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Where engineers and manufacturing companies will store CAD files in 10 years?

The world is moving to the cloud environments. For the last decade the number of enterprise companies using or experimenting with cloud environment was skyrocketing.  At the same time, engineers are still storing their design and related information in files (yes, CAD files). And this is not going to change overnight. CAD files are here to stay… at least for foreseeable future. The complexity of even small manufacturing companies is incredible. Large manufacturing OEMs are pure data and file jungles.

Software vendors are pretty much aware about the problem with data storage. And they are looking for technologies and solutions that can satisfy enterprises, SME and even engineering services and contractors.

My attention was caught by TechCrunch article speaking about latest Microsoft acquisition – Microsoft acquires Avere Systems to further hybrid computing mission.

In a world shifting to the cloud, Microsoft has carved out a place trying to help companies caught between two worlds — on-prem legacy solutions and the public and private cloud. To help further that hybrid mission, the company announced it was acquiring Avere Systems today for an undisclosed amount.

Microsoft describes Avere as “a leading provider of high-performance NFS and SMB file-based storage for Linux and Windows clients running in cloud, hybrid and on-premises environments.” That’s a mouthful, but essentially the company has focused on maximizing storage performance, especially in more expensive flash storage, regardless of where you store your files.

Another article – Microsoft to acquire Avere Systems, accelerating high-performance computing innovation for media and entertainment industry and beyond can give you few more ideas about where Microsoft is going with Avere Systems and cloud storage strategy.

The cloud is providing the foundation for the digital economy, changing how organizations produce, market and monetize their products and services. Whether it’s building animations and special effects for the next blockbuster movie or discovering new treatments for life-threatening diseases, the need for high-performance storage and the flexibility to store and process data where it makes the most sense for the business is critically important.

By bringing together Avere’s storage expertise with the power of Microsoft’s cloud, customers will benefit from industry-leading innovations that enable the largest, most complex high-performance workloads to run in Microsoft Azure. We are excited to welcome Avere to Microsoft, and look forward to the impact their technology and the team will have on Azure and the customer experience.

Although it speaks about media and entertainment, that notion of “beyond” made me think that engineering data is not much different and can fit the same strategy.

Microsoft strategy made me think about multiple trajectories of engineering data and what can we expect in the next decade from multiple vendors developing solutions to manage engineering data and specific CAD files.

Option 1: No files. Engineering world will move to cloud CAD systems.

CAD files will disappear. Data is in the cloud storage. No need to worry about files. Life is good. It is very promising option, but as much as I like the idea, in my view, full transition of all existing CAD files to the cloud is not feasible even in 10 years horizon. Remember the story about 2D drawings back to 1990s? It is the same. CAD files will stay longer…

Option 2: Specialized engineering data management cloud systems will absorb CAD data and will control all CAD files.

This is an interesting option. Because it assumes some new data created using modern cloud based and cloud enabled systems. However, it creates a space to absorb CAD files “as is” and manage them in a way that is not painful for manufacturing companies and engineers.

Option 3: Hybrid cloud storage infrastructure imitating file system and allows to save CAD files transparently between local and cloud storage.

I can see such environments will be coming as an outcome of Microsoft (and other large software vendors). In the world of specialized engineering data management systems, generic infrastructure is always preferred ,since it is ubiquitous and supported by IT. But specialized systems will always bring their unique value proposition.

What is my conclusion? The next decade will bring massive amount of transformation in the world of CAD files and engineering data. The trajectories I outlined above will be competing and software vendors will be looking for value proposition in front of customers. As much as “big bang” strategies are not popular in engineering and manufacturing environment, companies will be looking for a software overlays that can link and intertwine data with some context.  Data linking will become more popular than data syncing. Just my thoughts.