Hosted CAD or PDM systems, or CAD in the cloud, is an emerging technology that offers many advantages over traditional on premise workstation CAD configurations and is making many companies rethink how to deliver future CAD software solutions. Unlike previous CAD software that is typically loaded onto a local computer or laptop at your desk, CAD in the cloud runs software over an Internet browser on virtual machines with powerful graphics processors that are much closer to the central database itself. Not only does this result in a better performance value, it’s also easier to maintain and upgrade software from an administrator’s point of view.
Better Performance Value
Because a cloud hosted CAD system uses a web-based technology delivery method, it provides a higher performance value offering. To understand how this technology works, the user interface or Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) of the CAD software is streamed from the virtual host machine directly to the standard browser on the end user’s device, similar to a video. However, unlike a video, the user interactively controls these images in real time (making it feel as if the software is installed right at the user’s desk, even if it is actually installed several time zones away). The advantage is that now any device with an Internet browser and reasonable bandwidth connection can achieve fast performance speeds similar to a more expensive, higher end workstation.
Accessibility to data is also improved because now companies can easily run their CAD systems on a wider variety of new operating systems and platforms -- including smartphones and tablets -- especially when located in remote areas. This in turn encourages more collaboration and mobility for the extended design team and supply chain stakeholders. Additionally, companies can also revitalize and resurrect older computers and laptops that were previously lying dormant because this new technology allows these older machines to perform much faster. This reduces the need for new equipment purchases and further reduces future expenses because older equipment can now be reused and redeployed.
Cloud-based CAD and PDM systems offer a higher performance value and simplify administration upgrades and support
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VDI’s are also very flexible and performance can easily be upgraded or downgraded as needed to optimize computing and budgetary constraints. As an example, let’s say that during 90% of the development cycle, only regular CAD designing and documentation is needed. During these phases, a standard performance configuration would work just fine. However, during certain crucial phases of development -- such as industrial design conceptualization or FEA simulation -- a higher-performance workstation is needed in order to meet tight project schedules.
Instead of purchasing an extremely expensive workstation that would only use a fraction of its performance capability over the majority of the project, a VDI configuration could be temporarily upgraded to meet the higher performance requirements only needed during these crucial phases. Higher processing power could be “rented” out for a shorter period of time, saving large amounts of money while still delivering the results needed. In this way, an on-demand VDI provides great value by giving users the right processing power at the right time for the right cost.
Less Administration Headaches
Due to global resourcing and frequent corporate mergers and acquisitions, many CAD users today are experiencing the nightmare of having legacy part files and assembly files scattered across multiple servers, throughout multiple locations. This makes it virtually impossible to effectively coordinate and manage engineering change releases and also wastes tremendous amounts of time trying to find the latest, correct version of the part. While some Internet file sharing sites do offer some basic relief, experience has clearly shown this is only a temporary solution and does not keep pace with the full functionality a real Product Data Management (PDM) system provides. By using a cloud-hosted technology to create a virtual, centralized PDM system, these problems can be quickly resolved. A hosted PDM system allows all users from anywhere in the world to control and access their needed files -- saving time and producing more efficient workflows.
In addition, hosted systems provide system administrators with other significant benefits such as:
- Easier upgrade planning. Since all users are now connected to the same central platform, upgrades are much simpler, making it no longer necessary to travel to each computer at each different location. Time is also saved by using standard system configurations and by not having to relearn each computer’s unique patchwork of software or virus scan settings.
- Easier to handle diverse operating systems. Older, legacy computers and operating systems can now easily run VDI solutions over a standard Internet browser (without having to upgrade to a new operating system).
- Room to grow. Hosted systems are also very scalable for future engineering applications or for any upcoming department staffing needs. Additional user seats, data storage, or processor capacity can be easily upgraded to quickly meet future business needs on demand.
The Ability to Do More
Hosted CAD and PDM in the cloud solutions offer more flexibility, higher performance values and easier support than existing desktop technologies. In general, hosted CAD and PDM systems give companies more time to focus on what they do best by improving accessibility, enhancing performance, and reducing administration headaches and distractions.
Chad Garrish is Epigrid Corporation’s CTO overseeing general operations and technical sales implementations.