The Dassault Systemes Cloud Strategy – Part 4

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This basically wraps up what I believe to be Dassault Systemes cloud strategy. To sum it up, first get people to ditch files and use PLM, then move the PLM to the cloud and the software will follow it. Whether it succeeds or not is anybody’s guess. That’s assuming that this is their strategy in the first place. If you notice, most of what I have written in this series is stuff that the company is already doing or said that they will do. So maybe I am not that far from the target after all.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-cloud or anti-PLM or pro-file or some other combination. I know for a fact that computing is increasingly going to move from the computer to other devices of various form factors for various purposes. We are already seeing that happening. At the same time, I also believe that computing and data storage will not necessarily remain on the device itself. I am pretty sure that my boys (now 6.5 and 2.5) are going to laugh at me when I tell them that my computer had a hard disk on which I used to install all my software and store all my data. Or that I used to carry my data around with me on a flash drive. Today, when I flip the switch of a light bulb, I don’t spend a moment wondering whether the bulb will light up or not. In time internet will be as reliable and available as electricity is today, with power backup, may I add. I remember one day when my elder son was three years old, there was a power failure at night, a very common occurrence in my part of the world. For some reason my inverter failed to kick in. He started shrieking his lungs out. It was then that I realized that he had never seen pitch darkness ever in his entire life of three years. We always kept a dim light on in the bedroom at night. That’s how reliable the power system in my house was.

Our kids are going to grow up in a world very different from ours. For them the cloud or some variant of it will come naturally. In fact, they will wonder how our generation ever got anything done in the first place. Hell, why go far? Even I wonder how I lived the first 22 years of my life without a mobile phone. My point is that what Dassault Systemes and SolidWorks are doing now may seem atrocious to people of our generation. But the generation that is in their nappies may very well be taught in history class that these companies were the pioneers that led a revolution. Either that or these companies tried to do something that was way ahead of their time and in the bargain made a billion dollar mistake. Either way, this is going to be an important part of history.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Good analysis Deelip. I have used the so called cloud for many years with various apps – even before broadband days. I do not have a fundamental issue with moving software to the cloud. The issue of IP to be frank is nonsense. IP protection is only as good as the weakest link in the chain – and most chains are very fragile (how many times do we read about someone leaving a confidential security services laptop on a train for example).

    The critical issue for me is simply how well will it work. How responsive is it.

    The key issues of cloud to me are:

    1. Can I use the app I have paid for if I have no internet connection (on a plane, in a hotel, in my office if my telecoms go down?).

    2. Can I access my data in the same scenario

    3. What is the ongoing cost? I am a fully paid up on subs SolidWorks user and I have no intention to go off subs but at least now I do have that option (albeit at a penalty when I go back on again). Many VARs deal with subs with smaller companies in different ways. For example some offer monthly payment plans, others discounts. My fear is that once we HAVE to go on subs the price and delivery will be rigidly applied.

    And I'm still waiting for that invite from SolidWorks to try the cloud app they showed at SWW2010 :-)

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Kevin: “And I'm still waiting for that invite from SolidWorks to try the cloud app they showed at SWW2010 :-)”

    You will have to wait for your turn, my friend. We partners are up the line. I think after us will be resellers. ;-)

  • Kevin Quigley

    Here was me thinking that customers always come first :-)

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Oh yeah. You come first when it comes to pay! ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/simmold SimMold

    They go all up in the cloud until a Vulcano fills the clouds with ashes.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewwest Matthew West

    I don't even think you have to look to people in diapers. I'd posit that most kids under 20 consider locally-installed software to be something of an anachronism. To them, software is generally free, and browser-based. They don't really have an opinion about locally-hosted versus remotely-hosted data. It's irrelevant.

    After reading your posts yesterday, I did quick assessment and realized that I could do my job with nothing but a web browser if I wanted to. Granted, I'm not doing any CAD work. But I could use Google Docs instead of MS Office. The only thing that might give me trouble is video editing, which I handle on my Macbook, not my Lenovo “work computer.”

    I think the main thing to bear in mind regarding what we're doing is that when it's rolled out, SolidWorks cloud apps will be an option for customers, not a requirement.

  • Kevin Quigley

    The same could be said of most CAD users working in companies. How many actually have any say in the choice of system and implementation and hardware to run it all on? Most designers I know working in corporations are in the hands of the IT departments (and we all know how IT people like to shroud themselves with Black Magic mystery!).

