AU 2013 saw Autodesk fully embraces the cloud with one arm while continuing to embrace the desktop with the other. Autodesk demonstrated in Las Vegas that they have made significant headway in moving engineering and design software to the cloud. Last year Autodesk made a major announcement that was said to “change everything” in PLM when they introduced their cloud-based PLM offering, PLM360. While the world hasn’t changed radically overnight (or even in a year), the offering is growing and has developed a place in the PLM market. This year, Autodesk announced Fusion 360, a cloud-based 3D CAD tool. This is in addition to their Simulation 360 offering. So Autodesk is rounding out a nice engineering suite on the cloud (although with an obvious gap of PDM which is handled by the non-cloudy Vault). But Autodesk stated clearly – numerous times – that they aren’t backing away from their support for the desktop.
PLM 360 Update
So what’s new with PLM 360? Autodesk gave some updates and statistics on the adoption of their PLM solution. The numbers are very respectable:
- 350+ active using and evaluating
- 8,000+ users
- 40,000+ workspaces
- 2.2+ million items
In the last year they also acquired Inforbix or product data accessibility and partnered with Jitterbit for cloud integration. They also shared some good customer stories. The key to PLM 360 is still a continued focus on enabling collaborative business processes / workflows as opposed to data management / PDM. The case studies, in fact, are very process intensive and involve more communication and collaboration aspects of PLM than data management. The offering also continues to highlight the flexibility of the solution to address processes as they exist in the business today, although indications show that their will be more process templates in the works from Autodesk and partners.
While PLM 360 is carving out a niche in the market, it is not directly competitive with existing PLM solutions. It can be used to address some of the same process challenges that Enovia, Teamcenter, or Windchill can but take a very different approach. The current PLM leaders have more defined data models and processes than PLM 360 offers. Which is better? It really depends on what you want, in a way it is comparing apples to oranges. PLM 360 has not fundamentally changed the PLM market. Instead it remains a new, interesting offering from Autodesk that understands products / product structures and automates processes and enables collaboration.
Introducing Fusion 360
The big news, perhaps, was Fusion 360. The interesting thing is that Autodesk has invested to build Fusion 360 from the ground up, from what I can tell (although not a new kernel). It is not only new in it’s cloud foundation, it’s a fundamentally new 3D CAD tool. I do not claim to be a CAD expert, but I believe in the cloud as a platform and the CAD gurus that I respect are impressed. Albeit the product will take time, this shows great potential. I will leave this to others to report on that have more CAD knowledge than I do. But see my note at the end because this offering has me thinking.
Implications for Manufacturers
My take on this is that while Autodesk is investing heavily in the cloud they recognize that not all of their customers are ready to move there. They are embracing the cloud but doing it on a practical level, recognizing that the evolution from desktop to cloud is a long one. Clearly not all engineers or their companies are ready to adopt the cloud full force. And of course not all Autodesk solutions are on the cloud, either. But the direction is clear and Autodesk is showing they are willing to lead the way.
But what’s most interesting to me to see how much capability Autodesk is putting into the cloud. They are clearly believers, although keeping one foot solidly on the ground (with desktops, sorry that my metaphor broke down!)
If I had a Crystal Ball…
One other note of interest is that Fusion 360 has some basic cloud data management capabilities. No, it doesn’t serve as a PDM backbone, but it does allow designs to be stored on the cloud. Is this the start of something bigger? Could we predict that there will be something that sits in between PLM 360 and Fusion 360 – perhaps a Vault 360 or PDM 360 product? My bet is that we will see movement in this direction at some point, whether sooner or later only Autodesk knows.
So that’s what I hear from Autodesk, I hope you found it useful. What do you think?