CAD, The Desktop and The Cloud

Autodesk-360-mobileA long debate seems to be raging around "CAD" the DESKTOP" and the "CLOUD"

Of all the varying surveys I have read, it seems that between 40 & 70 percent of people believe that CAD will never be cloud based! Never is a really long time in the business and technology world where process evolution and technology advancement is on a never ending upward curve.

On a personal footing the only thing I can categorically say is my son will never drive my car, much to his annoyance as apparently every other dad will let their son, and I actually mean that.

But in business to say never is akin to closing the door on future profit/process improvement potential and in many cases the opportunity for growth.

I have conversations over the "Cloud" with my customers on a daily basis, what does it mean, how would it work, what will the impact be etc. etc.?

Now personally I think the term "Cloud" is misleading anyway as it simply isn't descriptive enough, but instead is one of those vague generic terms that will and clearly mean different things to different people.

For example, when we say "Cloud" do we mean, a cloud based service such as AutoCAD WS where we need almost 100% connectivity in order for it to be really useful? Or do we mean dragging down or connecting to a licence hosted on the "Cloud" to make our software work as long as CAD workstation or laptop engages with the cloud once a month say, to validate?

Let me offer a few thoughts of my own and experience from our business, both positive and negative which interestingly makes for a thought-provoking analogy when compared to the potential for "Cad in the Cloud".

As a Design and 3D visualisation services provider we naturally own Adobe software, this involved a few disparate licences that needed upgrading from time to time, and last year the bill would have been in excess of £2,000.

I was deliberating and producing a spread sheet of "needs" and "nice to haves" evolving around our business software requirements. Fortuitously and "out of the blue" Adobe answered by launching their Creative Cloud Service, so all we had to do was pay a small figure each month and have access to everything (and more) that we needed!

Seeming too good to be true so I checked and someone else also checked and it turned out that for a small monthly fee we could have access to virtually the whole adobe suite! I couldn't believe it, and believe me we looked for the small print!

A year on, I have no renewals or upgrades to do, I have access to the latest tools and our output has never looked so good! So thanks guys!

So, when we talk about the "Cloud, in this instance we are talking about a subscription service that relies on both the desktop and the cloud (a "Cloud Hybrid" if you like), and I am more than happy with the result.

Would I buy other software this way? Yes, definitely show me where to sign. It's a dream in terms of business ownership for me.

On the other hand, I have an on premise CRM system. It does what it says on the tin, but no more so we traditionally haven't paid for upgrades and the bill is now some 12k to bring it up to date! I get a quote once a year on the hope that's it's gone down but it never does!

So, I started investigating "Cloud based" CRM applications and found for us two viable alternatives that I like. In an ideal world I would sign for the monthly costs of these "Cloud" based services tomorrow without hesitation, and take on the data transfer with relish. However a problem we came across was on one trial it took me 2 minutes to hit the front screen, and the other didn't fare that much better either.

Now, I'm not blaming the software, both of these are major players and we know they work and work well!

The problem for us turned out to be infrastructure related! We are on an industrial estate, with what is known as a copper wire connection to our building! We currently use 7 different online portals which are shouted at hourly for being slow! And for further frustration, when the afternoon comes and a well-known high street company's trucks come back from their rounds and upload their data, our Internet grinds to a halt!

Although everyone tells me I'm being cynical here and it can't have anything to do with connectivity! I can't have all my data in the cloud if I'm going to struggle to access it or it creates an internal frustration and ultimately this has a negative impact on productivity!

There is always a solution though and for us it would be a bill for a fibre line? £5k to get what I have at home for £12 a month!

I'm happy that my data would be secure in the cloud (has anyone really tried to break 256k encryption?), and would my competitors really feel that my data is worth all the effort anyway? But without wishing to oversimplify the issue, the question whether to cloud or not too cloud, is not that simple after all, as there are a number of considerations to take into account!

I have Autodesk 360, AutoCAD WS, Dropbox and Sky Drive and I honestly don't know where I would be without them! I have cloud subscription services that simply make my life easier; it's just the infrastructure that lets things down sometimes.

I'm now a true convert to kindle for my books and iTunes for my music; I never rent a DVD anymore and just download what I want when I want it. So, maybe at this moment in time I'm a better domestic consumer than I currently am of professional "Cloud Services". This is probably true for most of us!

So to answer the question I get asked all the time, is CAD or namely Autodesk in the cloud a reality? Yes, we have it already in Autodesk 360 cloud services for example SIM 360, PLM, Autodesk BIM 360 and the list goes on (and is growing)!

Desktop CAD in the "Cloud"? Not quite yet but let's face it, a year ago I didn't have anything in the cloud either. I do however keep an open mind about what's best for the business at any one time.

To say never to the "Cloud" is hard and if our business adopted that approach we would not be enjoying the "Cloud" based business benefits we currently are. If it's a question of perceived ownerships however then yes I agree, we all like to own things as this has been the way in the past, but do we really need too in the future given the increasing changes in technology and data delivery methodology?

Have a look around you; do you have every Autodesk release in a bookcase since about r13? If the answer is yes, then the "Cloud" might not be for you just yet! But, a year is a long time in both business and technology, so I will revisit this post then and see how far we have come!

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