CAD Manager's Newsletter #117 (October 28, 2004)27 Oct, 2004 By: Robert Green
CAD Document Management, Part V
In the past four issues of the CAD Manager's Newsletter (click here for archives), I've built a detailed framework you can use to support your evaluation of EDM (electronic document management) systems. You should now have enough information to understand what types of systems exist and which key technology components will be useful (or not) in your company's computing environment. If you haven't had a chance to read the past four issues, I recommend you do so now so you'll have proper context for this issue.
In this issue I'll being summarizing some common CAD-focused EDM systems I've encountered in the field and those that seem to be gathering momentum. In this edition I'll discuss Vault by Autodesk and AutoManager by Cyco Software. These systems aren't your only options by any means, but they represent two possibilities for CAD-centric document management that run on your internal network.
It is worth mentioning that Autodesk previously tried to enter the EDM market with its WorkCenter product. WorkCenter's ultimate failure seemed to make Autodesk gun-shy about the EDM market. But now Autodesk is trying again with Vault, an adaptation of True Innovations' True Vault product, which Autodesk purchased early in 2003. The company offers Vault free with subscriptions to its mechanical design products.
Vault supports rudimentary EDM functions such as
part-to-assembly management (crucial for mechanical CAD
software), version control, check in/out, DWF file
management, and full content searching. The level of
functionality is adequate for basic control of Inventor or
AutoCAD Mechanical assemblies and parts within network
workgroups. It's really no surprise that an Autodesk
product would be tightly integrated with Autodesk CAD
products and DWF file-sharing format, but the system's lack
of more advanced functionality such as BOM (bill of
material) support, routing, and workflow support makes
Vault a workgroup tool at best in its current incarnation.
Vault is more interesting in terms of where it is going than where it is right now. Vault's SQL database architecture means it will be able to scale up to larger computing environments, and Autodesk's plans to extend the reach of Vault by offering add-on, paid modules such as the upcoming Product Stream EDM offerings show a clear attempt to address the more complex EDM needs of Autodesk customers in manufacturing environments.
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With Vault's tight integration to core Autodesk products and free pricing, it clearly will not be going away. It is equally clear that Vault's future as a full-featured EDM application is in a state of flux. How successful Vault will be in the next two years will be decided by traditional market forces, such as price and demand, but it is indeed a product worth watching as it evolves.
Pricing: Vault is included free with subscriptions to
Autodesk mechanical products. Pricing of additional modules
such as Product Stream will vary from a few hundred dollars
to more than $1000 per seat, depending on
Support: Free for basic Vault; not known for Product Stream.
Cyco Software has been in the document-management market forever, beginning when its AutoBase product debuted in 1990. The company's current entry-level document-management tool is AutoManager TeamWork. TeamWork incorporates a proprietary relational database called Hypertrieve to deliver both local-area and Internet-based integration using Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Server) architecture. TeamWork does require a Microsoft application server to host an encoded document vault, which can cause some integration heartburn in Novell networking environments. The system isn't designed to be an enterprise-class solution -- its sweet spot is in the 20- to 30-user range -- though its database technology is capable of far more if you have a well-capitalized server. The transactional design of the Hypertrieve database keeps performance consistent even over slow connections.
TeamWork is designed for use with core CAD applications, primarily those from Autodesk. Cyco has flirted with SolidWorks integration over the years and TeamWork remains strong in the MicroStation world as well. TeamWork can manage Word, Excel, and other types of documents, but it is CAD files that it manages best.
To set up this system, you use a configuration utility to establish the user interface, browsing structures, and data field-to-file properties (or CAD attributes) integration so you can link CAD drawings to the EDM database when you import files. You can undertake more complex customization using a limited palette of Visual Basic Script functions that come with the configuration utility.
TeamWork is very much a Microsoft-style application and thus the platform requirements and Internet connectivity are tightly tied to Microsoft server and IIS specifications. TeamWork is almost always worth a look unless you simply can't tolerate the Microsoft application server requirement.
Pricing: $600 per seat, with quantity discounts for larger
Support: $120 per seat for annual software subscription
AutoManager Meridian by Cyco Software
Meridian is TeamWork's big brother, and it brings a lot more to the table — at a much higher price. Meridian offers the same basic functions as TeamWork, with the following extras:
• Adds a full Visual Basic API
• Adds support for SQL Server
• Includes more options for document review and routing
• Offers an optional BOM (bill of materials) and SAP integration module
• Supports multiple document vaults for large networks
• Migrates TeamWork data upward without translation
Meridian is substantially more expensive than TeamWork, but it also offers a lot more functionality in terms of database manipulation and scalability for very large environments.
Pricing: $1300+ per seat depending on options
Support: Annual software subscriptions are 20% of per-seat cost
IIn the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll continue summarizing various commercially available EDM systems. If you'd like to share any good or bad experiences you've had with particular EDM systems, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Until next time.