Following up on announcements we made at SolidWorks World 2010

Eight months have passed since we took the stage at SolidWorks World in Anaheim and talked about cloud technology and the benefits it can bring to the product design process. As I travel around the world talking to companies and visiting user groups, I’ve noticed the same questions keep coming up, and I wanted to address some of them directly.

First, people are asking what this “cloud” thing is all about
In a nutshell, “cloud computing” leverages the Internet to shift processor-intensive tasks from the desktop to more-powerful remote machines. We’ll talk more about technology later, but if you want to learn more now, this blog post by Faisal Ghadially does a nice job of exploring the different options.

Second, people are asking if the introduction of cloud applications means the end of installed software.
Rest assured—moving resources online is not an “either/or” decision. In Anaheim, we committed to supporting three platforms—the desktop, online, and mobile devices. We will continue to offer locally-installed desktop CAD, data management and validation solutions, and will allow our customers to move online only when they are ready.

As an example, our first online offering is code-named SolidWorks Connect (we originally referred to this as SolidWorks Product Data Sharing at SolidWorks World). This online CAD-based collaboration tool is planned for early 2011 and is specifically designed for smaller companies and individual users who need to easily upload, organize, and share designs – many times at a moment’s notice.

While this online service will be available using a credit card and doesn’t require any on-site equipment or IT support, users will still have on-premise PDM options with SolidWorks Workgroup and SolidWorks Enterprise PDM. You can select the solution that’s right for your environment and your particular business needs, whether it’s online or on-site.

Third, I sometimes hear “…why are you looking at online CAD –users aren’t asking for this?!?”
Many times in the technology development process, users don’t specifically ask for a feature or technology. No one asked for a laptop, or iPod, or digital camera—right? Rather, users lamented the fact that they were tied to their desk for computing resources, and/or wanted the ability to create their own customized mobile “player” of their favorite music.

Similarly, we’ve had a number of users who tell us they want file sharing and collaboration capabilities, but can’t make the commitment to purchasing and maintaining such a solution over time. SolidWorks Connect provides great value to these users in helping them take advantage of the basic collaboration capabilities that PDM systems offer larger companies, and that they’ve enjoyed for years, with the result that smaller users are now able to compete more effectively.

This same idea could potentially apply to our CAD and validation products. For example, imagine that you’re working on a project that could really benefit from fluid or airflow analysis, but you only have occasional use for such capabilities, and can’t justify the purchase of SolidWorks Flow Simulation. With an online option, you could potentially “rent” those capabilities for a short period of time, giving you access to the tools you need at a cost you can afford.

Security is another concern I keep hearing from the community.
What if someone steals my data? Protection of IP is certainly critical. This blog entry by Craig Balding discusses seven ways that storing data online is actually beneficial to businesses, ranging from data centralization to better security and password protections than most small-to-medium businesses are capable of on their own, and is worth reading through. Any hosting partner we select will need to meet a number of rigid requirements to ensure customer data is safe. That said, many times the real threat comes from disgruntled employees who are already inside the organization or from employees who leave laptops or other critical assets vulnerable.

I realize that there are other questions and concerns out there that haven’t been addressed. In the next few weeks, members of the SolidWorks executive team will talk more about some these topics, such as issues with Internet bandwidth and outages, ownership of electronic data, and more.

In the meantime, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.