Max Freeman on the Cloud

I asked Max Freeman, Alibre’s Vice President of Marketing, about his views on CAD on the cloud.

Deelip: Cloud. I don’t think I need to say anything more. 😉

Max: Yeah, the cloud. I guess I should start by saying that Alibre Cloud 2012 is already in the works due to the extreme demand from people for this kind of thing (laughs). Obviously that is a joke. But seriously, the cloud is something that has been overblown by some people who are touting it as their technology. The reality is that few people actually want it or need it. Theoretically, it probably has some benefits. But are we anywhere near where all this is actually going to be realized in a meaningful way, probably not.

People with proprietary data have one very critical requirement. And that is they want their data on their machine hosted by themselves and no external involvement. That is going to be one of the biggest challenges in adopting CAD on the cloud. Of course that is assuming that the bandwidth issue has been solved, which will not be for at least for the next five years anyways. And also assuming that the computing power was there to do say 80,000 fillets from many customers all at once. All this would still boil down to why would you want it?

We have been down this road before, not necessarily in the same way. Our initial product was only online. People thought it was interesting. But they by no means in a huge way drawn to it. They started using it. But then we shortly realized that it was not a viable long term business model that we should have. And then we moved to the client side of things.

So as far as the cloud is concerned, I can see why it is easy to make fun of especially since there is some talk about some people being eventually forced to move to it. I doubt any CAD vendor is going to be that stupid. But if there are..

Deelip: I think know the name of one. They go by the name of SolidWorks.

Max: Yeah. Well, I invite them to do so (laughs). Actually as far as they are concerned I think it is a great idea. I mean, I hope that they do it. Let’s put it that way – Alibre hopes that SolidWorks moves to the cloud. Because one thing is clear. There is going to be a lot of disgruntled people out there. People haven’t completely moved to 3D yet and they expect people to jump to something as radical as giving up total control of their data, guaranteed up time and all that to a CAD vendor? Like I said before, go for it.

Deelip: One of the reasons that SolidWorks is giving to their customers is that the cloud is going to be cheaper.

Max: Cheaper for who? (laughs) I guess my point is SolidWorks does not incur product costs because of a DVD that they ship out. This is a actually a real good way to get everyone on a subscription model.

Deelip: So basically you are saying that this is like forcing subscription. Actually that is my opinion as well.

Max: Sure. And one thing people have to ask themselves is what happens if I have a bad business year and I can’t pay for subscription this year? Does my data get deleted? It is shipped to me? If it gets shipped to me could I use it? So essentially this is asking if you start the cloud is there a way to stop? Will you every be able to design and do what you need to do without using the cloud?

Deelip: Well, if you have a bad year and you cannot pay your electricity bill you don’t get power. It’s the same thing, right?

Max: Yeah. So unless they take some hybrid approach…

Deelip: There is no hybrid approach. Jeff Ray was quite clear at SolidWorks World when he said that customers will decide when they want to move to the cloud, not if. When asked how committed he was to the cloud, he likened it to standing on the middle of a bridge and setting file to one end. They is no turning back, he said.

Max: Then I guess his customers will be subconsciously asking themselves when they will want to move away from SolidWorks, not if (laughs). I mean, if they force their customers to move to the cloud, it is not going to be a good thing. And I think a number of customers have already voiced their opinion on that. This is really one of the heavier handed approaches that we have seen. This is not like imposing a new UI on someone. This is not like forcing someone to buy maintenance. This is a whole different ball game. You are being forced to fundamentally change the way you do business and expose yourself to risks that you are supposed to.

As much as they would like to say, it will be less risky, its going to be cheaper and all that, I don’t think anybody actually believes that. Whose internet has never gone down ever? Who has had a serve that has never crashed? I mean if you always have infinite money, infinite bandwidth and all that then this is not a problem. But welcome to reality where that is simply not the case.