Co-author: Ashutosh Singhal
Remote Access of CAX (CAD/CAM/CAE) and PLM Applications is the New Normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the rapid adoption of digital technologies. As per a survey by McKinsey & Company, the world has vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption, in a matter of eight weeks. Industries have transformed into remote sales, operations, and services teams with a majority making work from home a permanent solution for a sector of knowledge workers.
Industries that adapted to digital technologies managed this disruption better than the ones that did not. The product engineering community in the automotive, aerospace, and manufacturing industries experienced severe disruptions to engineering activities and specifically those that required high-end graphics processing capabilities and related infrastructure. Such capabilities typically available on powerful desktop or laptop machines with special purpose graphics processing units (GPU) were unavailable to engineers on their home computers. The IT teams of these organizations struggled to fulfill the demand for this new infrastructure in the situation when global supply chains were disrupted. The product data management systems managing the data on-premises posed challenges to data security, scalability, and credible performance as the demand for remote working grew.
Temporary Arrangements Made
During the pandemic situation, organizations made stop-gap arrangements to resolve the problem with the following:
- Offering remote desktop machines
- Providing local desktop with VPN connectivity to a corporate network
However, these solutions did not meet the user performance or data security requirements, thus impacting the productivity of the workforce. The VPN connectivity has posed reliability challenges in certain situations as well.
Increased Cloud Adoption in Engineering
Cloud infrastructure and services have demonstrated remarkable resiliency through the pandemic. With inherent fail-safe mechanisms, cloud infrastructure has provided business continuity, operational scalability, and flexibility. Several CAX and PLM software providers have accelerated the following:
- Launch of cloud solutions with new service offerings of CAD, CAE, HPC, and PLM software as a service (SaaS)
- Certification of the solution portfolio for cloud deployment
- New license models to lift and shift services from on-premise to cloud
These preconfigured OOTB CAD, CAE, and PLM SaaS solutions enable customers to choose public cloud adoption as a strategic platform to deploy their PLM and CAX solutions.
The challenges that remain are the following:
- Hosting of heterogeneous CAX PLM environment with products from multiple software providers and integration with enterprise applications
- Complete clarity and transparency on how data is stored and protected on the cloud
- Concerns with data lock-in if you choose to move to a different CAX PLM product or a different cloud platform to meet your strategic needs
- IT departments are wary of enforced SLA that may not meet their business needs
- Control and transparency of cloud services
The Path Forward
As remote working becomes the new normal, IT departments need to expedite the transformation of their CAX and PLM platforms to be more scalable, available, and reliable over a network. The leading cloud providers such as AWS are deploying newer services with high-end graphics processing capabilities utilizing NVIDIA Quadro Technology enabling optimal performance and to leverage CAD/CAE application certifications. Organizations should evaluate the fitment of the services of these cloud providers to fulfill their requirements.
As remote working becomes the new normal, IT departments need to expedite the transformation of their CAD and PLM platforms to be more scalable, available, and reliable over a network.
These services are now available across multiple regions and geographies, providing a user experience and performance for CAX applications equivalent to local desktop machines. Design engineers distributed worldwide, now have a fast and reliable way to access product data hosted in a PLM while working remotely.
- Adherence to an organization’s data security and compliance needs, as well as local data sovereignty laws
Security and protection of product R&D data is of paramount importance to engineering. While working remotely, cloud services now ensure better data security and protection mechanisms for the engineering community.
- Seamless integration with enterprise applications
Engineering applications require integrations with enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM, and MES to exchange data seamlessly. These applications will not work in silos and island datacenters. Hence, it is very important to ensure that this engineering ecosystem continues to work seamlessly while it is getting transformed to the cloud.
- On-demand scalability and agility of IT services and infrastructure
On-premise hardware limitations lead to either loss of business in the form of unmet demand or wastage due to over-provisioning in anticipation of higher future demand. Cloud services provide the right size of infrastructure to meet their current needs as well as on-demand agility and scalability of the infrastructure to meet the varying demands.
- Reduction in the total cost of ownership and capex investments
Businesses are under constant pressure to reduce the cost of operations to invest more in R&D to maintain the competitive edge. Cloud services provide for options to reduce, subscription-based, or pay-per-use pricing model. There are modular pricing for added features and predictable and transparent pricing for additional users.
- Adherence to business SLAs of core IT services
While the technology landscape is digitally transforming, the business SLAs cannot be compromised. SLAs need to be met or improved on the new digital platform to gain a competitive advantage.
With decades of engineering systems experience and strong partnership with software and cloud providers, system integrators such as HCL enable organizations through this phase to transition to the new normal.
HCL is collaborating with AWS and NVIDIA, to bring Quadro technology for graphics-intensive engineering CAX applications to the cloud.