Beth, while this is interesting in a science environment, I wonder about its applicability in a commercial engineering world. I consult with commercial companies on everything from Internet based businesses to embedded, real time products. They won't even talk without an NDA. In the design world, the real value of a company is its IP. So, how does this translate into these grand visions of "crowd sourcing".
You raise an interesting point, Naperlou, and one we hear over and over again from the DN readers. Who in their right mind, they say, is going to put critical design IP in a public forum for comment and sharing.
That said, I'm not sure that's exactly what the CAD/PLM vendors like Dassault/SolidWorks have in mind. They see the revolution underway in the consumer market with collaboration, social media, crowdsourcing, information sharing taking off like crazy and they recognize that some element of how people relate in their personal lives is going to need to filter back into their professional lives. I'm not sure the actual corporate IP will ever live in the public forum or be talked about over social networks. But I do think that CAD and PLM tools will continue to evolve with more sharing and community type functionality to support the way people are starting to collaborate and share in their rest of lives. After all, isn't that what we're doing right now in this community forum?
naperlou brings up the same question I've often had when reading about crowdsourcing: How can IP be protected? The trend toward declaring practically everything a company thinks, does or says IP seems to be completely opposed to the crowdsourcing social this-and-that trend. How can that IP possibly be kept out of dialogue, and not hacked, among so many over such a broad-based internetwork as the Internet, where even the CIA's site can get hacked?
The IP issue is huge, I agree. I could see this approach being viable if it was used as a defacto Intranet inside an organization, to bring far-flung company resources to a project electronically versus physically. However, even with that scenario, there is the ever-present bugaboo of Internet security, which never seems to go away, and keeps many IP sensitive companies flying employees around the globe rather than risk Internet collaboration.
Intranet apps make more sense to me for this technology, sand other collaborative techniques, than Internet apps. But I think you're right, RNDDUDE, communication and security holes still have to be extremely tightly controlled for even that to be successful without the risk of leaks.
I think a lot of this collaboration and social development will happen organically via closed "intranets" within companies, if you can still call them that since they tend to scale across companies and global boundaries. I agree the IP issue is huge and will need to be figured out. Exactly how and what people collaborate on will be an evolving issue as use cases arrive.
But the security issue is a different story. Of course, there are some industries where critical IP and company processes can't leave or exist outside of the firewall. But in instances where regulations don't govern that, I think cloud security has really evolved to a point where it's not this gaping hole that some describe it to be. Cloud providers have been working for years on building out secure data centers along with redundancy, disaster recovery, and scalability capabiltiies. In many cases, they've can do more on the security front than companies that might have limited IT budgets.
Beth, et al, I don't want to give the impression that I am against collaboration technologies, I am not. I do have a concern where critical information is concerned. I just saw a headline at the Fox News website declaring that Chinese hackers had gained control over NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). These government networks are open because they are doing non-commercial research, just like the example of Neptune Canada. So, if the hackers had done something bad at the JPL site, no company would be out of business. On the other hand, most of what NASA works with is very expensive, and it is our money. Another example of Chinese hackers getting into a commercial company is NORTEL Networks. They were evidentially in there for ten years. NORTEL is now out of business. This is the type of situation you need to be aware of.
As an example of where the NASA network stands in the estimation of companies comes from my personal experience. I was at a large aerospace contractor. We had a company wide DECnet at the time (pre-Internet). One of our technicians accidentially connected our plant, and thus the whoe company, to the NASA network. We were supposed to go through a special bridging set-up. The corporate people who ran the network saw it at once. They threatened to cut our plant out of the corporate network. We did fire someone. From that and the recent hacking experiences, you can see where my concern comes from.
Vendors like Dassault are always looking at ways to make their products more useful and more attractive to their customers. That is a good thing. This is an area, though, where there are some major issues that have to be resolved. The same can be said of the public cloud in general.
Intranets and the Internet are definitely different things. Intranets are not necessarily campus-specific, but they are usually company-specific, even if some outsiders can access certain portions of them. Of course, the more complex they get and the more outsiders that can access even only small pieces of them, the more security holes there are to plug. For instance, Anonymous claimed a few days ago that it hacked and temporarily shut down the CIA's website. Now we hear that the Chinese have infiltrated JPL. As has been often said in both hardware and software, anything an engineer can build another engineer can take apart. When it comes to a planet-wide cloud., there are major issues and problems that have to be fixed first.
I tried to get SolidWorks to do this from 1997-1999. The start was to supply a large quantity of common parts with a separate database for non geometry information. We would provide our semi-intelligent parts library so every user had the same model of an item so when you shared assemblies you did not have to send the common models. This could save every owner of SolidWorks several thousand dollars in the first year alone. In 1999 I estimated the cost to duplicate the library at $20,000.00 in labor. The down side for SolidWorks was the update cost. Every time a new version shipped the files would have to be checked and updated.
@Beth, Dassault acquired SolidWorks later than 1997.
@EdDanzer: Thanks for wading in, Ed. Not sure I completely understand the correlation between the stuff SolidWorks is doing now (or says it's going to do) and the scenario you describe. Would you mind elaborating more specifically on what you wanted them to do and why? It sounds like you had a pretty interesting vision around collaboration for a specific purpose--reuse of models and standardized design processes, perhaps?
Also, FYI, the date of the announced definitive agreement to merge the two companies was June 1997--at least according to press releases on their Web sites.
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