CAD Manager's Newsletter (#386)27 Jun, 2017 By: Robert Green
If you're trying to make smart choices about cloud technologies for your company, don't base your decisions on hype and hearsay — start by understanding real-world benefits and liabilities.
Editor's Note: This column kicks off Cadalyst's Summer on the Cloud, during which we'll explore some of the benefits and challenges of cloud technology for CAD. Over the next few months, you'll find more cloud coverage in future installments from Robert Green, in Alex Herrera's Herrera on Hardware column, in the Cadalyst Library, and more!
Believe it or not, the term the cloud has been bandied about in information technology circles for nearly 10 years now, and the idea of CAD running on the cloud has been discussed for almost as long. During this cloudy decade, we've heard plenty of hype from the cloud hardware and software companies, but specifics have often been lacking. It's no wonder that the cloud remains such a confusing concept.
In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we'll explore a general framework for what CAD in the cloud might mean for different types of companies, define some terms, and explore what the relative benefits and limitations might be. Here goes.
What Is the Cloud?
A good question — that has multiple answers. Perhaps the simplest answer is to say that the cloud is a collection of computing resources that are located somewhere other than your desktop, and are accessed via an Internet or virtual private network (VPN) connection. Practically speaking, cloud-based resources can include any of the following:
Network storage. Think applications like Dropbox or OneDrive that provide storage for your files on a remote server. Costs are typically computed in terms of terabytes per year, per user.
Dedicated servers. More than just network storage, a dedicated server can host company-specific SQL databases that require special server configurations without being located at your company's offices. Costs typically depend on the number of users connected to the server and total amount of storage, and are computed on a per-year basis.
Software as a Service (SaaS). Any software application that is centrally hosted on a remote server and subscribed to (rented) for a fixed period of time can be described as SaaS. The user never owns the software, and no usage rights remain after the subscription period ends. Costs are typically based on the number of users and computed on monthly or annual rental periods.
Licensing servers. Not exactly like SaaS, but similar. In this case, software tools are installed on the user's machine, but the right to run the software is validated by a licensing server maintained at the software company's offices.
Remote workstations. Rather than having a powerful CAD workstation at the user's desk, a low-powered computer with basic graphics connects to a workstation that resides in a remote data center. These remote workstations could be owned and housed by the user's company, or they could be leased from a workstation provider who maintains them at their location.
Don't be confused by the term private cloud; it simply indicates an ecosystem of these components that's hosted in a home office (instead of a public cloud service) and accessed from a remote office of the same company. The company has ownership over the ecosystem — but the problems of bandwidth and latency remain.
The CAD Ecosystem
If you think about it, the types of cloud resources listed above (workstations, software, servers, and storage) are the same resources we've always used to run and control our CAD environments. The difference with the cloud is that these resources aren't usually located at, or owned by, our company. I like to think of it as hardware and/or software outsourcing. Read more »
Cadalyst Updates Guide to CAD Freebies
The editors of Cadalyst, with help from our contributing editors and readers who are in the CAD trenches day in and day out, have compiled this guide to more than 100 software tools and resources that don't cost a cent. Available for free download with registration.
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