Thoughts On SolidWorks V6, CGM And Parasolid

For some time now I have been reading comments and opinions from quite a few people regarding the implications of SolidWorks replacing the Parasolid modeling kernel with the CGM kernel from parent Dassault Systemes. Back in October 2010, Matt Lombard wrote a piece about this on his blog titled “The costs and benefits of change“. It’s quite an interesting read. In it he quotes Dan Staples, Development Director at Siemens PLM, mentioning the problems that arose when Solid Edge switched from ACIS to Parasolid. Dan predicts that far worse things will happen to SolidWorks when a switch is made from Parasolid to CGM. Here is a part of the post:

“… changing from Parasolid to V6 is like taking the engine out of your car – the one that the car was designed around – and replacing it with a completely different engine that was never intended to be used in your car. This change is relatively simple if done during the development phase. After a couple of years of selling product it is painful. After more than a decade and within a product that is sprawling in its scope, Dan anticipates with some eagerness that a kernel change will be disastrous for SW users. The change from SW201X to SW V6, considering only the effects of the geometry kernel change (without even considering effects of the cloud) will be disruptive enough for end users that moving to a completely different CAD package may be less disruptive.”

Here is the thing. All these SolidWorks doomsday predictions assume that the Parasolid kernel will be ripped out of SolidWorks and will be replaced by CGM. I don’t believe that will ever happen. Parasolid will continue to be the modeling kernel driving SolidWorks, the Windows desktop version that we use today. I think the current version of SolidWorks will be continued to be developed for some time to come. Maybe “developed” is too strong a word in this case. “Maintained” may be more appropriate. Just like companies continue to maintain legacy products and technologies till they are officially retired. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the bulk of the development effort will be focused on the new SolidWorks which will be using CGM. From the recent noise coming out from SolidWorks I think it is safe to assume that this new SolidWorks V6 (if I may call it that) will be designed in a way that it primarily works off the Cloud, but it will have some offline capability as well.

You need to think of SolidWorks V6 as a completely rewritten new product developed using a totally different set of technologies. This is not going to be like a repeat of Solid Edge’s switch from ACIS to Parasolid. The SolidWorks of today is not going to be ripped apart and chunks of it rebuilt with new technologies. It will continue to chug along like it has been doing for all these years. If users don’t wish to switch to SolidWorks V6 they will be free to stick to the Windows desktop version as long as it is available and be content with it. Most of the goodness will show up on the other side of the fence, where I think the grass will actually be greener. For example, Direct Modeling will most probably never show up on the old side of the fence. And who knows what other goodness the Cloud will bring.

My point is too many horror stories are being cooked up around this kernel switching stuff. Parasolid will continue to drive the Windows desktop version and CGM will drive the Cloud version. It’s as simple as that.