the business of cad


Issue #775 |  April 30, 2013
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In This Issue


1. CAD Wars Erupt in China and Russia

     - Part 1: In China


2. Document Managers Need to be Vaulting, Says Synergis

     - Part 2


3.  Out of the Inbox, and some of our other regular columns.


CAD Wars Erupt in China and Russia
Those of us old enough to remember the Cold War lived through the decades-long threat of supremacy of USA vs Russia, and China vs Russia. The battles are back, but this time it is about CAD supremacy, and the battles are intra-country. In China, the battle goes between two competitors with AutoCAD work-alikes; in Russia, it's between two competitors with modeling kernels.


Part 1: In China

In China, the makers of two AutoCAD work-alikes raised in recent weeks the level of competition significantly. One is ZWSOFT of Guangzhou (a.k.a. Canton), the other Gstarsoft of Beijing. (There are other names in China of which we hear little, such as CAXA, which is linked to IronCAD.)


Both began in 2002-3 by basing their ZWCAD and GstarCAD software on the IntelliCAD code base. In the last 12 months, however, both of them did The BricsCAD Maneuver, and released updated CAD programs based on all-new code written in-house -- first ZWCAD+ 2012 and then GstarCAD 8.


Both diverged, however, in their emphases. ZWSOFT purchased VX and its CAD/CAM software from the United States, and then wrote the 2D Mechanical add-on for ZWCAD. If I had written this article a week earlier, I would have stated categorically that ZWSOFT is now locked into an MCAD trajectory; but then last week they announced a beta of an AEC add-on and so blew up my theory. (This week, they announced a Lite version of ZWCAD; I had asked for the price, but China is on vacation until Thursday, celebrating International Labor Day.)


There is a reason for the barrage of announcements from ZWSOFT. First though, I should mention that Gstarsoft differed from ZWSOFT by collecting numerous third party add-ons for its desktop software. As I write this, they list 12 add-ons for AEC, mechanical, manufacturing, HVAC & piping, and electrical, and so make their software attractive to a wide range of disciplines.


I first met the enthusiastic ZWSOFT staff in 2008 at the ITC conference in Athens, and since then thought that they had the marketing advantage. Until last week.

Gstarsoft did a most remarkable thing by running an ad in New York's famous Times Square, in conjunction with PR Newswire. (See Figure 1.)


Figure 1: GstarCAD 8 ad running in Times Square


The stunt reminds me of the day the newly formed OpenDWG Alliance blew most of its finances on a single full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. (It cost $171,000). Or Dassault Systemes today running ads in airports. It's not where the target audience is.


If you did not see (or hear about) the ad, you understand my point. Never mind, here is how Gstarsoft explains its action:

"It is a signal that Chinese CAD software enterprises mean to get rid of the low-level competition to compete with the giant of international CAD when GstarCAD8 showcased in NY Times Square. Furthermore, the appearance of GstarCAD8 realizes the change from 'made in China' to 'created in China'. The rising of China CAD software enterprises is bound to cause an earthquake in CAD market around the world."

Understand that, and you understand what Gstarsoft intends. (I don't.)


Let's sum up the positions. Gstarsoft offers...

  1. An AutoCAD work-alike
  2. A mobile app

ZWSOFT offers...

  1. An AutoCAD work-alike
  2. A mobile app
  3. A Lite version
  4. A Mech add-on
  5. An AEC version in beta
  6. A mid-range MCAD/CAM 3D modeler

Gstarsoft hubris is no match for ZWSOFT range.


http://www.zwsoft.com and http://www.gstarcad.net


Next week: Part 2, In Russia


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Document Managers Need to be Vaulting, Says Synergis

Part 2

Synergis Software has several decades experience in producing Adept, their engineering document management server software. I spoke with Todd Cummings on the topic of vaulting; he is the company vice president of research and development.


Q: How does Adept's storage system work?

These days it is common to have an application server that runs our EDMS component, (e.g. application/database server). The documents are stored in one or more other locations, generally not on the same hardware as the application server. Let's say the application server goes down due to an operating system crash or the network is cut Our vaulting system allows an IT professional to use Active Directory services to make the document locations available quickly and then make those locations read-only to users so they can keep working. Users can browse by folder and document names, which is in the human-readable format, and immediately find their documents. If the data were hashed, then this would not be possible.


Sometimes I describe our vaulting as a "wrap around vault." It makes a difference in how we import documents into our system compared to other solutions. I emphasize "import" because we don't move or transform anything. A high percentage of our customers leave their documents where they are in their current system, and so we leave them there. We can vault them immediately in place, without moving them around the network.


Q: Would this be like me having my own folder system holding thousands of project files, and Microsoft coming along a year later saying, "You should store files in 'My Documents'," and then another year says, "Use 'My Favorites' instead?"

A: Exactly.


