Product Design in the Cloud Gets a Helping Hand
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on August 30, 2019 |
The utility of the cloud for product design is still being understood.
There’s no longer much doubt about the benefits and ubiquity of the cloud, but its utility in product design is still being understood. This is due in part to the limited number of product lifecycle management (PLM), computer aided design (CAD) and engineering packages actually available on the cloud.

One of the most prominent platforms is from Dassault Systèmes, which combines PLM, CAD and other tools into a single cloud-based platform. Unfortunately, shifting over business operations from on-premise solutions to a cloud package is not as easy as a business might hope.

For that reason, there are service and software providers that can assist in making the transition to the cloud as easy as possible. As an example, for companies aiming to switch their operations to the cloud, TECHNIA.Cloud provides an accelerated and configurable integration solutions into the overall business ecosystem while taking care of legacy data migration.

Cloud Benefits

The most immediately obvious benefit of product design and management in the cloud is the reduction in overhead and complexity associated with on-site infrastructure and IT. Given the large amount of data used with PLM, CAD and other tools, costly servers and IT personnel are needed to run those servers. By relying on the cloud via software as a service (SaaS), it’s possible to allow a service provider to perform the complex task of server management.

Similarly, software updates for the aforementioned tools can be undertaken by the service provider, as well. That way, the most recent version of a software program will occur seemingly automatically when it is available from the developer. Of course, this only happens once each customer has validated that the update is acceptable to their users.

Other benefits include the ability to access software and data anywhere around the world, enabling disparate team members and stakeholders to work jointly and remotely without having to worry about version overrides.

Cloud Drawbacks

That said, taking advantage of these benefits may be easier said than done. Adopting a cloud-based solution, particularly if it differs markedly from an enterprise’s existing tools, means learning a new platform. In addition to the learning curve, other issues include problems migrating data, low Internet bandwidth and the fear of potential security risks.

Blake Herman, Global Technical Lead at TECHNIA. (Picture courtesy of Dassault Systèmes)

Blake Herman, Global Technical Lead at TECHNIA. (Picture courtesy of TECHNIA Worldwide.)

In the case of 3DEXPERIENCE, an out-of-the-box product may not always serve the specific needs of its customer. While an out-of-the-box platform can tackle a wide variety of industry applications, such as both electronics and life sciences, it may not be a perfect match for the requirements of each industry.

“If a customer’s needs are satisfied by out of the box software, that’s great,” Blake Herman, global technical lead of TECHNIA.Cloud at TECHNIA, explained. “A lot of businesses like the idea of someone else taking care of the system for you and [may] not have the internal IT, hardware resources and knowledge to get this system up and going, but they also need some flexibility to adapt it to their business.”

Adapting Cloud Solutions to a Given Business

To fill in the gap between the potential offered by cloud platforms and the reality, service providers like TECHNIA offer their expertise, as well as software solutions that address some of the above issues.

TECHNIA.Cloud has developed user interface (UI) configuration tools that improve the configurability and ease of use of 3DEXPERIENCE. The company describes its approach as hybrid PLM, in that it combines the out-of-the-box Dassault Systèmes platform with the enterprise-specific configuration of an on-premise solution.

“Depending on customer requirements, we provide individual hosting, configurability and usability that you can’t get on a public cloud offering because we provide private cloud hosting for each customer,” Herman explained. “Each customer has their own private environment and each customer has their own needs. Depending on how much configuration you want determines what [hosting] package you fall in.”

For instance, a casual user interface is provided for reviewers, and approvers who only need access to consumer data can access the system without getting bogged down by all of the features and information reserved for a business’s data creators. TECHNIA also allows customers to integrate 3DEXPERIENCE with their in-house systems, like enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management tools.

In addition to UI configuration tools, the company can provide private cloud hosting via Amazon Web Services (AWS). Dassault Systèmes provides a public cloud offering from their data centers in the US and France. With a public cloud offering, some resources are shared between all 3DEXPERIENCE cloud users. These include databases, compute resources, and storage layers. Public cloud offerings allow for lower costs to end users, but can be limited in their ability to adapt to individual businesses. For those companies in the transition stage between on-premise and public cloud, TECHNIA’s hosting solutions would encourage a two-step leap into full public cloud, without losing those customers to the competition.  

From a security perspective, public cloud offerings are perceived as being more at risk for attacks from the outside world, even when this may be unfounded. From a usability perspective, performance may be best for companies that are located closest to the physical servers in the U.S. and France, with more distant users experiencing slower operating speeds.

By providing private AWS hosting, TECHNIA dedicates specific resources, such as virtual machines, networks, file storage and databases, to each individual customer. Amazon’s servers are already located in 22 geographic locations, thus improving the user experience in global organizations. Moreover, segregating virtual servers and other resources provides additional layers of security than is available in the public cloud.

“When there’s an unusually heavy load, everyone’s going to suffer a little bit related to performance [with the public cloud]. In the private world, we can provide resources on the fly in an automated manner,” Herman said. “We don’t care where in the world we host you—we’re going to put you in the spot that gives you the best deal.”

The Cost of a Hybrid Solution

Because one of the major benefits of cloud-based SaaS is the reduced cost of outsourcing servers and IT, we wondered how using a third party like TECHNIA might impact those costs. Herman goes into this question, along with other related topics, in a webinar on 3DEXPERIENCE and total cost of ownership (TOC), but he was able to provide some insight to us directly.

An on-premise solution includes the cost of hardware, database licensing, software and ongoing annual expenses, as well as the cost to upgrade the system every two to three years. For a company with 15 to 30 people who would be using PLM, that might be $35,000 to $40,000 annually, or $100,000 to $200,000 every two to three years.

“People prefer those upgrades because they’re such important improvements. Every software provider out there keeps improving their tools making them more complex, which means you need more and more server resources. Your hardware’s got to be upgraded every few years.”

By outsourcing to a third party, which only charges a low flat annual fee to perform its own upgrades, the total cost of ownership is still much lower. In addition to allowing a firm like TECHNIA to perform the necessary upgrades, customers also get the benefit of any new improvements it makes to its own services and software. According to Herman, the company will be creating new add-ons that will allow users to get more value out of its own software offerings.

Visit the company website or check out the Gartner Trend Report on SaaS and Cloud Security to learn more about TECHNIA.Cloud.

TECHNIA Worldwide has sponsored this post.  All opinions are mine.  --Michael Molitch-Hou

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