taking trust into the extreme. Who would trust a company that encrypts the data files it creates on a PC?

Actually, the question itself is its own answer. I mean, in spite of knowing that CAD vendors encrypt data people still use their software. My point is that users already trust their CAD vendors more than they realize. There is an individual called Paul Waddington who has been screaming himself hoarse for years about Autodesk not disclosing exactly what data their software transmits to their servers via the Customer Involvement Program (CIP). And yet, people sign up for the CIP program. How do you know that Autodesk does not send your drawings across to their servers when you connect to their serves to update the software, offer CIP data and a multitude of other reasons? You don’t. You simply trust Autodesk. Sames goes for every other vendor.

I have a bank locker where I keep some important documents and valuables. The locker works with two keys, one is with me and the other is with a bank official. You need both keys to open the locker. How do I know that the bank official did not make a duplicate of my key. After all it was he who gave it to me in the first place. I don’t. I trust the bank to hire trustworthy employees. My bank does not make money by robbing and selling personal belongings kept by its customers. It makes money because people trust it with their money and belongings. CAD vendors do not make money by stealing someone’s patented drawing or intellectual property. They make money by licensing software to people who trust them. If people don’t trust CAD vendors now then why the hell do they use their software? How does the Cloud make this so vastly different?

I develop CAD software. If I want I can make my software send me all kinds of data belonging to my customers. The moment someone runs my EXE on their computer and tells their firewall that its OK for that EXE to connect to the internet, I can do just about what I want on that computer, just like a virus. But I don’t because that is not my freaking business. And that is why people buy my software.

What the heck would Autodesk do with an architect’s drawing. Build a house for Carl Bass? Or sell it to another architect? Personally, I find this whole “I cannot trust my CAD vendor” argument rather stupid because you are already trusting your CAD vendor.

Stop for a while and think about it.

  • I like you like to say it how I think how it gonna be and not what everybody thinks it is gonna be.
    I said were going back first drafting on (i)pads and then again just building in virtual reality. The reason I say this is because, first we learned the new technology and we adjusted to it, and now the technology is going to adjust to our needs and not visa versa. Technology will adopt to us and learn from us. You would thik well that is gonna take some time, but I'll give it 10 years untill we are modling products with our hands, like car designers are using clay and artist are building art.

  • Kevin Quigley

    I agree about the trust question. I have no issue with that. The only issues I have with the cloud platform are – what happens when I don't have a fast internet connection available, and what happens if I stop paying maintenance fees? The predominant delivery method right now is big upfront payment with smaller annual charges for updates. If we move to a more annual rental basis what benefits are there for those who paid the big upfront cost? Here's the thing. If I know SolidWorks is going skywards, am I going to lay down £5000 cash now when in 12 months time I could be switched to a rental system? Hmm. What CAD vendors forget is that users buy into a system for the long term – that is the main part of the investment decision. Uncertainty over future plans is a killer for investment.

    Ask yourself this question. Would I put £10k into the shares of a company I know nothing about their future strategy and sales model? No. But that is exactly what vendors expect their paying customers to do. we are seeing a plethora of new CAD initiatives – SolidWorks Cloud, PTC Project Lightening, Autodesk krypton etc etc. What we need are hard facts not marketing BS. To be honest at least SolidWorks have shown their hand – they just need to firm up on the delivery details – and 6 months down the line from the announcement we are none the wiser.

  • Dave Ault

    Wow Deelip, you addaed another show stopper reason for why cad on the cloud can't be viable. I can feel the shuddering of every individual as you say old parts would auto update to the new version. And just how corrupt would that data set be I wonder as it is done for you, wonderfull time saving cloud efficiency that, and you won't know until the part is opened for use. I remember reading a study that indicated that engineers spent an average of four hours a week on translation issues. Just what the posibilities are here with perhaps hundreds or thousands of legacy files is staggering. Yeah, I trust these guys who are only worried about their money and their convenience in fighting piracy to treat me right. I really do. I mean it for sure. You can take their word to the bank. You get my drift?