Q: Would your competitors would be horrified that you don't lock in customers and that If they want to leave you, they can?

A: It is important to provide customers with an exit strategy. It was first raised by one of our customers, the US Coast Guard who said, "Our requirements today may not be our requirements ten years from now." It gives customers confidence to choose Synergis Software, because they know if things change, we haven't locked them in.


Q: How often do customers choose you because of the exit strategy?

A: It is a fair question, but I don't have the answer. We tend to track customers who choose us because of our vaulting methods (in which we do not change folder and file names) versus our competitors' vaulting methods.


Q: Doesn't one implies the other?

A: That is the point. It is a strategic view, looking ten to twenty years from now. We don't delude ourselves that once we have a customer, their data belongs to us.

Here is another real world use case: Customers have large investments in existing data that rely on network locations and file names. One customer pumps crude oil from tankers and stores it in underground locations while waiting to be piped to refineries. Their sales and marketing teams have a large body of PDF documents that describe to potential customers what they do.


In these thousands of sales and marketing documents, there are hyperlinks to drawings and other documents. Our competitors would have to tell them that they need to edit every single one of their documents to change the hyperlink addresses. But because of our vaulting technology, we provide them with a secure system without the need to re-edit documents that are already created. In addition, users don't need to know where documents are located; the links always point to the latest (approved) version of all documents, which is a feature of our system. Our customers like that our system is deployed rapidly. If, however, they want to change their system of file storage, we can help them with that.


Q: You spoke earlier of the importance of moving documents in and out the vault. How does this occur?

A: We support four different transport mediums. Ranging from the most open to the most protected, they are as follows:

We support multiple vaults, such as a head office in US and a branch office in Europe. This is why having multiple document vaults is important. We support any number of vaults, using any of the four transport systems; we can mix and match.


Q: Which of the four transfer systems do you find that people tend to use?

A: AFS with replication is the most recent favorite. It is most commonly used by new customers; older customers tend to rely on FTP.


Q: Physically, what does a vault consist of?

A: It is a hard drive. It has a root and folders. It is commonly on a server with a Microsoft operating system, but that's not required. It could be a Linux box or another system, because FTP works on all operating systems.


Q: What about backups?

A: In some of our competitors' systems, they have to install a replacement file system driver and that adds complexity with no gain. Different and costly backup systems may be needed. Since we don't replace the file system driver, customers can use any backup system they want.

We provide backup tools, but we find our customers tend to use their existing network backup tools.



[This interview first appeared on CADdigest at http://www.caddigest.com/exclusive/Synergis/041813_document_managers_need_to_be_vaulting.htm..]


Out of the Inbox

Jay Vleeschhouwer of Griffin Securities figures that Catia + SolidWorks active commercial seats = half of all active commercial seats for 3D MCAD (1.2 million). roughly. Dassault has 470,000 active licenses of Catia V4, V5, and V6 in educational and commercial use, and 1.7 million of SolidWorks (70%/30% educational/commercial). http://www.GriffinSecurities.com


Architosh's Anthony Frausto-Robledo interviews Autodesk's Micah Dickerson to learn the future of AutoCAD for Mac. Read the whole thing at http://architosh.com/2013/04/autodesk-updates-architosh-on-whats-happening-with-autocad-for-mac/, but the synopsis is this: Acad/Mac 2014 ships this summer after the next release of OS X, and it is more likely to have links to 360 than to other Autodesk software.


Growing is good in these economically stagnant times, and so Nemetschek Vectorworks alerts us that they've hired more (50% more staff in "recent years"), expanded their head office more, and placed sales reps in more cities and countries. http://www.vectorworks.net


Alphacam 2013R2 has just been released by Vero with an initial implementation of a new solid simulation module. http://www.alphacam.com


Yummm. I love Unicode in press releases. Not. "SmartPlant® Review, Intergraph’s problem-solving..." Don't blame Intergraph for how some software can't handle greater-than-ASCII-255 characters.

   Turning to the news from Intergraph, their new CAESAR II 2013 has new seismic code and spring hanger databases, updated ASME B31.3, B31.3, B31.8, B31.9, and Z662 codes, and more. Read more about it at the Unicode-friendly Web site: http://www.intergraph.com/ppm/analysis.aspx

   I'll bet you didn't know that software from Intergraph's security division tracked down the Boston bombers. Their facial recognition software tracks faces across multiple camera feeds, taking into account locations and time stamps. Useful, but scary.


When four monitors are too few for your big design idea, then there is Matrox and their Mura MPX video controller boards. Bring on that 30-monitor video wall! http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/display_wall/mura_mpx_series/video_wall_controller_boards/videos/

Notable Quotable

"The next five years will be about fighting for time with users."
      - Noam Bardin, ceo, Waze


upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by nearly 11,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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Entire contents copyright 2013 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $840. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.


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