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Tag Archives: cloud

Solid Edge Cloud Licensing and Storage

Siemens PLM decided to move Sold Edge a bit further into the cloud with some good options integrated into ST9. Integrated Solid Edge cloud licensing and flexible storage options should prove to be a welcomed addition to Solid Edge’s proven performance.

Cloud Licensing

Sold Edge cloud licensing and storage is available for version ST9, and is optional. This option allows users to check out their ST9 license, and use it on whichever machine they are working on. Home or office – you can work anywhere you need to with a single license.

Siemens Solid Edge ST9 Cloud Licensing

The License Manager handles the Cloud license option. Users may switch to cloud-licensing by using the “I need to visit the Siemens Licensing website option”, and follow the cloud licensing links. Some restrictions I picked up on include:

  • Users must call Siemens customer support to revert their cloud licenses back to node-locked licenses.
  • Solid Edge requires and internet connection to check out the license and start. Once it’s running the internet is no longer required.
  • Group licensing is required to be consistent. You cannot mix and match node-locked and cloud based licenses.

Cloud Storage and Management

Solid Edge ST9 will now store it’s data on any platform you like, including locally, vault solutions, and even the cloud. Siemens PLM understands that companies are using a wide array of storage solutions. ST9 was released with this in mind. Solid Edge can be set to incorporate various cloud solutions, including Dropbox, OneDrive, etc. Come to think of it, Kenesto Drive might also be a good fit.

I wanted to get some feedback on cloud storage functionality. Bill McClure, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Siemens PLM, was kind enough to tell me about his experiences. I asked the Solid Edge team how multiple users worked in this environment. McClure said that a form of lock files were now being incorporated, and that Solid Edge would recognize when the files were opened by another user. When asked about performance, he said that he was happy with the Solid Edge cloud pairing, using a Dropbox subscription. McClure noted that Dropbox has been stable and reliable (I have always said cloud syncing should “just work, like Dropbox”). He went on to describe the Dropbox bit-level detection and replacement algorithm [Dropbox calls this a “binary diff”]. It senses where the files have changed, and only replace the modified sections, not the entire files. This is apparently how Dropbox updates so quickly.

Thoughts

Siemens PLM has spent a great deal of effort trying too keep their customers happy. Licensing in the past has followed the company’s large, and somewhat rigid structure. However, the company is clearly trying to be more flexible about these issues. There is something for everyone:

Perpetual licensing – The company continues to respect their very-loyal Solid Edge user community by maintaining this option

Rentals and annual subscription – Some like a bit more flexibility and the most updated software

cloud / floating network / node-locked options

I think the cloud-license option is a great step in the right direction. I will probably do this myself.  Some of my associates remain unsure about using the option when the internet is unavailable, and then not being able to start Solid Edge. As the Solid Edge team points out, cloud licensing will not fit everyone’s situation. There are numerous options, and no one option is perfect.

I’ll be following up on the new data management features integrated into ST9. I hope that incorporating these into the cloud storage scenarios will produce a versatile fit for numerous companies. New integrated data management, along with Solid Edge’s particular strengths, have the capacity to fill the needs of a well-rounded CAD product, in a larger part of the CAD market.

Autodesk Forge Devcon 2016 – San Francisco

So what is this Forge thing anyway?

I was lucky enough to attend the Autodesk Forge Devcon this week in San Francisco. If you haven’t heard of Forge, it is a platform of cloud based RESTful APIs and microservices, that allow 3rd party developers to harness a growing range of Autodesk technologies, to integrate into web apps. Many companies such as Cl3ver, hsbcad, and openBoM are already using some of these services to build or enhance very slick and sophisticated websites for doing powerful things with 3D content.