  • Kevin: “what happens when I don't have a fast internet connection available”

    The same thing as when you don’t have electricity or your battery dies on you. Like I said earlier, CAD on the Cloud, or for that matter, cloud computing in general, will become viable only when internet connectivity becomes as available and reliable as electricity. I believe this is a technical problem whose solution is technology and time.

    If you stop paying you stop using. However, I assume your data will be returned to you in a format that you can use. If not then nobody will sign up for it. Using the electricity analogy, if you stop paying your bills, your power company will stop giving you power. But it will not come to your house and take your light bulbs and other electrical devices.

    I'm not sure that the big upfront payment will be going away. I am thinking along the lines of yearly software rent replacing yearly subscription, just that the rent will depend upon the nature and quantum of services that you will use for that year. Of course, different vendors can have different business models.

    I agree that the lack of information from SolidWorks after SolidWorks World 2010 has lead and will continue to lead to all kinds of speculation. I have to assume that they have a good reason not to divulge more information about their plans.

  • Dave,

    Converting between different file formats (not different versions of the same format) will always be problematic. In fact, in some cases it is designed to be problematic. I know that too well because I have made a successful business out of it. 😉

    Errors in converting from a lower to higher version of the same format is essentially a bug in the software and nothing else. As far as I know, new file format specs are always designed so that the data structures in the older format can be accommodated in the new structures.

    I don't think the survey you mentioned was about engineers spending four hours a weeks converting from lower to higher versions of the same format.

    As a test you can take a large SolidWorks assembly with hundreds of parts and sub-assemblies and open it in a newer version. If each and every part doesn't come in perfectly, you can safely assume that this is a bug in the software and must be reported to SolidWorks.

  • Kevin Quigley

    I know the arguments over access like electricity but there is a big difference Deelip. Unlike electricity my ISPs charge extra if I go over the data agreed on the contract. On a recent rip to France i was stuck in a traffic jam so turned on my iPhone's data roaming for all of 30 mins to check google Maps traffic. That little experiment cost me £85 in data charges. Here in the UK the biggest iPhone supplier have just announced a cap of 500MB of data a month.

    My point is that this will do nothing but increase end user costs OVERALL. The CAD cost may be lower but if we all have to upgrade to fibre optic cabling and multiple DSL lines to get the throughput needed this makes subs costs look puny.

    What exactly is the data overhead in running these cloud systems?

  • Kevin,

    I said in my earlier post (and speech) that the CAD on the Cloud will become a reality only when internet connectivity becomes as available, affordable and reliable as electricity. I guess you are talking about the “affordability” aspect here. I know all too well about the cost of internet connectivity the moment I step out of my country because I pay through my nose for it.

    You are not going to upgrade to higher technology just to run CAD on the Cloud. You will do it anyways because that is what will be made available to you by default. I don’t know of anyone who goes around asking for a dialup connection anymore. The overhead costs you are talking about will be the costs that you need to incur to run your life in general, not just CAD in the Cloud.

    Look at how role playing games have evolved. I played Duke Nukem on a computer all by myself. These days kids play World Of Warcraft in real time with others over the internet. The kids didn't have to go ahead and purchase high-speed internet connectivity just so that they could play WOW with others. It their world, high speed internet simply exists and they take it for granted.

  • Joe

    “What the heck would Autodesk do with an architect’s drawing.”

    In a world where people find value in where a mouse clicks on web page it’s naive to think someone won’t find value in mining data from hosted drawings.

    Parts libraries are drawings. CAD companies are in the parts library business so it's not a stretch to find a legacy business case to scan through customer drawings looking at how parts are existing parts are being used and to find new parts to support.

    Mining hosted drawings for information during design would be like mining gold. The data miners would know who needs doors and windows before they go to bid and could sell that information or influence the specification to direct the final purchase.

    It's also not difficult to come up with a scenario where someone with access to customer drawings finds it easier to search and copy rather than develop from scratch. It’s almost inevitable if student interns are involved and have access to customer data.

