Two interesting articles by Robert Green in Cadalyst’s CAD Managers’ Newsletter, both focused on CAD in the cloud, caught my eye. The first, What is cloud computing, and does it make sense for CAD users? gives a brief overview of the pros and cons of using CAD on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis. The follow-up article, Cloud-Based CAD, Part 2, contrasts the negative and positive views – with the optimists apparently outnumbered five-to-one by the pessimists. Robert suggests:
“The percentage of negative comments I’ve received tells me that CAD software companies have a long way to go before cloud computing is widely viewed as reliable and trustworthy!”
I have discussed the potential of what I called CADaaS previously (see CADaaS Continued (2), for example), looking at the experiences of fragmented and geographically dispersed project teams sharing construction drawings via SaaS-based collaboration platforms. These online systems have been around now for ten years, and have continued to grow in importance while the speed issues that used to hamper acceptance have gradually diminished. As Robert points out, it’s not just the reliability of the software vendors that’s important, it’s also the quality and speed of the broadband connection used to access that software (on Friday, I talked with a long-time friend from one of the UK collaboration vendors and we reminisced about how platforms were optimised to deliver information over the 56kbps dial-up modems often used ten years ago!). Robert concludes with a forecast of “partly cloudy” solutions, ruling out cloud-based solutions as “being unacceptably slow and risky because of their dependence on the public-domain Internet”.
Of course, it’s not just about if and how we might manage CAD in the cloud. It will, increasingly, also become a debate about if and how we might manage building information modelling (BIM) in the cloud, or BIMaaS, as I have dubbed it (see Archicad 13 and BIM collaboration, for instance), with talk about the potential, individual and collectively, of ‘differencing’ technologies and other server acceleration technologies to help overcome latency issues, etc.