Autodesk Hipsters – This ain’t your Dad’s ADN…

I’ve been to a couple of Autodesk University events, and some other smaller ones. As those of you who have attended these will know, you get a feel, and an image of what Autodesk are about, from the experience. Forge Devcon was very different. Autodesk have become really cool, and I don’t mean cool in a CAD geek way, I mean cool in the sense that they are up with the latest web development frameworks, and they put on cool parties, and they’re at javascript meetups, and cool in.. you know… a software geek way. That might seem like an odd statement, but the Forge platform is cloud technology, and to attract 3rd party web developers to use the Forge APIs, Autodesk have had to shake the perception that they only do boring old desktop stuff.

Whatever they did must have worked, because to attract 1500 developers to a conference in San Francisco, the same week as Apple’s Developer Conference, is no mean feat. The energy and buzz that filled the halls, and conversations I overheard, suggested that these developers were sitting up and taking notice, that there is a powerhouse of technology available to them, that is completely changing the scope of what is possible in a web environment.

I woke up early on the first morning, had breakfast, and wandered down Van Ness to Fort Mason, which I knew nothing about. I probably didn’t take the most efficient route, but I ended up walking along the waterfront and up and over a hill, where I got a clear view down onto the buildings that make up an old military base. It was a beautiful morning, and there below a fantastic view of the Golden Gate sat the Festival Pavilion, with a large “Autodesk Forge” banner hanging proudly over the entrance. What a cool venue! I continued down the steps and entered the huge building on the water and got the registration details sorted out. There were a number of theatres set up for classes, surrounding a central area of booths representing various industry players. At the end of the building was a keynote stage with a monstrous 50ft LED screen behind it.

Forge Devcon - Fort Mason Pavilion

The Booths

There were some very exciting technologies on display, both from Autodesk, and outsiders that provide complimentary services or hardware for things like IoT (Internet of Things), VR/AR (Virtual and Augmented Reality), and 3D Printing and CNC machining. One particular highlight for me, was my first chance to finally try out the Microsoft HoloLens, courtesy of the guys from hsbcad. It was impressive to see their example building model sitting on the table, and being able to interact with it using voice commands. The space tracking seems to be very good, and the model held it’s position perfectly as I moved around, which was a dramatic difference from previous AR techologies that I had tried. Scott Moyse and I were lucky enough to participate in Autodesk Cloud Accelerator 2 with Bill and Kris from hsbcad last year, and they have really come a long way since then with their very clever hsbshare system which provides a dropbox connected online viewing tool for building model collaboration. Another cool booth was run by Taylor Stein from Autodesk, where you could design a badge using a custom Fusion 360 plugin, and then route it out on a tiny desktop CNC router.

Forge Devcon HoloLens

The Classes and Keynotes

There was a nice mix of classes run by Autodesk employees, but also by 3rd party companies that had used the Forge platform already. It was great to have both perspectives. The sessions that I went to had a good balance of high level application, but with enough code examples thrown in to get the gist of the low level functionality of the APIs. There were a number of keynotes, including a very interesting insight into Protolabs, who produce very fast turnaround production parts using CNC machining, injection moulding and other manufacturing technologies.  The exciting revelation there, was that the heart of what makes them successful and able to achieve such a rapid turnaround, is a very sophisticated software platform that automagically analyses the 3D models sent to them by their clients, but also works with a huge network of CNC machines and injection presses. If you use Fusion 360, you might have noticed the button that allows you to get a quote from Protolabs to produce your part. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any humans involved directly in the process from when you push the button, to receiving the quote.

The Platform

While I have been messing around with the Autodesk cloud APIs for a while, when they relaunched them under the Forge umbrella, I have to admit, I didn’t really get it. It seemed like they had just given a name to a bunch of useful, but disconnected services. The branding and marketing implied a single connected ecosystem, but the reality was very different. Fast-forward a few weeks however, and the message suddenly made sense. Just a week or two ago, a number of new APIs were released, and some existing ones renamed. These additions allowed data to become the center of the platform, and a whole range of new potential possibilities appeared. Most of us who use design software, currently live in a product-centric world, where the data we deal with needs to be in the appropriate format for the tool we use, to be most useful. Forge is working to change that, where the geometry and associated meta-data become what is most important, and the APIs allow you to manipulate and share that data through whatever tools are needed for the particular task at hand. It’s an exciting new paradigm, and I’m excited to watch it evolve. With this, the ability to work with what they term “high frequency” data will be realised, opening up a new range of potential workflows, including some interesting possibilities in the world of IoT.

