Cloud Computing Forecast: The Clouds are Clearing

With so many long-established companies scrambling to stay ahead of (or catch up to) disruptive upstarts, it seems like cloud computing is a foregone conclusion. Or is it?

There was a time, not long ago, when cloud computing was met with skepticism, and cloud-based subscription licensing was met with outright hostility. Those days are gone for startups and companies with startup mentalities.

With so many long-established companies scrambling to stay ahead of (or catch up to) disruptive upstarts, it seems like cloud computing is a foregone conclusion. It’s hard to argue with many of the benefits, especially for smaller companies and startups.

“Moving to the cloud allowed us to get rid of distractions and focus on what we do best,” said Jeff Walters, vice president of Engineering at Globe Trailers, during a panel discussion at Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Forum last month. “We look at IT as a non-value add to the customer.”

Fellow panelist Javier Glatt, CEO and co-founder of CadMakers, Inc., agreed. “When you bootstrap a startup, you want to spend every minute of every day with your hair on fire: find a customer, serve the customer, learn, get better, find another customer ... we don’t want to be spending time with IT stuff ... Strategically, we want to play as a business where the world is going, not where the world was.”

But even larger companies are finding value in the cloud. The third panelist, Kavi Parupally, is senior director of Business Applications at Rockwell Collins. The aviation solutions provider has 30,000 employees worldwide and is about to go live with its product lifecycle management (PLM) cloud migration.

“Before we start any initiative, we ask ‘Why not cloud?’” Parupally said. “We can’t compromise on the capabilities and the functionality we can offer to the business. User experience is something we consider to be paramount. With that said, we also need to take into consideration other things. What’s the reach that you want to bring in? If you want to have a global reach, suddenly cloud brings a lot more flexibility ...”

Not So Fast

Earlier this year, at the NAFEMS World Congress in Stockholm, Sweden, Andrew Jones said “the marketing around cloud is, at best, unfortunate. It’s brash, misleading, relentless. The promises are tempting: lower cost, easier to use, no vendor lock-in, unlimited resources, use what you need, no queues, etc. The reality is less attractive.”

Jones is vice president of the high-performance computing (HPC) business for the Numerical Algorithms Group (NAG), a provider of computational software as well as consulting and HPC services. He was speaking to a room full of simulation experts about high-performance computing options.

“In many cases ... it’s more expensive than doing an in-house cluster,” he continued. “There is a setup effort and you do get vendor lock-in. Not through the inability to move your code or your workflow from one vendor to another, but the sheer fact that moving any volume of data from one cloud vendor to anywhere ... is a pain in the backside and infeasible in some cases.”

Innovate Like a Startup, Do Your Homework Like a Stalwart

It’s a good point to keep in mind, whether you’re looking to move simulation runs to the cloud, simply collaborate on designs or migrate an entire PLM workflow to the cloud. Not all cloud implementations are created equal, and the cloud is better at some applications than others.

“The cloud is definitely becoming an option and must be considered for an increasingly wide range of HPC simulation use cases,” Jones said. “It is very valuable in many cases. My comment, I guess, really, is explore the marketing around cloud with some skepticism.”

Even startups and small companies should compare the long-term costs of the cloud vs. on-premise solutions for various applications. However, I got the sense that the type of caution and skepticism Jones advised wasn’t going to be followed by the two young companies on the 3DEXPERIENCE Forum panel.

“The 2017 Millennial culture—the fickle world of software consumers—people want what they want right now,” Glatt said. “It should work like Snapchat works. Something very simple. In AEC (architecture, engineering and construction), cloud is not a benefit; basically you have to do this.”

Likewise, Walters referred to the cloud as “cool.” He said his team loves configuring new servers and playing with the latest technology, but the cloud lets them get to work designing products. It wins the cool new toy competition.

One thing all of the speakers agreed on was summed up by Jones: “It’s not really a question of if you’re going to use HPC, it’s a question of when and how.”

More Info

CadMakers

Dassault Systèmes

NAFEMS

Numerical Algorithms Group

Rockwell Collins

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Jamie Gooch's avatar
Jamie Gooch

Jamie Gooch is the former editorial director of Digital Engineering.

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