Dassault enters cloud era with caution, works with Amazon

Showing off designs on the Internet will be one of the most popular uses, according to the company

Dassault Systèmes has decided to make its products for computer-aided design and manufacturing, product lifecycle management and simulation available on Amazon's cloud, the company said on Wednesday.

The company has committed to making Catia, Solidworks, Simulia, Delmia, Enovia, 3dvia, Exalead and 3dswym available on Amazon's EC2 cloud platform.

The timing of the launch comes down to several factors, according to Jeff Ray, executive vice president in charge of geographic operations at Dassault. The area has matured, in terms of underlying platforms and business model, to a point where going to the cloud is a legitimate option in the engineering and product lifecycle sector, he said.

Customer demand has also started to grow and Dassault's users want more options in how they use the company's products.

"All of the things CEOs and CIOs are seeing as benefits with cloud service offerings are not lost on the engineering community, and they have been pressing us and asking us what we are going to do," said Ray.

Just like for other sectors, moving to the cloud gives users a preconfigured environment where they pay using a subscription model, don't have to make upfront investments in additional infrastructure or sign long-term volume commitments or shoulder administrative burdens. Those benefits seem to be very transportable to the engineering software community, Ray said.

However, take-up of cloud services may not happen as fast as in the traditional business community. Dassault's customers are a cautions bunch when it comes to adopting new technology.

"The engineering and design community always wait for technologies to be proven, and that is a good thing because we ride in the cars they design and fly in the planes they build," said Ray.

Customers who want to move applications to the cloud need a sound migration plan, and Dassault can help them with that, according to Ray.

One of the product families Ray expects will be popular in its cloud iteration is 3dvia, which allows content created using computer-aided design tools Catia and Solidworks to be shared over the Internet. For example, a construction company can send a link to a website to a client where they then can see what the finished product will look like.

In the future, it will also be possible for users to move their resources among different cloud providers and infrastructures, both private and public. To make that vision a reality, Dassault has made a strategic investment in startup Outscale.

"I think, in the coming years, we are going to see more granular clouds, that are tuned for specific needs," said Ray.

Part of Dassault's cloud push is the 3dstore, which is its own app store. Here users will, for example, be able to buy the cloud-based n!Fuze, which is a lightweight data-sharing service for Solidworks customers, and n!Volve, which is a more advanced collaboration service for Catia version 6 users, according to Ray.

The store is not for cloud-based services only, but there will also be applications that run on desktops. The store is also open to partners and customers that want to sell their products, Ray said.

Computer-aided design and manufacturing applications need hardware with good performance to run well. Dassault is working to make the most out of Amazon's platform in order to handle even the heaviest computational workloads, such as structural and system simulations, the company said.

Amazon Web Services offers a number of different options for users that run more compute-intensive applications, including High-CPU instances, Cluster Compute Instances and Cluster GPU Instances, which allow applications to offload some of the work to a graphics processor.

"In a high-percentage of [user] cases, the latency is more than made up for by the speed and power of the cloud environment," said Ray.

Dassault's applications will also take advantage of Amazon's cloud-based storage services.

The company isn't saying what it will charge for running its software on Amazon's cloud. But users can expect to get one bill where they pay for both access to computing capacity on Amazon's cloud and licensing fees to Dassault.

"We want to make it easy," said Ray.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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