To build this platform, and the awesome code samples, they have embraced current and popular web technologies like WebGL, three.js, and node.js, and provided a fantastic developer portal and documentation to boot.

The categories of APIs available currently are as follows:

  • Authentication (OAuth)
  • Data Management – Connection to A360 data
  • Design Automation – Effectively AutoCAD in the cloud, for massive scale processing of DWG data
  • Model Derivative – File translation, thumbnail generation, geometry and data extraction services
  • Viewer – Previously known as the “Large Model Viewer,” this allows you to embed a clever viewer in a webpage for working with just about any CAD format file.
  • 3D Print (BETA)
  • BIM360 (BETA)
  • Reality Capture (BETA) – For processing image files to create 3D scenes / models

3DWebFest

Held on the Wednesday evening after Devcon Day 1 wrapped up, this initiative was unlike anything I’ve seen before. If you’ve ever been to an electronic music festival, you’ll be familiar with the computer generated visuals that are often played on big screens by ‘Veejays’ (visual DJs.) This event had that sort of feel to it, but the amazing thing about it, was that the visuals were being generated by the artists live, in a web browser, and piped to a massive 50ft LED screen. In combination with the music being pumped from the fairly large speaker stacks, the experience was very captivating and impressive, in a super geeky way. I particularly liked the work of Edan Kwon. The particle systems he builds are incredibly detailed, and breathtaking. The 3DWebFest is a really interesting initiative, and another example of the way that Autodesk are really making a name for themselves among the web developer community. I can’t wait to see how this festival evolves and grows.

Forge Devcon in closing

All in all, the conference was a great experience, and I came away with a much clearer picture of the future of Autodesk’s cloud offerings. Forge really seems to be gelling as a platform very nicely, and the rate at which it is growing seems to be accelerating. As Autodesk’s first developer conference in the web space, I thought it was outstandingly well put together, and hope to be able to report from the second one next year, as I’m sure it will be even better.

If you’d like to explore the offering, and have a go with any of the APIs, you can dive in here. They are available completely free for the next 90 days, well 87 or so now…

Frame Unveils Powerful New Visual Supercomputer in the Cloud

Frame used Autodesk University to announce that Autodesk had certified their platform for use with AutoCAD & Revit. This week Frame is using SolidWorks World to announce their new Pro 64GB version. Here is a snippet from the press release…

DALLAS, TX – (February 1, 2016) – Frame (www.fra.me), the cloud service that lets users run any software in a browser, announced release of its new system, Pro 64GB, that designers and engineers can use to run their most performance-demanding applications in the cloud.

Frame Pro 64GB is optimized for modern, multi-core simulation and rendering applications. It packs 2 Intel Xeon CPUs, 4 NVIDIA GRID GPUs, 64GB of memory, and an SSD flash drive in a cloud-based system that users can access on demand for under $4 per hour.

Conventional rendering hardware and high-end virtualization solutions come with a very high price tag,” said Nikola Bozinovic, CEO of Frame. “Our new Pro 64GB offering allows designers to shift to powerful visual workstations on demand. Access to stunning interactive photorealistic rendering has never been easier.

 

What is Frame? Think of Frame as an online computer in which you put your software, applications, and related tools and access it through a web browser, anywhere, on just about any device. Their tagline “All you need is a browser“, sums it up perfectly.

Frame - How It Works

There are many benefits of using Frame, including the flexibility of working from any location, only requiring an internet connection and a browser. (Take a look at my first review for more details). There is no client software to install, no plugins, it doesn’t need java or flash, all it needs is an HTML5 capable browser like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer.