  • And what makes you think that CAD vendors are not doing that already? What makes you think that their software does not already scan customer's drawings and uploads “interesting” ones to the vendor's servers. Maybe most of the programmers at Autodesk don’t do any programming at all. Maybe they sit around the whole day and figure out how many doors and windows people are drawing and then sell that information to manufacturers of doors and windows. Maybe Autodesk is an agent for doors and windows. Or maybe Autodesk itself has a side business to manufacture doors and windows.

    Have you ever considered that your doctor maybe running an undertaker business on the side? The more patients he kills the more he can bury, right? Judging from your level of paranoia you should be living in a cave.

  • Matt

    Stating the obvious concerns about security is not silly paranoia, as you seem to be trying to make it out. There is not a day that goes by that identity theft issues are not in the news. Electronic crime is on the rise partially because it is so easy. The generation now coming into the workforce has no idea what the concept of 'privacy' is all about.

    You and others can poke fun as much as you like, but data theft is a huge challenge for all businesses who do business online. While software vendors stand to gain from cloud implentations, owners of the data are going to be the real losers.

    Do a search on the “cloud bill of rights”. It is shocking to me and others how many rights cloud proponents are asking us to give up. Software vendors for stuff like CAD are not going to win this one without a fight from their customers.

  • Joe

    I apologize for using the word “naïve”. My opinion is that CAD vendors are excited by the possibility of mining information from customer data and feature usage patterns. CAD in the cloud would enable doing that in new and less intrusive ways. Google (and others) have found ways to sell directed ad space to customers with specific interests and I can imagine CAD venders being excited by the possibility of doing something similar. If not directly then by selling access to the data to a company that has that expertise.

  • Matt,

    Identify theft is a big concern and is something I fully appreciate. I am very concerned that my identity will be stolen by some unscrupulous person snooping around my computer ports and using it for his own selfish gain while causing me irreparable harm. That’s is one thing and I am not poking fun of that. What I do find ridiculous is, for example, that my money will be stolen by my bank itself, the very entity that I have trusted in the first place. These are two very different things and I hope you appreciate the difference.

    My point is that if users are already trusting their CAD vendors by allowing their EXE's to connect to the internet, then there is really no sense is making all this noise about the Cloud. If you say that someone could hack into the CAD vendor's servers and steal a customer's data, I can understand that. That’s pretty much the same as the same person hacking directly into the customer's computer. But what is being suggested here is that the CAD vendor itself will steal the customer's data. My suggestion to the people having those kind of fears is to simply stop using CAD software, start drafting using pencil and paper and store your drawings in your fortified basement.

  • Thanks Deelip sir and others. for this interesting post on future technologies with every details thru questions-answers.

  • SteveM

    Conversion problems between versions of the same software are definitely bugs, I won't argue there. That doesn't mean they don't happen or cause serious problems. Having these bugs potentially appearing without some user control over the process (when to attempt it, backups in place, etc) is a disturbing thought to at least some of us.

  • Steve,

    I fully understand your concern and I think it is a very valid one. However, for whatever it is worth, I believe these automatic conversions will be much lesser prone to error than the conversions as they are done today. Here is why. As of now the changes in formats/structures are huge because they involve the work done to them for about a year. When formats/structures are changed on a regular basis, say twice or thrice a month, the changes are incremental and may easily be carried to the new formats/structures.

    I am not saying that errors will not still occur. As long as software is made by humans and does not drop from the heavens, shit will continue to happen. Just that performing incremental conversions regularly may significantly decrease their probability of their occurrence.

  • Matt

    Take any CAD company, and what are their credentials when it comes to dealing with security. Sure they will contract someone to take take of that, but how many layers of non-responsibility is all this going to filter through?

    Trust CAD companies? Who does that? Whenever there is an option to opt out of a “phone home” thing, most people take it. there are statistics for how few people allow that option in SW, and it is lower than you'd expect. SW has to force beta testers to use the options. 'Trust' is a strong word. We already know Solidworks mines your local installation for information, which is sent back to Concord for analysis, and while they claim there is no personal info in there, there is no way to really know for sure.

