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Engineering software will embrace the web

Engineering software will embrace the web

New ways of doing engineering design are coming into view, says Bentley, and the web's responsible.

Design News: What will the Internet mean to the engineering software industry?

Bentley: We are at the cusp of a major shift, a paradigm change if you will. To me it feels like it did when the PC came in. The Internet has the capability of producing that kind of revolution. In computing technology, specifically in the engineering software industry, it's going to have radical effects. Software distribution techniques certainly are going to change, that's for sure. I don't know if we have the answer to how software's going to be licensed, dis-tributed, updated--even de-signed. But the methods will not be those we use today.

Q: How will Intranet technology affect the way design engineers work?

A: The new engineering design paradigm will be much more like a browser than it is today. We will see engineering-content-oriented search engines, and a lot of engineering-oriented content on the web. You'll start up in the morning, log into a web browser, and use it to find the information you want about the project you're currently working on. It will also connect you with others who are working on the same project.

Q: And will that be an Intranet as opposed to the Internet?

A: Most people will start with an Intranet, optimizing what they do inside their organization, because they have more control over that. As time goes on, people will connect outside of their companies. But internal communications will be the first step. By the end of 1997 there won't be a successful design company in the world that doesn't have an Intranet. Most of them will also be Internet-capable, but we'll be using Intranets on every project we do from now on.

Q: What advances do you see coming in desktop hardware?

A: Multiprocessors will become far more prevalent in desktop computers. There've been multiprocessor computers in server configurations for a long time, but desktops really haven't taken advantage of multiprocessors. Probably every software developer is working on doing more with multiprocessors. Certainly you can expect multimedia capabilities on every desktop. And in communications, seven years from now, the bandwidth between any two computers in the world will be far greater than the best bandwidth we have today between the world's two fastest computers.

Q: What is dynamic extensibility and how is it related to Sun's Java software?

A: Today, a CAD program is a big, monolithic program. Everything it can do is bound into the program at the time it's created. When you use object techniques, and software that's dynamically bound--a program that can recognize new programs as they come into existence--things like Java make a big difference. We've been working on an extension to Microstation--we call it Objective Microstation. The programming environment encapsulated inside Objective Microstation is Java plus persistence, which is necessary to do modeling. It allows you to compile a program on a UNIX machine and execute it on a Windows machine. It has all the same properties that Java does in terms of object programming techniques, in fact the syntax is similar.

Q: What are digital signatures and how do they work?

A: Digital signatures consist of your digital signature encrypted with a public signature, plus a check sum of the document. Those three--a public key, a private key, and a check sum, produce a unique signature that could only have been generated by you. Because I can check the value of that signature, only you could have made that change to that document, and I can trust it. The program's digital signature addresses the concern with viruses, and people who write Trojan horse programs. The check sum looks at the information--the document.

Q: What will tomorrow's technology do to the engineer's computer screen?

A: Your desktop will be just a part of your screen. Your screen will have a much more three-dimensional look. What you see will certainly go beyond your desk, probably to a lot of other persons' desks. It will probably expand to outside of your company. It will be an update of the status of the rest of the world. Certainly the status of your desk will be a part of that, but not all of it.

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