This new option extends the line of online systems. A huge benefit is that you can scale up and down depending on your need. Just doing office type things? Use the Air 4GB or Air 8GB. Drafting, modeling, video editing, or graphic designing? Bump up to the Pro 16GB. Working with a large assembly, performing stress analysis or doing a lot of rendering? Use the new Pro 64GB | quad GPU “supercomputer“.

The new Pro 64GB is running Dual Intel Xeon CPUs, Quad NVIDIA GRID GPUS, and 64GB memory.

Frame - PhysicallyBasedRenderingPerformance

 

How much faster will this yield results in rendering and simulation?

“Modern multicore and multithreaded applications are built to take advantage of the combination of CPU and GPU processing power. While your mileage may vary, our ISV partners, such as Ansys, Luxion, NVIDIA, Dassault, and Chaos groups, see near linear scaling as a user moves up the Frame system product line.”

Frame - Performance64

 

Interested? Visit the frame website and start your free trial. Or give SolidWorks a go, in the cloud, on frame, at https://www.fra.me/solidworks

 

Feature image courteous of http://www.gratisography.com/

Is there a Place in the cloud for Product Data Management (PDM)?

Product Data Management (PDM) has for a long time been perceived as a complicated environment, slowing down engineers, some even considering it as an unavoidable necessary evil. While it is still not easy to install and configure, new options such as cloud virtualization can bring some alternatives.

Cloud Product Data Management?

I had the honour of collaborating with Oleg Shilovitsky of BeyondPLM as we decided to share our thoughts on PDM system implementations outside of the traditional on-premise configuration. It seemed like a good fit as I’ve recently blogged about using Frame as a platform to host traditional desktop tools in the cloud and on BeyondPLM Oleg looked at What can make a difference in a new collaboration paradigm and if we need super cloud PDM?.(amongst many other great articles).

Is there a Place in the cloud for Product Data Management (PDM)?

Many years CAD users’ only option was to use PDM (Product Data Management) system to manage CAD files and revisions. PDM was also a system to help a team of engineer to access data and collaborate. Engineers is one of the most innovative groups of people. However, when it comes to their own tools, engineers are very conservative. You can easy expect the following vision for data management from an engineer – “I want to work with my designs (files), please leave me alone and stop selling me PDM tools”.

Continue reading on BeyondPLM

 

You can follow Oleg on twitter 

 

Featured Image “Clouds in the evening” by Marlis Börger

Data Management in the Cloud with Frame

A question was posed to me after my last article on Frame (via the comments)…

Did you try to install PDM system in Frame environment?

The answer was no and I did not know if it would work. Honestly, it was something I wanted to try, so thanks Oleg for the motivation (aka kick in the butt).

Quick review, for those just joining us. Think of Frame as a collection of computers in a network, similar to what you have in a bare metal environment. Each online computer is where you put your software, applications, and related tools and access it through a web browser, anywhere, on just about any device. There are many benefits of using Frame, including the flexibility of working from any location, only requiring an internet connection and a browser.

“Frame is the future of both software distribution and personal computing in the post-mobile era I’m going to call ubiquitous computing.” – Robert X. Cringely, forbes frame

Frame Personal is your online computer, where Frame for Business is your online network of computers. As I already had a Frame Business account, the next step was adding the Utility Server. After an email to support it was added and ready to go within a couple hours.

Frame

The Utility Server provides a general purpose Windows 2012 Server to host license managers, databases, and really anything you want to share amongst the users.  Basically, it’s an area to put things that are accessible by all systems within your Frame ecosystem. And while it starts as a 1 CPU/2GB system, the number of cores, ram and storage can be scaled to meet your server needs.

