By Bruce Jenkins, President, Ora Research LLC
“Is Onshape intending to develop PLM eventually, or are they going to go the route of partners to provide that?” Thus posted a user in Onshape’s online discussion forum, continuing: “I ask because Onshape is a database system with the correct platform to seemingly handle this functionality.”
Lou Gallo, a member of Onshape’s User Experience, Product Definition & Support team, posted this reply: “Time will tell but our focus is CAD and rethinking that tool and the close necessities for CAD to be successful and efficient. PLM, as you already know, is its own animal and talking to those systems seems to be the more near term solution. Still very early days…”
The first part of his post notwithstanding, Gallo’s suggestive closing words reminded us that many of Onshape’s renowned leadership team have made clear they intend to devote the rest of their professional lives to making Onshape the capstone of their careers. It’s hard not to suspect these visionaries have substantially more far-reaching plans than just moving parametric detail design to the cloud.
Indeed, Steve Hess, another member of Onshape’s UX/PD team, followed up Gallo by posting: “As you know Onshape was built with data management in mind. The data management features of Onshape are at the core of the product and will become more exposed as Onshape matures.”
“In time, Onshape will be the system of record for all types of data & meta-data (data about the data) allowing you to run analysis and simulations…without having [to] copy or reproduce the information in another system. The data stored in Onshape will be visible and accessible to your other enterprise systems.”
A further clue to the scope and scale of Onshape’s larger ambitions was revealed several weeks ago when the company became the first engineering design software developer to declare itself “all-in” on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud platform for ISVs. “An ‘all-in’ commitment,” Amazon notes, “is a strategic declaration from the executive team at the APN [Amazon Partner Network] Partner’s firm. They have declared that AWS is their strategic cloud platform. This means that AWS is the core infrastructure powering their SaaS offerings.”
Onshape CEO John McEleney explained, “Onshape relies on AWS’s high-bandwidth networks to allow secure, real-time collaboration between our users. The global placement of Amazon’s Regions allowed us to easily distribute our compute instances worldwide to minimize latency to our users. The performance, reliability and flexibility of AWS’s services shortened Onshape’s time to market and gave us a huge technological advantage in the highly competitive CAD market.”
Key is that Onshape was “built from scratch on AWS,” the company says. Using a “unique computational architecture on AWS,” Onshape gives users secure and simultaneous access to a single master version of their data without software licenses or copying files.
These aspects of its technology, its “all-in” AWS commitment, and the many hints coming from its executives and technologists all suggest that, beyond the revolution it is bringing to CAD and 3D modeling, Onshape’s ambition is not just to liberate engineers from the chains of PDM. The company’s fundamental goal, we’re convinced, is to evolve a new engineering-platform paradigm that will free both individual engineers and product development organizations from many of the overhead burdens imposed by today’s PLM systems.
In short—how long before Onshape openly declares what we think is already emerging as its ultimate value proposition:
Who’s “all-in” for a post-PLM world?