Cloud computing brings with it not only the winds of change but also the possibility of social engineering, in more than one sense. First, there’s the opportunity to do what PTC calls “social product development,” to involve a wider cross-section of the population beyond a traditional engineering team in brainstorming, concept generation, and idea evaluation. Then there’s also the possibility to re-engineer many of our design and engineering practices, which are founded on the desktop model: You installed a software program on a machine; you rely on the horsepower of that solitary machine to run the program.
The new model under consideration is to extend your workstation’s strength with the power of the CPU and GPU clusters hosted elsewhere, made available to you over the web. Software makers like Autodesk has been investigating — and investing in — this model for quite some time now. The company has already laid the groundwork for extending its flagship tittles like AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, and 3ds Max with web-enabled services: for instance, DWG rendering on remote servers with Project Neon; analyzing different iterations of a design to find the optimum setup for Autodesk Inventor; and remote rendering on NVIDIA Tesla GPU clusters from 3ds Max.
The emerging computing model may also facilitate new design presentation methods, the kind of immersive, interactive 3D scenes Dassault Systemes likes to call “life-like experiences.” The company’s consumer-friendly product line called 3DVIA plays an essential part in this vision. Easier to learn and use (that is, easier than typical CAD and PLM systems), 3DVIA Shape lets you create lightweight 3D representation of design ideas. They can then be posted online in virtual storefronts created in POST3D to let potential customers interact with them (for example, 3D models of purses that can be unzipped, opened, and rotated; or 3D replicas of new night clubs under construction).
Technology enables these practices. But more important, new attitudes toward collaboration and data management — our growing comfort with online data storage; our confidence in web-based transactions; and our willingness to engage with others in social media — may be the real driving force. What’s coming is nothing short of a cultural revolution.
On this topic, I present my thoughts, along with those of industry leaders, in February issue of Desktop Engineering, in an article called “Faces in the Cloud.” (Managing editor Jamie came up with this catchy title.)
For more, also listen to my podcast interviews with Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski and Dassault Systemes’ market strategist and brand manager Bruno Delahaye. They may be from rival companies, but they also share similar ideas about how to take advantage of the cloud.
Also watch my video report below, compiled to illustrate cloud-hosted operations that are easier explained in animation than words.