[Note: this feature is currently in beta for use with Frame for Business, there is no pricing in place for the Utility Server]

Frame - Utility Server Access

Within the Utility Server, I downloaded and installed the Autodesk Vault 2016 Basic Server. [Not related to Frame, but why Autodesk have you made it so difficult to get the server installer for the basic server?] There were no issues, and the cloud internet connection is really fast!

Frame - Utility Server Install Vault

The base Utility Server has 50GB of local storage, enough to get started with Vault. When this becomes a permanent option, I’ll either have the local storage bumped up or consider using an “external” cloud-based drive to host the Vault filestore and databases.

Frame - ADMS

It’s funny how when using Frame you forget that you are actually using a “real-life” Windows Server 2012 system. If you fail to enable the SQL Server Agent, Vault will not work… just as if I was working with a local physical server. And yes this is a true story, and reflects on how well they have integrated the server into the environment…. it is Windows Server 2012, absolutely no different than if it was run on a physical box.

With the Server configured, I installed the Vault client into the Frame Sandbox. The Sandbox being the environment to setup and configure what the users see and have access. As I already had Inventor installed I just reran the Product Design Suite installer and enabled the Vault Client option. With it installed, I added it to my launchpad so that I can quickly launch Vault after logging into my Frame account.

Frame - Vault Client Launchpad Option

Now, here is the only “catch.” As the Frame client is reset after each use, you cannot use the local storage as your Vault working folder…. unless you plan to be diligent in checking-in all your files each time. A better solution is to use attached cloud storage and configure individual user working folders.

Frame - Box Vault Working Folders

This is an option within the Vault client to adjust the details of a folder to set user-specific working folders. In this example “X” is the mapped drive location to the attached Box cloud storage.

Frame - Vault Setting Working Folder

No one wants to have to enter in the Vault login details (Server and database) each time, nor configure their working folder location, so an important Frame feature is App Setting Persistency. With this feature, you identify folders, files and/or registry entries you need to be preserved for each user. This way specific settings are saved and restored each time they use Frame. Currently App Persistency is configured by the Frame Support team, but it is on the list to expose the Frame administrator in the future.

Tip… one file for persistency is  “C:\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Autodesk\Autodesk Vault Basic 2016\ApplicationPreferences.xml”, which is where your login details are stored.

Now it is just normal working with Vault, either from the client or the CAD Application. Here’s an example… from my account I create a drawing using AutoCAD and check it into Vault.

Frame

The next user comes along and from their AutoCAD attaches it as an xref.

Frame

As they continue to work on their drawing I check out the drawing and make changes. When they refresh,  notice how the drawing shows checked out to me, just as when I’m working in the office off the local server.

Frame Vault XRef Refresh
Again, thanks Oleg for the comment, as it was great to work through this. This proves that Product Data Management (PDM) is possible “in the cloud,” at least within Frame. I was expecting much more effort to make this work, but there wasn’t, it was not different than setting it up in the office. Other than enabling the Utility Server and capturing my desired App Persistence, I did not require Frame Support… all the hooks were already in place. This is a real testament to the robustness of their offering.

A Review of Frame for Business

What is Frame? Think of Frame as an online computer in which you put your software, applications, and related tools and access it through a web browser, anywhere, on just about any device. There are many benefits of using Frame, including the flexibility of working from any location, only requiring an internet connection and a browser.

Frame_PR-logo

Frame uses the power of the cloud to let you work freely from anywhere.

I recently got a chance to test drive frame, and after using the “Personal” edition for a couple weeks I decided to upgrade to Frame for Business. Frame Personal is for a single user – used as your own online system. Frame for Business is a single administered “sandbox”, published to a pool for users to access. If you haven’t heard or seen Frame you should start by reading my previous article, found here.

Frame - Sandbox

The Dashboard is where the administrator installs applications and selects products to include for the team members. Using the dashboard, external “drives” are connected to act as the “local” storage. This includes support for Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. Connecting drives is as simple as clicking the button and logging in.

