Microsoft at COFES: Old Friends, New Ideas, and A Hint of the Future

Written by Craig Rode.

     I just returned from COFES, (Congress Of the Future of Engineering Software). It’s held in Phoenix, which is not a bad place to visit when one lives in the Seattle area where it’s been raining for what seems like months.

     COFES is a great opportunity to meet luminaries of the CAD/PLM space. I encountered old friends, new ideas, and even a couple of customers from back in my CAE sales days.

     I had the opportunity to host a pair of technical sessions with the help of my colleague Todd Needham, who works in Microsoft’s High Performance Computing group. These informal meetings, really conversations on a large scale, confirmed two things for me. One, there is still an awful lot of confusion about what cloud computing is. Second, despite the confusion, there is a lot of interest. People sense something big is happening and they don’t want to miss it. And they want to know how it can impact their areas of interest, in this case PLM.

     We discussed technology and business models. It’s obvious that some people still think of cloud as “just like the datacenter, but somewhere else.”

     If you think back to the initial use of computers, they automated existing manual tasks, like bookkeeping or accounting. Nobody back then was able to imagine solid modeling or Finite Element Analysis. Similarly, the Internet, at first was perceived as a convenient way of moving and sharing files. Nobody in 1995 envisioned eBay, YouTube, or Facebook. So it’s pretty risky to predict what new business models will emerge from cloud computing with respect to PLM.

     If you look at some trends, you might be able to glean some hint of the future. Engineering is increasingly done in countries, like China and India, where low cost is an issue. Software piracy is a serious issue (Software hosted in the cloud is more difficult to pirate.) Devices running apps are becoming increasingly important ways of creating and accessing information.

     I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the next disruptive business model in PLM is CAD authoring and data consumption in the cloud.

     In fact, I’d be surprised if it weren’t.