    Further on data theft, a person who steals design data doesn't have to manufacture from your drawings to have done real harm, there is a reason companies like Apple are so secretive about what they are up to next – staying ahead of the competition.

    Even if the CAD vendor does not directly steal or mine your cloud-saved data, customers would be paying them to make sure that doesn't happen, so it doesn't matter who steals it, just that it is stolen on their watch.

    And who doesn't expect a string of disclaimers when it comes to signing a contract and assigning real responsibility for security breaches. It will be the customer's responsibility to make sure the data is secure, even though the customer has absolutely no way to do that or recourse if it does not happen.

    Trust a CAD company? No way. At best we cast a wary eye and pretend to be satisfied with empty promises. Cloud data, no matter how you justify it, is an additional risk where you have no real control. You can't even delete your data.

    Here's the bill of rights. I suspect this will change, or that an end user-oriented version will show up. There are some problems here. First, it doesn't define “ownership”. What does it mean to “own” something if you do not directly control it? Can you truly own data without the ability to delete it?

    Anyway, just some stuff to think about.

  • Matt

    cloud computing bill of rights link:….

  • Matt,

    Do you really think that SolidWorks will take the data from one of its paying customers and sell it to another of its paying customers? What are they? A pimping service? Come on, man.

  • Chris

    Deelip – here's a new internet term to be generally applied across the entire CAD vertical – 'OMAC'

    Stands for “Old Men Afraid of Change”

    This is a very contentious issue and one that I have been getting flamed on for a while now. Fact of the matter is you are 100% bang on, CAD in the Cloud is coming and my comment to some of the tinfoil hat wack jobs here who think CAD vendors are going to steal data is simply “Please go back on your meds”

  • r.paul waddington

    Deelip, your third last paragraph has provided my cause a considerable boost, thank you.

    But it is your use of the word ‘trust’ I find terribly misplaced in this post. The use of software does not ‘prove’ a customer trusts the developer just as banking money does not indicate a complete trust in the banking system.

    It is also important to understand ‘trust’ can be granted and earned but it must also be serviced and maintained.

    In my case; I ‘trusted’ Autodesk right up until Autodesk’s staff demonstrated they were not to be trusted. This is the important part many of my critics simply do not know, understand or will accept. Individuals are trusted not company entities. When the individuals who run or work for a company prove they are not to be trusted, neither is the company; but that does not mean we stop using their products.

    ‘Cloud’ computing, in business, has its benefits, tho’ mostly, for vendors who now need to PROVE they can be trusted; and they ain’t gonna be able to do that by ‘forcing’ people into using services they have created, but will have removed themselves, entirely, from any responsibility.

    I have often said how Autodesk can ‘shut me up’ and regain my ‘trust’ but whilst you have individuals calling the shots who have NO RESPECT or TRUST of their customer(s) they cannot expect trust in return.

    I would never say I would not trust Autodesk (again), or the ‘Cloud’, but it must be proven. To do so means the people at the top have to STOP assuming it is their ‘right’ to be believed and trusted; or that customers who do not speak out do so!

  • Hi Deelip,

    If the CAD Vendors can think little more they can also make few $$$ from versions, in your post I read, “they need to be version less or the users will always be on current version”, I completely disagree with it as CAD Companies can always host new version of the software on different servers and still make $$$. Further, the CAD Vendors can play, by saying if you need to upgrade kindly pay X$ and you can migrate to the new version. If a user does not upgrade, after 3 or 4 years, he may have to eventually stop working as the server may stop working.

    So CAD on Cloud is like Boon for the CAD Companies as they make rules and dictate the world.

  • I am not sure that having different versions of a CAD in the Cloud solution is a good one. It would involve duplicating the entire cloud hardware required to support each previous version which besides increasing the cost would also negate the advantage of not having to maintain older software. Customers will already be paying subscription/rent so they are already entitled to use the latest version. Letting them use older software and charging them to upgrade their files seems to be self defeating.

