Really Big News From Dassault Systemes And Spatial – Part 3

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OK, enough of talk. Let’s see some CAD on the Cloud. Spatial put up one of their experiments on the Cloud for me to play around with. This involved me simply pointing my browser to a particular section of the Spatial web site. Sorry, I cannot share the link here until Spatial gets the adequate infrastructure in place to handle a large number of concurrent users. This is something that is still in the experiment stage. [Edit: See update below]

I was first asked to choose which modeling kernel I wanted to use. I chose CGM, although I could have chosen ACIS as well. Next I loaded a sample part already installed on the Spatial server. I also had to download and install an ActiveX control that would serve as my thin client. Here is a screenshot of the sample model of a die.

In solid modeling the delete face operation is one of the most complicated because you need to jump through hoops to ensure that you extend and trim the adjacent faces properly so that you end up where the user wants you to end up. In this test I decided to delete the six trimmed spherical faces of the 6 side of die, a relatively easy operation. I used the mouse to pick the faces.

Notice the faces highlighted in dark gray. It is important to note that the tessellated model is loaded in the browser. So I was actually picking triangular faces which were tied to the actual smooth trimmed NURBS faces of the solid model in the Cloud. When I executed the command this is what happened.

There was no modeling kernel running in my browser or anywhere on my computer, just a thin client that helped me to interact with the modeling kernel running in the Cloud where the data was located as well. So this means that I could have done the same thing using my iPhone, assuming that they had a thin client for it. Basically, the client sends simple instructions (Python scripts actually) to the kernel in the Cloud, in this case, the indices of the faces to be removed, that’s all. The kernel in the Cloud does its thing and shows me the output in my browser.

In a post titled “SolidWorks As A Service – Part 1“, I mentioned a conversation I had with SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray wherein I said to 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?”

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Jeff Ray and SolidWorks founder Jon Hirschtik with whom I had several online and offline arguments about doing CAD on the Cloud. Today I did CAD on the Cloud myself. True, this is just a simple experiment. But if I could do this with a web browser and an off-the-shelf ActiveX control as a thin client, you can only imagine what I could do with a proper thin client, which is what SolidWorks had running on stage at SolidWorks World 2010 when they showed us their Cloud demo.

Just to give you an example of how crazy this can get, assuming that the model was shared adequately, at the time that I was removing the faces on the 6 side of the die, someone else sitting anywhere on this planet could be removing the faces from the 3 side of the die. This is not collaboration as we know it. This is taking collaboration to a whole new level. I am talking collaboration between people at the modeling level. Today we have review meetings where people sit around a desk or in front of computers and decide what to do with a part or assembly and then go their separate ways to do their bit and bring it all back together. Imagine a world where designers and engineers are sitting and literally modeling and carry out analysis in real time on the same model, almost like a brain storming session. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future. A future where Dassault Systemes, SolidWorks and Spatial are clearly the leaders.

I’d like to end with something John Alpine, Spatial’s VP of R&D, said to me, “In today’s world you just cannot afford to sit with what you have and expect it to get you through. Look at what SalesForce.com has done to the big CRM vendors. We are pushing the limits here as forcefully as we can because we believe that is precisely what we need to do to stay ahead in the game“.

Update (29-Jun-2010)

Spatial has allowed me disclose the URL of their CAD on the Cloud experiment. I guess they were waiting for their live demo at the Spatial European Forum to be a success before they risked letting people crash their servers in Colarado. The Spatial “server farm” is currently just two servers strong. 😉

The link is http://web3d.spatial.com. Be sure to use Internet Explorer as the browser. This is because the ActiveX control that they use as a client application works on Internet Explorer only. In time they will add support for all browsers. Enjoy!

Part 4 >>