Companies likeOnShapeandAutodeskhave their own browser-server software (aka "cloud"), but some of it, like AutoCAD 360, is too immature for production use. That's where service providers such asFramecome in: they let ISVs[independent software vendors]likeAutodesk,Dassault, andAdobeto run their desktop software on servers, which users access through a browser. See figure 1.
Figure 1 User startup page on Frame
If the name is unfamiliar, you might know Frame by its original name,Mainframe2. I wonder if that first name was too close to recalling the mainframe’s glory days of old, when we accessed programs through dumb terminals whose only job was to read our typed input and then display the text-only response from the central computer.
Today, we are back to the idea is that firms can access high-end software through low-end computers, even ones as cheap as $150 Chromebooks -- news that might well make the Lenovos (maker of engineering workstations) and AMDs (dedicated graphics boards) of the world shudder.
Alibretried CAD-streamed-over-the-Internet w-a-a-y back in 2000 but failed. What makes it possible today to run CAD software remotely are the many server sites dotting the planet, as well as modern Web browsers that support HTML5. Here's why the two innovations are important:
Browser-server software needs server farms located close to end-users to minimize the latency (lag) caused by the distance data travels. Even though electrons in fiber optic cables travel at light speed (around the equator in 0.1 sec), they travel through switches and routers that slow things down. The further the distance, the greater the number of switches, the bigger the latency.
Browsers need to support HTML5 so that no plugin is required for displaying CAD graphics and handling user interactivity. Getting rid of plugins makes access easy for users (no need to download and install extra stuff) and safer (less likelihood of dangerware malware being installed).
The killers of the browser-server world are latency, bandwidth, and security. Frame presidentJeff Browntells me, "Data moves between virtual machines and storage a gigabit speeds (1,000s of megabits) making things like loading and synching applications lightning fast. Frame uses servers fromAmazonAWS,MicrosoftAzure, andIBMSoftlayer, all of whom are opening new server farms. With the expansion of these public data centers globally, customers can be very close by, in the 20- to 30-milisecond range in nearly every continent."
As for being worried about the security of storing your firm's proprietary IP [intellectual property] on remote servers that you do not control, well don't, says Mr Brown. "Concerns about security and performance are starting to dissolve. Amazon AWS focuses on data center security, and has hundreds of people concerned about security. Contrast that to the efforts in most private datacenter, and the contrast is dramatic."
Ralph Grabowski: While using something like Solidworks on Frame, where are the model and drawing files stored? Jeff Brown:Each Frame system has local scratch storage where files can be saved while users are working on them. Users can connect Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive to save their final files, or they can check them back into a PLM/PDM system.
Grabowski: Earlier you said that there is complexity around PLM and PDM management, but these are being addressed. What are these issues? Brown:For companies that want to have a PLM/PDM[product lifecyle management/product data management]system accessible to a workgroup, we recommend they add a dedicated utility server. That server can provide shared access for PLM/PDM databases and license servers for applications.
Grabowski: Does the hardware at the server end consist of Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs? Brown:Yes. Different servers are used based on the Frame system and instance type selected. For instance, our Air 4GB and 8GB levels run on servers that only have Intel Xeon CPUs, while our Pro 16GB and 64GB levels run on servers with Intel Xeon CPUs and one to four NVIDIA GPUs.
Frame’s New Pro 64GB
There's two ways to run software on Frame. You or your firm sets up the access through Frame Personal ($10/month) or Frame for Business ($13 to $28/user/month), which gives you a certain number of credits. As you run software on Frame, the credits are used up hourly; additional credits can be purchased at 15 cents each to get to the end of the month, if necessary.
The other licensing cost is of the CAD software license itself. The Frame subscription is independent of the software. A utility server is set up as a license server, which connects between the Frame system and license server. Autodesk wants you to use their network license server for running their software, such as AutoCAD, Inventor, and Revit; other ISVs allow you to use of their standalone licenses.
A second way to run software is for vendors set up their programs on the Frame Platform for internal or external use. Internal use includes things like for development, betas, trials, early access, and trying to figure out their software as a service strategy.
Or you can try out various CAD systems on Frame directly, such as these:
It is estimated that upwards t 40% of Solidworks trials now are streaming trials, rather than downloading the software. It's a way to run Windows-locked software on other operating systems, such as OS X and ChromeOS.
Frame offers four levels of service that correspond to different configurations of hardware equivalents. The examples of speeds are for a real-time rendering of fully-illuminated physically-based scenes.
Frame Air 1 CPU 4 or 8GB RAM Consumes 10 or 20 credits/hour Rendering performance = 2 iterations per second
Frame Pro 16 1 CPU and 1 GPU 16GB RAM Consumes 60 credits/hr Rendering performance = 12 iterations/sec
Frame Pro 64 2 Xeon CPUs and 4 nVidia GRID GPUs 64GB RAM and 240GB SSD Consumes 240 credits/hr Rendering performance = 20 iterations/sec
Users can switch between the levels in about two minutes. A monitor reports how much capacity is available (purple line) and used (red graph). See figure 2.
Figure 2 Frame Analytics displaying usage
Frame recommends that you use Firefox or Chome for the Web browser, because they support hardware decoding of graphics. If you can watch video, then the browser can use Frame. The Frame interface reports the latency and bandwidth. Here's what to look for:
100msec is the threshold for latency; longer than this starts to feel slow.
3-8megabits/sec of sustained bandwidth
Grabowski: The price of $1/hour and $4/hr were mentioned. Is this in addition to the $10/month and $13/user/month plans? Brown:I was quoting the overage cost, which is the cost per hour for heavy users. Overage prices vary by plan. For the Plus plan you start with 1000 credits for $27.99 and the overage price is $0.015 per credit. Using the overage price to calculate cost per hour is easier if you use the overage pricing.
• Air 4GB: 10 cloud credits/hr x $0.015 = $0.15 per hour • Air 8GB: 20 cloud credits/hr x $0.015 = $0.30 per hour
• Pro 16GB: 60 cloud credits/hr x $0.015 = $0.90 per hour • Pro 64GB: 240 cloud credits/hr x $0.015 = $3.60 per hour
The result, Mr Brown argues, is a lower upfront cost to run high-end software on powerful hardware.
CatiaV5 is nearly 20 years old, but still going strong (probably too strong forDassault'sliking) and still getting support. For example,CCElast week updated its ODX libraries for the aging V5 with better PMI and persistent ID support for tessellated entities.
The library is also updated to support the latest release ofNXfromSiemens PLM, NX 10. More info from http://www.cadcam-e.com/development-tools/cad-libraries.aspx
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