Aaron Kelly explains the business model for DraftSight

What a shocker! The premier 3D MCAD software organization, Dassault Systemes, announced a pure 2D drafting product with the business side based on an open source software model that provides free software. To find out more about the why’s and wherefore’s, Ray contacted Aaron Kelly, the head of this new business unit. My explanatory comments are within the brackets [] .

Aaron Kelly

What is your new position?

My new position is to lead the DraftSight business unit. I report into the DS SolidWorks Brand and am the General manager for this business unit. [Aaron was in SolidWorks product management for many years and has been with SolidWorks virtually since its inception – 15 years. He is a well respected SW executive.]

Where does the DraftSight organization fit within the DS and SW company structure? Is DraftSight a stand-alone company? How big is it? How is it organized?

The DraftSight organization has its own P&L and is made up of DS employees around the world. The team is made up of about 24 people in training, customer support, technical support, development, QA, marketing, product marketing, and sales.

What is the sales model, considering that the product is free?

The sales model involves selling value added services and/or products that are compelling for DraftSight users. DraftSight is free, but we are offering a service called DraftSight Premium Service. The DraftSight Premium Service includes a concurrent network license, access to the API extension (and updates) and Technical Support directly from DraftSight. This service is offered through all the Dassault Systemes direct and indirect channels. [It costs $250 per user per year]

Who are the target customers?

The primary target customers are existing DS customers who have a need to work with 2D and DWG files. This is a need, up until now, we have not had a solution for.

What is the cost/benefit to proposed customers?

We are trying to make is easier for our customers to invest in 3D and related technologies. By offering a low to no cost 2D offering, our customers can invest money allocated for 2D and use it to invest in 3D. The important thing we are trying to achieve is a superior user experience. It starts with an easy to download, free to activate product, shaped by a free, vibrant community, and is rounded out by professional technical support options.

Is the DraftSight product meant to completely replace 2D software from other competitors?

No, not really. Many of our customers today use DS products and our competitor’s [2D] products side by side. We are happy we are solving our customer’s needs where we can. We want the opportunity to either offer new 2D to 3D users who need it, expand the usage of 2D to those users who need it, but maybe cannot afford it, or replace competitor’s 2D software wherever a customer sees value.

How does DraftSight interface with other DS products? With non-DS products?

Many products from 3D CAD (SolidWorks and CATIA) to PLM products from DS read DWG files that DraftSight uses.

A focus on 2D is new for DS. Why now and what’s to come?

We are trying to solve customer problems. Customers certainly need to 2D functionality and DWG file capabilities. We are trying to help our customers. I think you are going to see many improvements in terms of social innovation tools – we are going to listen to our users with better community tools, we are going to build DraftSight based on user feedback. [Aaron went on to discuss that he plans to use crowd-sourcing from customers to vote on and thus select enhancements that they want.]

Where does the underlying technology come from? Is it Graebert? What is the impact of the Ares announcement on DraftSight?

We have a partnership with Graebert to use the ARES platform with DraftSight. We are in a very close partnership with Graebert and endorse their products for sale that have a different value proposition from DraftSight. For example, ARES Commander has a richer API and 3D as well as other features that DraftSight does not include.

What is the product future of DraftSight?

DraftSight is in Public Beta today. We will be shipping a released product in the coming months as well as a Beta version of a MAC release and a Linux release. Each DraftSight version was written specifically for the platform intended – either Windows, Mac or Linux.

If it’s free, how do you make money?

We make money by enabling our customers to invest in 3D as well as offering services around the free DraftSight product (DraftSight Premium Services). [The product, released on 22 June, about two months ago, has already had in excess of 40,000 downloads. Many fewer have signed service agreements.]

Why is this different than other free CAD products that have failed to be successful?

Customers are looking for more than free software. They want a real product with a future from a solid company, along with a long-term commitment, performance, multi-language offerings, and global support. We are offering this.

Is it open source? How do third party developers work with it?

Open source is not what our customers want. We do not offer an open source version at this time. [Rather, customers under the subscription plan have access to the API’s for adding software. In my opinion, this will slow down the development since all new code has to be done by DraftSight’s limited development team. On the other hand, this allows complete control over the software for quality and makes for a simpler development process for DraftSight.]

What are the support plans?

We have free community support for all users. Users have the ability to post questions to the entire community for feedback. We also have a support offering today that will enable a user to call, e-mail or even request remote access when applicable to help them out.

For more information about DraftSight go to www.draftsight.com .

A conversation with Marc Lind of Aras Software about open PLM software

Recently we had the chance to interview Marc Lind of Aras Software of Andover, Massachusetts about their open source PLM software. Marc is Sr. Vice President, Global Marketing.

Here are my questions and his replies. I think you will find their approach to be very different. While some smaller companies use their software, their primary market is large companies.

1. What exactly is Open Source PLM?

Lind: Aras is an advanced PLM solution suite for enterprise-wide deployments that is delivered as enterprise open source. This means that there are No PLM license expenses (no users or modules license costs). Aras personnel are executives and technologists from PTC, Dassault Systèmes, Agile-Oracle, Computer Vision and other PDM/PLM companies. The Aras scope is similar to MatrixOne and Windchill for PLM configuration management and supply chain processes with robust security and enterprise-wide scalability.

