In our annual roundtable with executives at leading CAD and PLM software companies, topics included model-based design, the shift in how designers are using mobile devices, and uncertainty about cloud computing.

Embracing Mobility

When asked about how their customers are embracing the idea of using CAD online, in the cloud, or on mobile devices, most of our executives indicated that while customers are expressing interest in accessing models and files via these means, there is some hesitation.

Brian Thompson, PTC
“Online data access from the device of choice is becoming prevalent,” stated Paul Sicking, Chief Technology Officer of Siemens PLM Software. “We see strong interest in using mobile devices for 3D visualization, review, and markup, but not yet for full-feature design, which usually requires large, high-resolution screens, and rich, precise interaction. It’s not surprising that small enterprises would be attracted to the cloud, but we are seeing broad interest by companies of all sizes.”

Brian Thompson, Vice President of Creo Product Management for PTC, agrees that full-feature design via mobile devices is not a top priority. “Customers have continued to show an interest in mobile devices, but primarily for access to product and process information, instead of for actual detailed design.” Thompson added that PTC sees an increasing interest in virtualization of its CAD software in its customer base. “Most of them are primarily interested in making PTC Creo available to multiple users in multiple, potentially geographically dispersed locations from a small number of centralized locations. In addition to the benefits of centralized administration, they also see value in enhanced data security with this virtualization strategy.”

Based on feedback from their users, Autodesk customers are using mobile devices primarily for three specific areas: design, function, and collaboration. According to Oleg Shilovitsky, Senior Director of PLM and Data Management for Autodesk, “We are seeing a definite shift in designers’ adoption of, and willingness to use, mobile and cloud-based solutions. We have witnessed a rapid adoption of cloud solutions by architects, designers, and engineers.” And, adds Shilovitsky, “Mobile devices enable users to easily bring their tools and work with them on-site, reducing lead time and enhancing team collaboration.”

Bertrand Sicot, CEO of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks, said that while their customers may not be asking for online products directly, “they have told us that they want to be able to access their data away from their offices, to leverage mobile platforms, and ultimately to reduce their hardware spending. Migrating resources to the cloud is one way to make this possible.”

Oleg Shilovitsky, Autodesk
Introducing SolidWorks eDrawings software for the Apple iPad enables customers to share and mark-up design ideas today, said Sicot. “We believe that in the near future, the iPad, for example, will follow the same path as the laptop and grow in computing power to be able to support full-function modeling.”

What’s in the Cloud?

As designers and engineers begin using mobile devices and other collaboration tools to access and modify their designs, they will be looking to “the cloud” to enable these functions. And while most users recognize the benefits of the cloud, questions regarding security of their designs remain. Software vendors are working to address these needs.

“Our customers have expressed different levels of concern on this topic, depending upon whether you are considering the CAD application or the CAD data,” said Thompson. “They almost universally express strong concerns about their data being stored in the ‘public’ cloud. They simply don’t like the idea of intellectual property (IP) being stored on any server that is not company-owned. Private cloud CAD data storage, combined with virtualized access to the CAD software, is very appealing to them.” Sicking added that his customers are open to the concept of the CAD application being stored on the cloud, as long as they maintain strict control over their licenses to run the application.

Security of data also falls to the cloud provider. “Data security is a critical concern with any deployment, whether it is on-premises or in the cloud,” said Sicking. “Ultimately, it is up to each cloud supplier to install confidence in their security. ‘Path to production’ deployments, where development and testing environments are deployed in the cloud, but the production environment resides on-premises, is one way for a company to become comfortable with all aspects of cloud deployment, including security,” he added.

Bertrand Sicot, SolidWorks
Sicot agrees that people still have some insecurity about information in the cloud, but they will grow more comfortable about using it. “Regardless of the platform, our customers are always ensuring their IP is protected,” Sicot stated. “This becomes a bigger concern when you talk about the data residing outside their infrastructure. However, just as we were unsure about online banking only a few years ago and have now come to embrace it, people will become more comfortable with the security put in place to protect their designs.”

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