  • Vladimir

    I think most users would agree to move to cloud the program, as is happening now with mobile communication (because we all trust our ISP provider?). But some users will be claimed by the software on their computer, such as the need protected channel telephone for important data now. Simply, they will pay for it more than most users.
    Deelip as well as transfer programs in the cloud will affect your business SYCODE?

  • Vladimir,

    Yes, the data exchange industry will be affected when CAD moves to the Cloud. Whether the effect is positive or negative largely depends on how each CAD vendor implements its solution. The future will be interesting, to say the least.

  • MC

    1) First of all, I believe Deelip is correct that CAD on the cloud is inevitable. Whether most customers care about it or not, it will be a fact in the not so distant future.

    2) The real issue here for many of us is not the cloud itself and software on the cloud, but our data being stored on the cloud and how it is managed. For those folks in this discussion who are blindly willing to spill their guts on any social website, or who are willing to store any data on the cloud or share everything on the Internet, we are not talking about some insignificant word document or some pictures. We are talking about intellectual property, data that can make or break a business.

    3) I provided tech support for a major CAD vendor at the VAR level. Almost every business day for a number of years, I dealt directly with this CAD vendor. From my experience, all I can say is anyone who fully trusts a CAD vendor with most or all of their intellectual property is a naïve fool.

    4) Many of us are not saying the CAD vendors will steal this intellectual property. However, when you move your intellectual property from a locally controlled hard drive to a server somewhere (who knows where), you just made it potentially accessible to an exponentially greater number of people (regardless of their intent). How many companies can you think of that would just give all of their intellectual property (CAD or other) to another company without much say regarding how it is managed? That is not a prudent security move, and I believe local company controlled clouds will have to be part of the plan.

    5) Deelip, I have one question –

    Do you currently store your company’s software (source code, compiled code, etc.) on the cloud?

    If you don’t, then I dare you to prove how trusting you really are, and move all of your software files (intellectual property) to some non-locally controlled cloud (i.e. Google Docs, MobileMe, etc.).

    6) I will enjoy seeing the fight over this subject between the CAD vendors and the company IT people. During my tech support days, I worked with a number of major companies IT managers, and my money is on the IT folks.

  • MC,

    Like I said in my post I am just as uncomfortable with the Cloud as anyone else. However, just because I think that it is inevitable, it does not mean that I like it with all my heart. I mentioned in my keynote speech that personally I am gradually making the move. I have already moved my customer database, orders, quotations and all documents to the cloud. This also includes detailed plans of my house which I designed myself. My entire web site and back office system with its database is hosted on a server somewhere in the US (I presume) and I have a web interface to control it, that’s all. I trust the people maintaining my server not to screw around with it and the data it contains.

    I still have not moved my source code to the cloud. It's not because I don’t want to. It's because my programming tools are installed applications as on today. When Microsoft takes Visual Studio to the cloud I don't think I will have a problem taking my source code as well. In fact, I will have to.

    Please note that I was not always this way. It has been a process and I still have some way to go. I believe resistance is futile. Because, like I said in my keynote speech, CAD on the Cloud will happen because the CAD vendors want it to happen. Whether their customers want it as well or otherwise, it really does not matter. If resistance worked, then we would all be living in a very different CAD software industry in which proprietary file formats and a whole lot more did not exist.

  • Dave Ault

    “KTSTCOOTR” pronounced kistcooter. This stands for “kids to stupid to come out of the rain. Not having been around enough to aquire justifiable cynicism over promises made by people who want to mine your wallet. They continue to be surprised when their old curmudgeon bosses look up stuff on Facebook and pass them by for hiring and promotion. And are astounded that they lost that job opportunity because some antique found our they play WOW all night long and are basically as a result worthless for productive work on a regular basis. Generally kistcooters are not self employed or business owners but office drones looking for ways to goof off and just let it all hang out on the web. They manifest on a regular basis total comprehension of all they regard with opinions that can't be prevailed against, until they get a little older and realize a few more of lifes little foibles. They then can benefit from reason and logic and experience which happens to be a great teacher.

