The Dassault Systemes Cloud Strategy – Part 3

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After you get users to stop saving their design data to files and instead publish it to some database in some PLM system, you come one giant step closer to them adopting the cloud. All you now need to do is put the PLM system on the cloud and the software will follow. For example, take 3D VIA Shape. The data resides on some Dassault Systemes server in the cloud but the software resides on the users computer in the form of a very thick client application. As a result you need to download the model from the cloud to your computer every time you want to work with it. Also you need to upload it back to publish your changes. For the kind of small models that most users are creating in 3D VIA Shape, this may not be much of a problem. But when you start doing this with large assemblies, you are going to run into some pretty serious bandwidth and time delay problems.

So the next logical step is to put the software itself on the cloud, right next to your data, and use a much thinner client on your computer to interact with it. You don’t need to download and upload anything apart from the basic instructions that you send to the cloud application and a graphical display that you receive from it, among other things. And before you know it, you are on the cloud. As far as Dassault Systemes is concerned the problem is solved.

I believe the key is to get users to ditch files as a medium of storage. Once you have done that the rest will automatically follow. It appears that Dassault Systemes is achieving that by simply removing the option of saving to files altogether, a technique which clearly has a 100% success rate.

Another important aspect about design data stored in files relates to where those files are located. I think very few companies put all their design data on a server that they do not own and have complete control of. Every now and then I need to sign NDA’s before receiving any design files from my customers. So I do know that there are people out there who are far more paranoid than me about their data and intellectual property. And for good reason. So this brings up another problem. Even of users end up ditching files (willingly or otherwise) they will still need total control over the location where their design data ultimately resides. At SolidWorks World 2010 Dassault Systemes CEO Berrnard Charles let us know that at first they would be using clouds rented from other service providers. But ultimately they would be building their own clouds. When I met Autodesk CEO Carl Bass in San Francisco after attending SolidWorks World 2010 I asked him whether his company would be doing the same, this was his response:

Good for them. We are a software company and do not want to get into managing hardware. I doubt Dassault Systemes specializes in that line of work. We certainly do not and are perfectly happy with our providers.

So why exactly is Dassault Systemes getting into hardware? Well, I believe the answer is simple – to solve the problem I mentioned above. If their customers trust them enough to be willing to run CATIA or SolidWorks off their servers, I guess they may also be willing to host their design data with them as well. I mean, the way the cloud works, the software that will be running on the servers belonging to Dassault Systems will need to have access to the customer’s data anyways, wherever it maybe stored. So it might as well reside next to the cloud software itself.

I think Dassault Systemes will find it very difficult to sell their idea of CAD on the cloud to their customers if they do not have complete and sole control over the hardware and location from where they intend to serve CATIA and SolidWorks. Yes, I use the word “serve” because that is precisely what is going happen. Frankly, I don’t see many customers willing to run CATIA or SolidWorks on a server owned and operated by say Amazon, let alone have their data hosted there as well. Besides, by owning and running their own hardware setups, Dassault Systemes will be able to offer private clouds to its larger customers. That will almost eliminate the problem of data security. I mean, if Dassault Systemes is able to allocate a bunch of servers that they completely control and which are completely isolated from the rest of the world, for a big automotive or aerospace customer, then the customer maybe more willing to sign that check. The deal (or rather service contract) will be between Dassault Systems and its customers and will not involve any other third party.

In the concluding part of this series I express a few thoughts on the cloud.

Part 4 >>