The Rising Resistance to Cloud-Based CAD21 Jul, 2015 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager Column: It’s in software vendors’ best interest to retain control of their customers’ CAD software and data — but what about the users that rely on that software?
The Cloud Is Slow
If the security risks aren’t enough to scare your management teams away from the cloud, then your users will object once they experience how slow it can be. I guarantee that when your users are subjected to the experience of opening huge CAD files across shared low-bandwidth connections, they will not be happy.
The simple fact is that moving CAD files across the Internet is slow, and the cloud is dependent upon that movement. If you think your current wide-area network (WAN) is slow, then what will happen when you add a substantial amount of cloud traffic to your already slow WAN connection? Your network will become even slower.
I should point out that there are new and old WAN acceleration tools from companies such as Riverbed, Peer, and Panzura that can speed up your WAN by placing gatekeeping hardware or software at all your WAN nodes, but they can’t do anything to speed up a cloud storage or software vendor’s speed. So while WANs can be optimized, the cloud really can’t be.
Power to the User
While we’re all supposed to be moving toward the cloud, despite its security and speed limitations, the devices on our desks are becoming speed demons — and for relatively little money. Mobile workstations with quad-core i7 processors, 16 GB of RAM and PCIe-based solid-state drives (SSDs) are now flirting with $2,000 price levels and desktop workstations are even cheaper than that. Multisocket Xeon-based machines with 8 cores, 32 GB of RAM, PCIe, and massive disk arrays can be had in the $5,000 range.
And since the cloud will always be subject to infrastructure limitations, only those in areas with gigabit fiber-based Internet will enjoy fast transfer rates; users in smaller, more remote areas will be forced to limp along on low-bandwidth connections for years to come. Conversely, anybody who can receive a FedEx delivery can have a killer workstation in a few days.
So the question becomes: Why make my users jump through hoops to perform design work on clunky cloud-based software when I can give them a Herculean workstation that’ll perform at warp speed and fit into a laptop bag?
I Am Not a Luddite!
Lest anyone accuse me of being a technophobe, let me assure you I believe that designers will still use Internet-connected tools in certain situations. Those being:
- Remote access. Using a tablet to remotely access your workstation is a great way to work from home or while traveling. This is also a way to facilitate sharing a high-powered workstation or specialized software application dedicated to rendering amongst several users.
- Temporary project staff increases. If a company has a big project coming they may want to license CAD software for a few months until the project concludes, then archive the data to their internal servers.
- Per-file rendering and analysis. In cases of extremely expensive rendering and analysis packages that may not be used frequently, the concept of simply paying per job may be appealing — although the liability of loading CAD models to the rendering/analysis vendor’s servers may dampen enthusiasm for the approach.
Will cloud-based tools make sense in these types of scenarios (and probably some others I haven’t thought of)? Certainly. Will the cloud be the best choice in all scenarios? No.
If your company doesn’t have a clear strategy for how to approach cloud-based CAD tools, now is the time to have the discussion. My hope is you can use the topics in this article as a starting point to open discussion with your senior management and IT staffs.
Do you think that centralized cloud-based CAD sweep the market and do away with local software, servers, and WANs? E-mail me at rgreen@CAD-Manager.com with your thoughts. I’ll explore this issue further in the coming months.
Editor's Note: Read Part 2 of this series here.