  • This is turning out to quite a discussion. Just trying to lay out a couple of things here. As I see it, there are two separate issues regarding customer's data.

    One issue is about the customer putting his data in the hands of a CAD vendor and trusting its employees and security system to keep it safe for him. I guess everyone (including me) will feel uncomfortable with this scenario and the level of discomfort will vary with one's belief of the vendor's ability (not intention) to keep it safe.

    The second issue is doubting that the vendor will intentionally steal a customer's data. Its the latter that I find completely ridiculous, not the former.

  • I'm not suggesting that CAD vendors would steal and resell the data. I do suggest that user data is going to be held hostage by vendors with an unlimited appetite for subscription revenue. The cloud started out with free offerings – once you're on the hook, the price starts to rise.

    I'm certain that cloud storage will be increasingly used. At the same time, computing power is ready to take the next leap using multithreaded software. We're finally seeing mobile manycore (>2) CPU's and there's a standard for using the GPU's massively parallel set of cores. The way forward is to combine these.

  • Henrik,

    Oh yeah! I agree 100% about the hostage part. They have already been doing that for years using proprietary file formats. They will simply extend it to holding the data itself, not just controlling the format in which it is stored in. However, I also believe that laws will be enacted to protect users so that they will be free to take out their data whenever they want, just like how you can empty your bank account whenever you choose to. How useful that format will be is anyone guess. If it is something like STEP and IGES then we are in as bad a situation as we find ourselves in now. And not may seem to be complaining. So I guess they will take it lying down with the Cloud as well.

  • Matt

    No, nothing that obvious. Who needs malice when you can achieve the same thing by incompetence? They can't administer their own forums in a way that doesn't give away personal data, or allow access to the right people, or disallow access to the wrong people. they were badly hacked a couple of years ago, and as recently as this week had another major access snafu. Their sites have had browser compatibility issues for years.

    Why would you trust a company that can't administer a forum with administering your product data? Why would you trust a company that for years had problems making websites compatible with Firefox or Netscape or Mozilla or Google with creating a platform independent product development tool?

    You wouldn't. Or I wouldn't anyway.

  • cadguy

    The big CAD Vendors will first move the major accounts (Auto/Aero Majors etc) to the cloud. In these accounts the distance between the decision makers and actual users will be 6-7 layers of management. So lot of wining and dining of CEOs will happen :-). After that the auto/aero suppliers will be forced to move. The last to move will be small users/bloggers – kicking and screaming of course :-)).

  • There. You now even have the sequence of events in place. 😉

  • Matt

    Wow, nice.

    First of all, “the cloud” is not change at all, it is reactionary past mongering. It goes back to an idea first implemented 30 or 40 years ago. Certainly before you were born, possibly before I was born. It was called “timesharing” back then. And you used it over the telephone to run expensive engineering software from a mainframe.

    Then it was revived (yes, for CAD) about a decade ago, maybe before you had a non-retail job, when it was called ASP (application service provider).

    In both cases, it was abandonded because customers found more value in more direct control over their hardware and software and data. I don't doubt CAD in the Cloud is coming again. There are enough pakwchrmotp – punk ass kids who can't help remaking mistakes of the past – to buy into the hype. Nor do I doubt that it will suffer the same fate as before.

    There may come a day 50 years hence when all of the compute power is centralized. But it will require infrastructure that does not exist now. It will also require a couple more generations of spineless lemmings to allow it to happen.

  • Chris

    Shrug, we all have slacker nieces or nephews that fit this profile. I'm sure at some point you fit this category yourself. The real question you have to ask yourself is which world view you subscribe to, Google's or Microsoft's. Google's is forward thinking the cloud-will-consume-all and Microsoft's is backward looking, the- desktop-forever. One company has proven vision and the other completely lacks any.

    I suspect a schism is coming (if not already here) where CAD is going to split into two groups: the forward thinking like Deelip and myself and the OMACs. The forward thinking will realize there are more ways to financially leverage their CAD knowledge and skills and thrive in the cloud environment whereas the the curmudgeons will continue to become more irrelevant to their clients and eventually, sadly become park bench polishers as their antiquated skills get jobbed out to China.

