So often these days, we hear about software, tools, and even hardware vendors releasing products that allow designers to build products in the cloud. That sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Well, not for me. To be honest, I'm not sure what that means, so I put this question to our loyal reader community: When you hear "design in the cloud," what does that mean to you?
The first response came from Michael Grillo:
I think you will find that you will be sharing your design on a single platform from a single port where others have access. Your desktop or server becomes the link through the Internet and you operate from the same portal as others. We have been on the cloud in our business for some time and there are slight differences and noticeable functional changes, advantages, and disadvantages. But like any other tool or program, it just takes a while to get familiar with the inner workings. One thing for sure is don't forget to save your changes often. There is no recovery in the data entry area for a quick back-up button like you might find in the program you are working with -- you make a change in some areas and it is changed. Security and speed has been what was promised.
Not fully understanding, I asked Grillo what exactly was promised by the concept of cloud computing. His response was this:
In our industry, we have to maintain strict confidence and information. Access to our files is limited to the standard passwords and usernames but there are also firewalls in place to keep others out. We have not had a breach or even attack on the files because they are also stored differently than each server or desktop. When using the cloud, storage of information is broken down into blocks and fields so there is a security in the fact that data is stored in a separate area than where other information is stored.
He also told us:
All this is great; but if you have the password and the username you would then have the access; which makes the security issue one still at the individual level. I am not sure one can get away from the person who does not guard the password and username, or one that would want to steal a design and/or let someone else view the information. I am sure hackers could get into the cloud just as they could your server. They have knowledge, ability, and time, but the storage does make it more difficult to find and assimilate the information. Firewalls can work, but again the weakness is down at the employee level.
The bottom line is that we have not experienced a problem as of yet. We have been on the cloud two years going on three.
And from reader Andy Braverman:
From my perspective as a product development consultant, when a client asks for a "design in the cloud," from their perspective it means they don't want any physical hardware to buy and maintain. They simply want a solution that can be addressed via a Web interface with all the "hardware" housed and maintained somewhere where they don't have to worry about it.
Readers, how would you answer this question? Tell us in the comment section below.
Jim, eventhough marketing peoples are using “CLOUD” as a buzz word, in real working environment it has many advantages. Especially when it comes under the preview of BYOD or work at home, cloud will help the employees to access the resources or repository, irrespective of device, location, time etc.
Richer, Grillo explained about the security and access mechanisms for cloud. But the basic concept of Design in the cloud is yet to be addressed. To my knowledge, it's something like keeping the design tools and design works in a common repository in cloud. Since cloud is scalable, it can be access from anywhere and peoples can work on its image from their own device and finally updating the changes with its original version in cloud. So the changes will get reflect to all its images in a real time scenario.
Similar to a response I made just last week, when Richard wrote about "PLM in the cloud" – (same basic idea) – I see the "The Cloud" as just a gimmicky marketing Buzz Word.
For decades, managers have been asking Engineers for the latest & greatest WIP data. You either get a "real-time" report (where the data resides on the server) or you get a "Snap-shot in time" (where the data resides on my home drive).
Its simply a matter of where the data resides. Pros & Cons are obvious; it's about unrestricted control of the data therein. The concept is as old as "Apple-Share" from the 1980's, but it's been re-packaged as "The Cloud".
In day jobs at larger companies, expensive cloud collaboration software is a must. Too many people, to many version.
But what can the individual or small business use? The extent if cloud use I have ever used for jobs was a centralized storage location. IE: Google drive, network drives. Do these people have other options?
Rich, I am not sure of the statement made by Grillo regarding the storage of information. In the end, all persistent data is stored in files. The organization and interpretation of the data is through the program, but that is transparent to the user. Cloud systems typically have storage integrated, but the location is transparent to the programmer and user. There are bulk storage clouds, such as Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3). On the other hand, it is important to distinguish between a design software vendor that uses a private cloud or one that is hosted on a service such as the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). I am using Amazon just as an example because they are well known. Other companies, such as IBM, Gooble, Oracle and others are now offering substantial compute resources in a cloud format.
Grillo's comment about saving often is interesting. It makes sense, since you do not have decicated hardware locally. That might be something the vendors might want to work on.