Lately I have seen a lot of rumors about SolidWorks (SW) plans for placing their software in the cloud. I spoke to Rich Allen, SolidWorks Manager of PDM Product Management, to clarify what was announced and to explore where SolidWorks might be going. I advised Rich of the questions in advance. These and his replies follow below.
Q. Please describe, as best you are able, SW’s plans for enabling Cloud computing. What apps? At what cost?
A. The only application we have announced to date is our upcoming data sharing application to be called SolidWorks Connect. We have not established firm pricing for this product yet, as it will not ship until next year, but we expect a cost under $100/user/month. This is a data sharing product that will allow users to manage and share SolidWorks and related files both internally and with users around the world. The benefit to smaller companies that may not have large IT staffs can be significant as users will be able to enjoy data management benefits without upfront purchases of hardware, software, services and very little ongoing service/maintenance.
We will continue to look at all applications where we think the cloud can offer our clients value and solve real problems. Cloud apps might not be for everyone and we won’t be forcing users to move to the cloud, but our cloud offerings will enhance our current on-premise offerings if and where it makes sense.
Q. AT SWW2010 plans for Cloud computing seemed to be limited to PDM access only. Has that changed? Are there any plans for interactive apps on the cloud?
A. The only application we have announced to date is our upcoming data sharing application to be called SolidWorks Connect.
We will continue look at all applications where we think the cloud can offer our clients value. We will not be forcing our users onto the cloud, but will continue to listen to our users and offer solutions that make sense for them, whether they are on-premise or on-the-cloud. Our goal, as always, is the help solve real problems for our users and customers.
Q. What is the precise status of cloud apps at SW in terms of working or Beta testing?
A. We are in development with SolidWorks Connect and expect to have working Beta testing in Q4 of this year. [It is expected to ship 1Q2011] We do not have any other timeframes or announcements on additional applications at this time.
Q. Will users be required to use Enovia to get to/from the cloud? Or will SW’s existing PDM products support it? What might be the differences?
A. We will base all of our future cloud applications on the ENOVIA V6 infrastructure. This will help us leverage our own technology across all the brands. It should be noted that with cloud computing, the engine is on the cloud –- end-users only will be concerned with the client they use to access the application, so we don’t expect users to have to install ENOVIA servers at their site to benefit from cloud computing.
Q. Looking to the future – where do you see cloud computing at SW?
A. We believe that we are at the forefront of a revolution in the CAD/PLM/Simulation/Engineering Tools industry and that cloud computing will play a large role.
There are economies of scale that the cloud can offer in terms of massive computing capabilities (simulation, rendering, translation), scalability (start with 1 user migrate to many); reduction in upfront costs – whether it is a CAD or PDM or PLM system, imagine not having to buy a lot of hardware and software and implementation up front, your initial costs are very low; and, upgrades may also be easier and faster as things are done on the cloud.
We also discussed how to protect intellectual property. SW plans to add some limited access control, but not much more than is available to users that e-mail SW files. We would prefer to see some sort of Rights Management control.
My opinion is that this is an excellent approach, particularly for users that do not have or want to have their own IT staffs. The cost seems reasonable and the benefits large, offering instant-on PDM data sharing worldwide.