  • Chris


    Its different this time – I've said this over and over again in my own blog: Collaboration is what makes the cloud go. I've been in CAD for a little over 15 years now and lets face the facts, the reason all this is so upsetting is that you used to be able to go sit at your desk, in isolation, hammer away at your diagrams and drawings until you were ready and everyone pretty much left you alone. Now we have facebook, the world expects us all to run “in realtime” and that means you have to accept the fact that you are living in a world that expects change orders to be instantly reflected in your work and you actually have to respond to clients Q's and requests as you proceed through requirements gathering, design, approval and construction/manufacturing. Having said that, there will be those that resist change but this time its a paycheck altering experience because the change is in the very nature we communicate with the CAD data. Those of you who feel that they still need the client to accept ugh, do I even have to say it, rolls of paper – I challenge you to look them straight in the eye and say “Im sorry something deviated from the plans I fedex'd you last month but you still have to pay me to fix it.”

    Any takers on that?

  • Chris


    Atta boy! you stay on these grizzled CAD roughnecks! lol. I'm going to throw another can of gas on the fire here. How many people here believe that the very nature of their CAD work will change to include a product or buildings “informational” content as well as its structural and component layout? What I mean by this is who sees the potential to add value to your work and prepare your 3D CAD files to operate as digital doppelgangers to their real world counterparts?

  • Chris,

    You give me too much credit. I am forward thinking only in the sense that I foresee what lies ahead, am not quite comfortable with it as yet, but am doing my bit to adjust and accept it. Not forward thinking in the sense that I am willing to go all guns blazing into unchartered territory like you.

    Regarding your question, I believe people are already doing that with PLM, BIM, etc. Data is already being centralized. Collaboration is already taking place. Geometry and information is already being fused. Just that the Cloud will make the same thing happen in a more seamless manner.

  • I think the bottom line (almighty dollar, euro, and yen) will drive cloud computing more than anything else. If, all things considered, I can do CAD on a hosted application server AND be just as productive as I am on my own server AND HAVE IT COST LESS I'll be willing to live with content ads and other inconveniences. The existing software vendors really have no motivation to make the cloud cheaper than standalone software though (they’d be cutting their own margins) so we will probably have to wait for a cost cutting champion to come forward.

    I think the really tough problem for businesses now is factoring in the liabilities of running in the cloud (version snafus, provider companies going out of business, having backup facilities in case of Internet problems, etc.) so the full cost profile of doing business in the cloud isn't something we can quantify yet.

    I'm with Deelip in feeling it'll happen eventually but the transition won't be smooth and it’ll take longer than everyone thinks for the cost metrics to shake out.

  • Matt

    Chris… Chris Williams?

    If that's who you are, you have something to sell, and you sound desperate. You're trying to accuse people who aren't guilty of a crime that was not done. You have some image frozen in your mind of your great uncle or someone, and you're projecting it onto anyone who disagrees with you.

    Sorry, I don't fit your image. If you want to sell something in this decade, I suggest you adjust your image somewhat. You're fighting ghosts past with tools that are not ready for the times you're living in.

  • Chris

    Well its good to see you rustle the coals on this – its important! Indeed PLM and BIM are the next add value CAD offerings that have already begun to be leveraged by the internet crowd for location based services and smart products. Oh! – here comes the orderly, back to my padded room now.

  • Chris

    Ooops, you're right, had the time machine set to 1980. Did they have blogs back then?

  • Kevin Quigley

    Chris, those of us who are involved in the design process already do this. But here's the problem with that ideal. All that data stored up in the CAD file has to come from somewhere. Aside from part library systems, anything that contains data will be very focussed on the company manufacturing systems, supply chain and costing systems. If I design, say, sliding door systems, I will use standard components like bearings which will either come in as dumb parts or as native formats with data attached. I then add my own company data to that part using whatever systems I have.

    Now when my doors are specified by an architect I send them a 3D model and they must then build data into that model I supply (unless I supply it in the native format all set up).