Frame for Business is really “IT light.” Your software only needs to be installed and setup one time and then can be accessed by any number of users from the Frame Launchpad (in a browser). Frame is easy to use and you will literally be up and running in a few minutes, well a few minutes plus the time it takes to install the software.

From the dashboard you literally power on the Sandbox (which is the “online PC” you use as your master image) to install the application you require, as you would with your own system. You are running Windows, no differently than you would on your own system. As the Administrator you configure the environment and then publish it for access by your team members.

Inviting users is accomplished via the Team Settings section. An email is sent to them with the instructions to set up their new account. Added team members will only have access to the system you have configured.

Frame - Team Members

There is a bulk option when you have multiple people to invite all at once.

Frame - Invite Users in Bulk

After adding users, direct them to the Knowledge Base, specifically the “End user Quick Start Guide”, which will get new users of Frame up and at it in under 15 minutes.

The Knowledge Base serves other purposes other than just for new users. I accidentally navigated away from the Frame page and wondered what the best course of action was to restore my session…. the Knowledge Base had the answer!

Frame - Oops I Closed My Browser

The Administrator of a Frame for Business account is provided tools to track usage. This includes real-time viewing of the active sessions and usage by hours over a day, week, month, or the entire year. Additional settings include things like setting the maximum length of any session.

The basic Air system contains 1-CPU, no GPU, and 4-GB of RAM, but this can be quickly kicked up to the Pro system with instance switching under “My Account” to get access to 4-CPUs, 1 4GB GPU, and 16-GB of RAM. With this flexibility, you can use the Air system for “lighter” type work and consume less credits.

Frame is subscription based, based on a monthly fee, which gets you an amount of credits. The credits are consumed as you use your online PC. The amount of credits used however is dynamic, based on the system type you are using. For example, the Air system is great for working with less graphic intensive applications like Microsoft Word and it consumes less credits per hour than using the Pro system – which is best for graphics apps like 3D CAD.

One of the things that impresses me the most about Frame is how they seemed to have thought of everything. The Utility Server addon provides a general purpose Windows 2012 Server to host license managers, databases, and other things like that. Basically, it’s an area to put things that are accessible by all systems within your Frame ecosystem.

People hate waiting, especially for technology. That’s why Frame incorporated elasticity to automatically scale the system between minimum and peak usage. With elasticity, you set the minimum and maximum number of instances and the desired buffer. A buffer is up and running constantly, so that a system is ready to go when someone wants to connect. After the first person logs in (and consumes the buffer system) the next system boots automatically to become the buffer.

Frame - Production Pool (Electasity)

As mentioned earlier, the process is to launch the Sandbox and install the applications as you normally would. When the application is installed you will be prompted to Onboard it. When an app is onboarded it is accessible as a standalone application that can be run without first starting a desktop session.

Frame - Successful Onboard

 

What else can I do with Frame?

How about sharing your session with your customer, vendor, co-worker, or good buddy? It’s doable with the Share Session feature, meaning you can invite someone else to join your session and see your application, sharing the mouse and keyboard. The other person does not need a Frame account to join in on the fun.

How about embedding your apps on your website? Yep, it’s possible with the embed code feature.  Embed your app by adding just a single line of code to any web page, just like you would embed a YouTube video — only this is a fully interactive application.

As I said in the last post, the Frame offering is well thought out and creates a great user experience. With the connection to cloud storage, it truly does provide the ability to log in anywhere, anytime, and continue right where you left off.

Promotion

The exclusive offer from Frame  just for Design & Motion readers has been extended until the end of November. Enter the code DESIGNMOTION2015 for $25 off Frame Personal or Frame for Business (expires 11/30/2015).

Onshape’s Roll of the Dice – Initial Review

A few different articles have popped up over the last few days discussing Jon Hirschtick, his new company and the Browser based CAD product, Onshape. Some of which have been of questionable accuracy regarding the product’s merits. Scott delivers his first look at Onshape and his opinion about their approach so far. Continue Reading

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