Several times over the past year or so (most recently in January), I have blogged about the possibility that CAD, or even BIM applications might be delivered on a Software-as-a-Service basis.
Reading Ralph Grabowski’s Upfront Ezine (Issue 592, 17 February 2009), I read his account of SolidWorks World 2009 and the ‘wish-list’ presentation of SolidWorks’ John Hirschtick (video available here – his presentation starts about 15 minutes in, and he starts talking about future trends about six minutes later).
Number two in the list was “Online Applications”. Hirschtick talked about online CAD (mentioning SolidWorks’ Drawing Now and SolidWorks’ experimental Blueprint Now initiatives), saying it had some compelling benefits – this is Ralph’s summary with his comments:
- No installation time [but there is installation of the underlaying display mechanism, such as Flash or Air].
- No license codes to enter [but usernames and passwords are required].
- No upgrades and no backups [because upgrades are automatic, but possibly unwanted].
- No operating systems to limit distribution [not true].
- No device drivers [Web browser requires device drivers].
- PDM [product data management] is automatic, because the data is always in a vault [except when the Internet or the vault provider go down].
- Collaboration is trivial [true].
- And a server farm of a 100,000 CPUs available for the heavy lifting.
Personally, I am not too hung up about some of the apparent reservations that Ralph identifies; for example:
- I already have Flash and Air running on my machine for other applications, so installation of solutions based on these is no problem
- inputting usernames and passwords before I use an application is just part of my daily routine, and cookies help reduce that requirement
- the upgrade point is one, in my experience, that can have little impact – some SaaS applications don’t ‘force’ the upgrade (you have a choice of whether you upgrade or not) – and the upgrades are frequently incremental in effect – they don’t require major changes in working practices or additional training
- Downtime is an issue for every kind of solution. OK, I was affected by last week’s infamous GMail outage, but that was, I think, the first time that GMail hasn’t been available to me. By contrast, it has been been available to me during the occasions that a corporate Microsoft Outlook implementation has crashed – and I have experienced dozens of those over the past 10-15 years.