Autodesk is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to cloud-based design tool services.
At its recent Autodesk University 2011 conference held in Las Vegas, the company took the wraps off of its first-ever PLM offering: Autodesk 360 for PLM, an approach that combines a software-as-a-service component with its traditional on-premises product data management (PDM) platform known as Vault. The hybrid approach is intended to address manufacturing customers' mounting demand for an easier to deploy and less expensive alternative to traditional, monolithic PLM systems while, at the same time, addressing the security concerns that typically surround cloud-based deployments.
The cloud-based Autodesk 360 offers a range of PLM capabilities, including a set of phase/gate processes to serve the new product introduction (NPI) aspect of product development.
"We don't believe the market is asking for PDM in the cloud -- pushing files back and forth between a CAD tool and a cloud tool is not a performance system, and most companies prefer to keep their CAD tools behind the firewall," Steve Bodnar, Autodesk's vice president of PLM and data management, told us. "We're putting things that make sense in the cloud and leaving things that make sense behind the firewall whether it's due to concerns around performance or a sense of security."
It seems like a reasonable approach and one that's bound to garner Autodesk some traction -- that is, if the components of the Autodesk 360 for PLM platform can stand up to the on-premises competition. The new PLM offering is part of Autodesk 360, what Autodesk is referring to as collaboration, data, and lifecycle management tools for both PLM and its Building Information Management (BIM) line. It is built on the Autodesk Cloud foundation, a collection of Web services unveiled in October.
This seems like a perfect applications for cloud computing. I would imagine there would be savings, as you say, because users can pick and choose functionality. I would also think it would also users access to more computing power and more current updates.
What's really interesting about Autodesk 360 is that Autodesk didn't put what many consider the primary foundation of PLM--the core Product Data Management system--in the cloud, but rather is using cloud technology to serve up all the applications and processes related to a product's full lifecycle. That's critical because companies are not going to want to put their core product IP in the cloud--they'll have huge reservations around security, whether warranted or not. But they might be comfortable using project management, collaboration, requirements management, new product introduction modules, quality and service, etc. as cloud-based software given that they already tap the cloud for core enterprise systems like ERP and CRM.
Interesting. So the cloud services are available to existing customers who have the software resident internally. I would imagine the cloud services still come with cost savings since, presumably, users can access the extra services in the cloud at a lower cost than if they loaded the extras internally. Or, are the cloud services only available through the cloud?
We've talked about this before -- the delicate dance done by companies like Autodesk, which need to serve the demands of their customer bases, without slitted their own corporate throats when it comes to undercutting their very lucrative streams of per-seat licenses. Seems like Autodesk has developed a savvy strategy here, by putting different levels of functionality in different places. (Different CAD strokes for different access modes?)
Most enterprise software is offered in the cloud in some form, but PLM has been slow to move in that direction because there are concerns about keeping critical product development intellectual property outside of a company's own security and network infrastructure. As cloud software becomes more commonplace in other areas of the business, companies are becoming more open to the idea because of cost savings, as you all mention, both from the standpoint of paying for only what you use and because you don't have to invest in all the server and IT infrastructure to run and manage the software. Autodesk isn't the first to embrace the cloud--Arena Solutions is a small PLM player which has been doing this from the getgo and Dassault recently made it own big move in the cloud. In addition, many of the CAD/PLM companies will implement their software in a private cloud if that's how customers want to deploy it.
Alex: It's not so much different variations of CAD--the CAD piece of this puzzle is staying put on the desktop because it really needs the processing and high-intensity graphics muscle (kind of like the stuff we've been talking about with mobile CAD) of local processing.
What is being migrated to the cloud are the broader elements of PLM platforms that are about the design processes before and after the designing and managing of CAD models. We're talking about requirements management, project managment and collaboration, supplier management, quality management and compliance, maintenance and field support. These are components of a closed-loop PLM system, but are more in keeping with traditional enterprise applications like ERP and supply chain management. Therefore, they are a more natural fit to serve up in the cloud to give companies the benefits without sacrificing performance.
TJ, I've wondered exactly the same thing, which is one reason I haven't made the move yet to cloud storage. The other reasons are security and backup procedures. For the second, you have to assume that someone else's backup hardware is better than yours. Until those companies can give the assurances that banks do--i.e., their piggy bank is more secure than my under-mattress storage device and they are regulated by law to be so--I'm not biting. The first, security, is at least as important and I don't think that's been solved yet. My backup hardware is way more secure for my data than anyone else's, by definition.
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