The comprehensive enterprise PLM functionality of Aras includes configuration management, engineering change workflows, document management, requirements, Bill of Materials (BOM) structure, CAD / EDA integration, costing, NPDI, stage-gate / phase-gate, project management, quality compliance, APQP/PPAP, Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), dashboard analytics, reports and more.

2. How does it differ from the typical PLM offerings from DS, PTC, SolidWorks, Siemens, etc?

Lind: There are No PLM license expenses (no users or modules license costs) and provides complete control over data model, interoperability and customization of the enterprise PLM platform (puts customers in control of their own destiny). This enables easy sharing of best practices and new process innovations either within a company and/or with a larger corporate community. Participation is completely optional. There are no requirement to contribute and companies can keep proprietary practices private.

3. What are your products?

Lind: Aras Innovator solution suite. See an overview at http://www.aras.com/solutions/

4. How does Aras make money from Open Source?

Lind: Very simple. Aras is bringing the proven Red Hat open sourcve business model for Linux to the PLM market. The software is freely available with no PLM license expense. We offer optional services (consulting and training) and subscription support packages.

For an overview of services go to http://www.aras.com/services/

For a subscription package overview go to http://www.aras.com/services/support.aspx

5. Who writes the software? Who checks it all out for QC?

Lind: We accept and encourage open source contributions back from users (contributing is completely optional), but before we incorporate these as part of the Aras-managed solutions we review, spec and re-write all the code. Why? Many reasons…

We need to maintain certain coding standards and patterns for enterprise security, architectural conformance, functional consistency, performance optimization and upgradeability. We’re also better able to ensure appropriate specifications and documentation. We add test automation hooks throughout the code, so that we can conduct automatic self-testing after each nightly build and as part of our release process. And when we rewrite it, we are ensuring that there are no licensing issues for Aras or our users. By doing all this we are providing companies with the confidence they need and the predictability they require.

We believe our approach gives the corporate community the best of both worlds – the freedom and flexibility you want in your PLM solution, with the security and control you need for your mission-critical enterprise applications. For more info see this link http://www.aras.com/Community/blogs/aras_corporate_blog/archive/2010/07/08/how-the-aras-approach-to-open-source-ensures-quality-confidence-and-corporate-security.aspx

6. Can any developer contribute?

Lind: Yes, the open source community projects are available for anyone to use, modify and contribute.

7. How are the inter-program standards kept?

See the answer to question 5, above.

8. Is there documentation available?

Lind: Comprehensive documentation from installation and configuration to admin and developer guides as well as end user documentation http://www.aras.com/support/documentation/

9. What is the typical size customer?

Lind: Typically large enterprise customers with between 1,000-10,000 PLM users

10. What customer IT skills are necessary? How much customer talent is needed to install and maintain OSS?

Lind: Microsoft platform skill sets for install and configure SQL Server database, Windows Server and .NET environment. Installing the full Aras Innovator suite should take less than 1 hour. Customizing the system typically needs PDM admin level skills (no programming is required).

11. What CAD systems do you support?

Lind: MCAD: CATIA, NX, Pro/E, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Inventor, AutoCAD and others. Also ECAD: Cadence, Allegro, OrCAD, DxDesigner/DxDatabook, PADS, Altium, Zuken and more

12. Do you support full product structure for these CAD systems and how do you stay in sync with their software and database changes?

Lind: Yes, supports full product structure for these CAD systems. We stay in sync by using the same 3rd party CAD integration developers used by Siemens, Oracle Agile and SAP.

13. Do you support CAD system attributes such as material properties, cost, etc?

Lind: Yes, CAD integration connectors include comprehensive property extraction from CAD designs including material properties, cost, etc.

14. Are there third party add-ons available as open source also? Please name them and the functional areas they cover.

Lind: Yes, there are over 85 open source community solution projects available on the Aras open source project site and more on other sites. They range from Requirements Management and Variants and Options to Motorola NPDI process and Outlook integrations.

15 and 16. Please explain any pricing advantages of OSS PLM.
What might the customer overall costs be, compared to a standard vendor offering?

Lind: Here is a good write up that describes cost of ownership comparison between Aras and other PLM solutions. http://www.aessis.com/Blog/post/Cost-of-ownership-comparison-between-Aras-and-other-PLM-solutions.aspx

[Note that there is still a substantial cost outlay.] Here is a chart from that article:

Open software cost versus Windchill Teamcenter Envoia

17. Who maintains the software and responds to program problems and customer support problems?

Lind: Aras.

18. Are there other OSS PLM vendors? Who is your primary competition?

Lind: I am not aware of any other OSS PLM vendors. Our primary competition is PTC Windchill, Siemens Teamcenter, Dassault ENOVIA MatrixOne and Agile Oracle

19. Does OSS PLM have any functional advantages over standard PLM offerings? What are they?

Lind: Clear functional advantage is the significant flexibility over the other major PLM offerings. Aras provides an advanced model-based SOA framework technology which enables real-time customization without complex programming. This means literally drag and drop modification of workflows, lifecycles, forms, business rules… even the data schema without coding. It also means that highly customized, large scale global deployments are upgraded in 10% the total time and 1% the total person hours required for other PLM/PDM systems.

For more information go to http://www.aras.com/technology/