    When the architect issues construction drawings to the contractor they might then reuse the data and do their own thing and so on.

    The problem we have is that adding data is a time intensive process that really only works well when we keep the file format consistent through the whole process. STEP, IGES, Parasolid, ACIS, IFC do not carry much data with them in an intelligent usable format. IFC probably should but the reality ion the ground is that it does not – hence why Autodesk are pushing the unified approach to Inventor/Revit to cover the AEC supply chain through to construction, in much the same way that Dassault push the CATIA format through the entire manufacturing process.

    So the nature of CAD has already changed. Many of us “OMACs” as you say, have been doing this for many years. My entire career as a designer has been about adapting to and embracing change. But not change for change's sake. Maybe those of us that have been around a while recognise the pitfalls of rushing headlong into a new way of doing things without making sure we have a safety rope or two attached -just in case.

    I think there is so much misinformation and sales pitching going on related to the so called cloud that we lose sight of the business case for taking this route. The business case for the customer that is, not the CAD vendor or CAD vendor partner. I can see the business case for centralising data on a remote server – I have been using online storage and project management systems for over a decade.

    I remain to be convinced about the business case (for the end user) of software delivery at point of use via the internet. Yes I know all about games, and Google Docs etc etc but the reason for doing these is to provide interaction between users to enhances the expereince (for the games) and to retain as much user data as possible to target advertising (for Google) – there ain't no thing as a free lunch!

    Returning to delivery of a CAD system, there are already several very good robust co-authoring systems around to share data – live – but CAD vendors seem to be hell bent on giving us a fully interactive multi user design experience. Why? Who ACTUALLY designs like this? I don't. I don't know anybody who does either. Auto companies don't. The only time we need to actually share and interact with data live is during process or design reviews – and we already have good tools for that.

    So CAD Cloud? Sure it will come, because it has been decreed from the Olympus that is Dassault Systemes, Autodesk and PTC. But prove to me that it offers the end user a better more productive, more cost effective, more stable design experience and I'll be first to switch – as I have done many many times in the past.

    So not so much OMAC but MAMESC – Middle Aged Man Embracing Sensible Change….

  • Chris Boothroyd from AfterCAD Software (

  • Jim Quanci

    One really needs to take a step back from what one does today and think long term. My teenage sons think having an app and its data on their computer is a bad thing – making for painful tranisitions and annoying situations when they change computers or want to play/work when with friends. So do I when their hard drives die! They use Google docs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. They much prefer multi-player on-line games to “stale” on my desktop games. They recognize some games require signficant software on the desktop to get the performance they want (like WOW) – but don't like it. Yes they have a more open view about sharing data in large part based on their Facebook experiences – and see the value of sharing versus the limitations of keeping their data to themselves. They have learned what to share and what not to. In five years they are the engineers using design software and in 15 years they are the managers deciding the technology engineers will use. So its not a matter of “if” CAD will be on the Cloud – its just a matter of what, when and how. And it might come sooner then you think. Talk about mission critical applications, critical business data and security of the Cloud… go see who is growing the fastest in the CRM and ERP sectors… and netsuite are outpacing Oracle and SAP by quite a bit. Yes data centric apps are easier to move to the Cloud then CAD, but that's a technical problem that will be solved over the next several years. When is the last time you used dial-up? Maybe 10 years ago? How different is dial-up from your broadband connection of today – speed and reliability? Assume the same increase in bandwidth and reliability in the Internet over the next 10 years. As Deelip said, its becoming just like electricity – you can rely on it 24x7x365 (except if you live in India like Deelip :-)). So we all have a choice… we've seen this play before… will can be the lone “old” curmudgeon resisting change (rememebr the last guy in the office to give up the drawing board for CAD or the last guy to make the move from 2D to 3D?) or will you be one of the people pushing the boundaries of the new technology and building your reputation as a leader? We “older guys” have real advantage over the young guys in that we can bring “wisdom” to this inevitable transition – helping our companies navigate the change with minimum pain and maximum gain.