The Rising Resistance to Cloud-Based CAD, Part 212 Aug, 2015 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager Column: CAD managers share their perspectives, including concerns about security risks, control over data, and ongoing costs.
In the first part of this series, I started a discussion about the trend of cloud-based CAD software and data storage that’s being driven by major software and IT vendors, along with the cost, security, and licensing concerns that accompany them. (If you haven’t had a chance to read that column, you may want to do so now to have proper context for this issue.) I asked for comments in response, and boy did I get them — via e-mail, Facebook, and telephone, as well as posted on the Cadalyst website.
In this second part of the series, I’ll share some of the comments I received and delve more deeply into the trends that CAD managers should be aware of when considering how cloud-based processes can affect their CAD ecosystems. Here goes.
Comments on Centralization
Not 15 minutes after the last CAD Manager’s Newsletter went live, the comments started flowing in. The most popular subject of commentary was CAD and IT providers’ efforts to replace end users’ locally installed software and servers with rental software and leased server space. Obviously, cloud CAD software and data storage means that customers would have less control over their CAD ecosystem in this scenario, and that seemed to touch a nerve with many readers. Here are a few edited comments from Cadalyst readers and my CAD Managers Unite! Facebook group, so you can gauge the mood for yourself:
“Not gonna happen. CAD is my tool. I need it when I need it, regardless if my Internet connection is broken. As soon as skilled labor starts using cloud-based hammers and pliers, I'll consider it.” — M.M., via Facebook
“For certain things, it makes sense. Like using the almost infinite computing power for rendering, analysis, etc., where even a monster workstation would take 1,000 times longer. But for hosting applications and storing the data that keeps your company in business? I don’t see many people jumping on board.” — R.K.M., via Facebook
“I know, from our trench, we hate it. The reality is no one needs to access CAD from outside their desk. And the management feels it is the first step to software as a service, and no one likes that payment method.” — T.McD., via Facebook
“We will keep our core perpetual licenses. If forced to migrate to a non-perpetual version, we will consider alternative applications. The cloud is not being considered because of our security and cost containment concerns.” — D.P. via Facebook
“My firm is kicking and screaming against it. Regardless of the ‘security,’ there is still the impression that sensitive and confidential data can be compromised.” — K.F., via Facebook
Now that you’ve seen a few less-than-glowing comments about cloud centralization, let’s see the flip side:
“I don't mind Autodesk's new license rental method, mainly because I already have a good core of perpetual licenses that we maintain. I will leverage it when our workload picks up again and new hires exceed my base license pool.” — V.W., via Facebook
“The challenge within the contract furniture industry is that it is expected that all drawing platforms will be supported, regardless of release. If the cloud platform finally forces the issue for advancement in production and workflow ... why not?” — Alibia, via Cadalyst
“I work for a firm that uses its own VM [virtual machine] solution that, interestingly, is not housed in any of our production locations. So everything we do, including the software itself, is technically on our own controlled cloud location.” — B.M., via Facebook
Reading between the lines in the wide array of comments received, I’ve drawn a few conclusions about the perceptions regarding centralization of CAD software and storage on the cloud:
Strong resistance is common. Those who are against it are very much against it, with security risks and lack of control being the most commonly cited reasons. The commenters with negative opinions of cloud-based centralization far, far outnumber those who view it positively.
Supporters have reservations. Those who express some level of support for the concept usually qualify their position by saying they’ll keep their current licenses, or that they expect cloud solutions to solve particular workflow issues that are specific to their company. Not a single response said, “We are all for this and have no reservations about the approach.”
Private clouds — not public clouds — are the success stories. Some companies are hosting their own servers and CAD software at central locations for their branch offices (as B.M. above describes). This “private cloud” architecture delivers a cloud-like work experience to remote offices, but doesn’t sacrifice the company’s control over software or data storage.
Comments on Security and Control
Unsurprisingly, many comments I received focused on security and software control issues. Here are a few that provoke thought:
“Our ‘secure’ CAD workstation laptops, with no Wi-Fi device installed, are only connected to a local area network (LAN) that is not online, for various security concerns. A move toward any licensing scheme that requires an online activation or confirmation from a CAD-provider vendor license-server will never be used. Period.” – Rsanders, via Cadalyst
“My current facility is a brokerage and bank; previous was a medical facility. Every hole poked between our computers and the outside world is a potential breach that we have to maintain, document, and justify exhaustively. Sorry, not worth it.” — M.S.P., via Facebook
“We have to sign non-disclosure agreements for some of our clients. Cloud-based storage is unacceptable to them, so we cannot use Autodesk 360. When we do share drawings, we tend to use Dropbox.” – D.P., via Facebook
“It is interesting that the CAD vendors want to tell us what we need. They even go so far as to risk losing us as customers to do so. It’s working.” – Jmaeding, via Cadalyst
“One more little concern about the cloud-based CAD to add is: Would we still have the choice of when — and even if — we would migrate to a new release?” – Tifa, via Cadalyst