Nice coverage on the article, as I am writing from TeamPlatform I'm well aware of the power of today's cloud for different types of design, engineering, manufacturing and service organizations and their projects.
Along with search, versioning, custom-fields, and assembly management, a good reason for keeping CAD, project tools, and collaboration features accessible and in one place is to both follow established procedure and encourage communication. Simple setup and sign-in makes this easy to extend to partners and suppliers. Traceability (audit) of workspace activity is a catch-all. Both regimented and less formal projects can be established, depending on the case needed.
For service companies, easily engaging with the customer by way of collaboration portals with custom-web-forms or shared workspace templates helps standardize engineering service workflows, without potentially overbearing workflow design. This provides a comprehensive setup for projects with no overhead to repeat.
In developing new templates, existing projects can be duplicated with corresponding categorization that a template has been approved. This provides agility in executing projects, with full awareness that a pilot project may be vetted for use as a template later. Of course, templates can be created from scratch, as well.
Rather than a general file sharing or collaboration tool (like Dropbox, say) both the subject space and the relationships in design, engineering, manufacutuing and services organziations between client, partner, supplier are unique, as is the type of content that is being shared. TeamPlatform addresses different relationships with a few, simple ways to communicate including password protected published web-pages and shared or read-only workspaces. Online viewing and downloading of CAD, assemblies, DWG, 3D scan, mesh, doc, video and image formats help the effectiveness of collaboration.
This rounds up a few points that I would like to add to help with the blog entry.
What Is perfectly clear to me is that most of the folks touting "the cloud" have something to sell that is required to participate. That seems to me to point out that possibly the main reason to promote this nebulous entity is to make profit, rather than to deliver any particular value.
I am really impressed with the line "which facilitate more organic stakeholder engagement", as an alternative to "those stuffy old design rules" that avoid a lot of disasters. Most of those relate to the laws of physics, which often get quite harsh when they are violated, while some others just get things that are too expensive to make, if they are not followed. Of course, it is entirely possible, and quite prudent, to check a design against actual physical reality instead of against a set of rules and guidelines. Sometimes that is preferred. But it usually takes longer, and it is seldom easier.
Beth - thanks; that helps me focus my understanding a bit. Let me test my understanding of your explanation:
For decades, being a ProE user at a major corporation meant that you had to query a license prior to starting work every morning. (company had 30 ProE seats but 45 users, for example) so the licenses were considered "floating" and you had to get one to start work. So, your explanation of "cloud" would be relatively similar to this?
I'm going to let Naperlou wade in with the differences between the Web and Internet, but I want to say this about the cloud. The cloud is really a paradigm shift in how computing services--could be CAD, could be simulation, could be more traditional office productivity tools or enterprise sysetms--are delivered to end users. The idea behind cloud is that there are pools of compute/storage/platform resources that can be spun up and taken down when needed, much like a utility grid. Cloud doesn't have to be synonymous with public. In fact, most organizations are building out their own private clouds (really a different take on building out a data center) and potentially tapping into public clouds for peak capacity or as experimental sandboxes.
My guess is most engineering-related computing tools (except for maybe simulation) will eventually migrate to a private cloud scenario so the overall organization can take advantage of cost efficiencies and maintenance efficiencies of the new compute model. I don't necessarily see CAD applications running as Software-as-a-Service (the pay as you go software that most equate with cloud computing). In the end, users, i.e., engineers, won't even know where their software is running and the critical design IP will be protected just as it has been traditionally within the four walls of an organization.
Naperlou, I agree with your principles – first, that opening your designs to broad accessibility decreases your ability to manage it; and second, good designs from strong companies will never likely be "cloud" efforts. But you said something else I don't understand, and maybe you can elaborate: "The web, and the Internet (two different things)". What does that mean-? I have always considered Internet, web, and cloud to be synonymous terms. Puzzled, - JimT.
@Naperlou: I'm not sure I'm stressing or advocating the cloud idea, simply reporting on a trend that appears to be accelerating at a pretty rapid pace. When I say the cloud, I'm really lumping all cloud-based architectures into a bucket, be it Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), private clouds, or public clouds. Same for Web-based services, but I see your point about the Internet being around for a long time.
Frankly, I don't see engineering groups turning to public clouds to host collaboration environments, but I do see SaaS-based platforms like TeamPlatform and others becoming increasingly popular, especially for far flung development groups and outsourced partners. I think PLM and BPM platforms have long struggled with the usability issue and they will continue to evolve by incorporating some of the ease-of-use capabilities of cloud-based offerings without losing their ability to accommodate workflow and rules. Rather, they will embrace new technologies to usher in ease-of-administration and the ability to get up and running quickly.
Beth, I notice a trend in your articles. It looks like you are stressing the cloud idea. Actually, you make a statement in your article that TeamPlatform relies on the Web. That is correct. My understanding of what the cloud is may be a bit different. There are compute clouds, storage clouds, and software clouds (SaaS, like Salesforce.com). The web, and the Internet (two different things), well pre-date the cloud.
All that aside, this seems like a good product for small and medium businesses. You mention many times in the article how hard PLM and BPM systems are. That is not becuase they are not well designed. They intentionally impose procedures and rules. This is important, because without that, yo run the risk of loosing control of your deisgn and open yourself up to product liability problems. You also cannot really measure your effort and manage large complex teams and designs. When the group is small enough, this might not be a problem.
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