    Until SW/Dassault come out and fully explain all the details, and answer the questions I raised above, nobody doing production work is going to sign up for it. They may well end up placing it in research facilities and test beds but the bulk of the market will not shift until they know all the implications. No IT person is going to spec something they cannot control. It will take a brave (or stupid) person to jump ship to the cloud without some cast iron guarantees – and a fall back option – on performance.

    I'm not against change – and I can see a lot of benefits of using a cloud based system – but if you run a business the first question you ask is “what happens if…” The recent ash cloud situation proves that more than anything!

  • Anonymous

    When the cloud-based 3D Via came out, about two years ago, I wanted to see whether we could read the B-rep. The client wouldn't let you save anything, but once published, you could download a 3DXML file. Extracting the archive only revealed faceted data. I fired up a packet sniffer and quickly observed that 3D Via downloaded a different file than the download link. With a little effort, I got Firefox to pretend that it was the 3D Via application, and I got my hands on a very similar 3DXML file that also contained the B-rep. Clearly, they went through a lot of effort to strip the real solid data from the file before providing it to you. Evil.

    It is bad enough that CAD vendors encrypt their files to prevent interoperability. Now we have one vendor denying users access to their own data. Our dystopian future could be like a interminable cell phone contract for manufacturers. I'm sure some startup will intervene and give customers what they want.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Matthew,

    To be fair, most kids under 20 don't really do serious work like we do. But I get your point and agree with it.

    You said, “I think the main thing to bear in mind regarding what we're doing is that when it's rolled out, SolidWorks cloud apps will be an option for customers, not a requirement.”

    You may want to cross check that with your CEO. That's not what he told me when I specifically asked him that question. See fourth and fifth paragraphs at http://www.deelip.com/?p=1349.

    Either you or I have caught the bull by the tail, and for your customer's sake, I am hoping that it is me.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Kevin,

    I find it odd that DS/SW are asking their customers to get excited about all this cloud stuff. I figure to get excited about something it is necessary to know at least the basic details about it. SolidWorks is not ready to even a basic question like, “Will a user be able to download a copy of his data for backup?”. And I have a load of other questions after that.

    They came on stage, showed something sketchy and went away. Just like that.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    At the risk of sounding utterly cynical, I believe that only a court of law can force CAD vendors to stop doing what they are doing and prevent them from doing worse things. The CAD vendors have no incentive whatsoever to promote interoperability.

    However, I will point out that McNeel is an exception. Right from the beginning their file format has been open and they even give a free SDK to read and write it.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Anonymous,

    If you feel like it, do drop me a line at deelip (at) sycode (dot) com.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewwest Matthew West

    What I meant was when it's rolled out, it's not an all or nothing thing. The installed version and cloud version will coexist for some period of time.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    OK, so I didn’t catch the bull by the tail after all. I think it is rather obvious that you gradually roll out such a disruptive technology. Especially since most of your customers are still using versions of SolidWorks years old and many wait for a few service packs to be released before they get comfortable installing a new version.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Not sure I see the issue here. 3D VIA is a freebie app. It is intended for non commercial “playing”. You are not getting access to your data denied, you are having to work with the format on offer. It's free. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. If you want Imagine and Shape functionality (which is more or less what you are suggesting is at the heart of 3D VIA – using sub-div modelling techniques to generate quality solids and surfaces) buy CATIA.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Deelip, I was sent these links by an architect in the USA:

    http://www.aecbytes.com/feature/2010/BIM_Cloud….

    http://www.graphisoft.com/products/archicad/tw….

    AEC is an area I can see real benefits of cloud software/hardware. Imagine a project based “package”. the tools used for design/collaboration etc are all purchased as a project activity from the vendor – like a multi mobile phone contract for a company – users log in, use it as required, log out.

    A new way of working yes, definately. But it does have some genuine benefits. The problem is persuading everybody to leave behind what they know and use something new.

  • Don Blur

    Anonymous, I'm curious to know what you expect to do with the 3DVIA BRep description. Fo what I know all modeling software have their own Exact Modeling format highly tied with their geometrical modeler. The openess is not a format problem here, but an API one. Dassault Systemes doesn't deliver the 3DVIA Modeler as a component with open API SDK. But their modeler is free and it is my favorite one for my students….

  • guest

    A plain question to Deelip.
    Would it be right to move to V6 at this point of time from V5.? pros and cons please

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Dassault Systemes has not give me access to any of their V6 software. So I would not be able to answer that question. Even if I did have access to their software, I think the answer really depends on each company, what they do and how they do it. There is no one size fits all answer to your question.




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