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What will happen with your CAD files in the cloud?

To cloud or not to cloud? Few years ago, it was a question many engineering and manufacturing software companies were asking about. Not anymore. Now, the right question is “how to cloud”. Looking at CAD companies these days you can see all variety of cloud options and solutions. Full cloud, hybrid cloud, hosted cloud desktop… you name it.

Hosted desktop is a simple and easy way to move to the cloud. First time I asked about it back in 2010 here. More detailed discussion about desktop virtualization and future cloud CAD platforms is here.

Siemens blog – NX on the Cloud with Amazon AppStream 2.0 caught my attention with video of NX running in the virtual desktop in the cloud. Here is the video:

The following passage can give and idea and marketing spiel:

CAD on the cloud has tremendous potential for companies. Oftentimes, suppliers encounter situations where they need additional CAD licenses—whether for a temporary increase in projects or a client that uses a different system than they do—but it doesn’t make sense to purchase them for long-term use. Or perhaps a company traditionally does not use CAD, but they have a special project in which CAD is required. Or, in the case of smaller companies, it may not be feasible to purchase the hardware and software required to do the job. In each of these cases, a pay-for-service cloud model is ideal. That is exactly what you get with NX on Amazon AppStream 2.0. The main benefit, of course, is that NX performs very much as if you were running the software on your own machine.

Amazon’s AppStream 2.0 is also very secure, which is a serious concern for companies when it comes to doing this type of work on the cloud. Both applications and data remain on AWS – only encrypted pixels are streamed to end users. Application streams and user input flow through a secure streaming gateway on AWS over HTTPS, making them firewall friendly.

Sounds simple and clear. Hassle free solution. Benefit of both worlds – cloud and desktop in a single package. Here is the thing… The article made me think about what happens with CAD files in the desktop cloud hosted solution. Traditional desktop CAD solution usually connected to PDM system taking care of data management aspects such as revisions, data access and many others. Cloud hosted desktop won’t be much different from that standpoint. Of course, you can save your files in the cloud desktop, but how you will share these files with other people, manage revisions and collaborate with others? This is a moment where you should feel almost getting back to the question of hosting a complete PDM system hosted in Amazon. Siemens PLM has such option to have Teamcenter hosted in Amazon. I wonder if such environment will make it you IT cost going down as it explained here:

Since you are installing and using NX on virtual machines on AWS, you do not have the admin and IT costs normally associated with having NX loaded locally on your machine. As a hosted service, you pay only for what you need and use.

What is my conclusion? Cloud desktop hosting is an interesting option. With right combination of cost and availability, I can see a value of such environment for an individual engineer. However, as we move to team environment, the question of how to manage data will be coming sooner then later. And it will raise all PDM related questions about how to manage CAD files. From that standpoint running CAD on the desktop hosted in the cloud solves only half of the problem. And, as we know, management of CAD files is usually the hardest part. How to extend existing desktop CAD with cloud solutions? It is a question to ask CAD and PLM architects these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg