For the past 5 or 6years there has been much talk, speculation, discussion and debate about “CAD in the Cloud” You only have to type “CAD in the Cloud” into your favorite Search Engine to see the number of results and articles – About 23,200,000 (according to Google) to choose from! I think its a safe bet to say that all this talk, speculation, discussion and debate is not only not going to end in the foreseeable future but is only going to escalate.
The pace of discussion has certainly accelerated with the “Public Beta”release of Onshape. Even by their own words: “Future of CAD” (The world has changed so why hasn’t CAD) We also know all the “names” in the CAD market have (or are working on) cloud based products . Autodesk with it’s Fusion 360 (3D CAD reinvented – Product development has changed. So should the tools) Then we have Dassault Systemes with SOLIDWORKS Conceptual Design and SOLIDWORKS Industrial Designer products on the “3D Experience platform” One of the most constant marketing phrases heard at this years SOLIDWORKS World was “Looking to the Future, respecting the Legacy”
Some insight can be gained from all the Marketing language used by all of these products, CAD in the cloud is the “future”. Whilst all these products are available now (and all appear to be fine products from my minimal use/ view of them) they are all still in their infancy. But the “cloud” does offer many benefits (although some might still say “and some not so benefits”)!
So what if you have one of the “Legacy” CAD products, one of those served you well, know it like the back of your hand, paid for and you still enjoy using then product, something like ……. SOLIDWORKS! (or insert the name of your own favorite 3D CAD products) but you see the need and the benefits of the “cloud”.
Now there may be a “cloud” solution for you as well! ……. FRAME
So what does FRAME say about it’s self …. “Run desktop application in the cloud. Access from your browser” “Frame runs your application on powerful servers in the cloud and delivers the user interface to your browser as a video stream” “Frame gives you a great experience on everyday networks. It can deliver a stunning 60 frames per second using 3 Mbps of bandwidth, then drop to 10 kbps when nothing’s happening.”
“Because Frame runs on powerful servers with dedicated NVIDIA graphics processors, apps run faster in our cloud than on your laptop — even 3D CAD and digital editing tools.”
That’s what Frame has to say about itself. It has also just opened a (request an invite) Beta program, which I’ve taken the opportunity to sign up and see what it can do. So lets see what SOLIDWORKS feels like and how it runs on Frame
Once you have your invite and have signed in, the setup is straight forward. It is just a case of choosing the Server to suit. There is the “Production Server” for your average day to day programs or the “Graphics Server” for those requiring “CAD” performance.
There is also the option of which Server location you will run on. This is important for Latency which only effects the keyboard and mouse input and not the Server performance (more of that below) When I first sign up only the USA Servers were available, so I connected to the Californian Server. 7429miles (11,955km) from where I was working onFrame also happens to have a very good social media presence and after I tweeted about some testing I was soon offer the opportunity to change to the Australian Server. This also allowed me a direct comparison (and also why some of the images have Green desktop – USA and others Blue desktop – Australian) between the difference Servers Installation of SOLIDWORKS (and other any other programs) is via the normal “download and install” software system. Chrome Browser is already installed on your “Desktop”. SOLIDWORKS Licensing may be a problem for those not in the USA with the dual “Office” and “Home”install licenses (and using Frame Personal.) Those not on that licensing system will need to “transfer” your license between your computers! Those with Network Licenses and I assume will most likely be on Frame for Business and this wont be a issue.
The base specification on the Frame Server are:
- NVIDA Grid K520 running Windows Server 2012
- Processor – Intel Xeon CPU E5-2670 – 2,6GHz
- Graphics – NVIDA Grid K520-PCle-SSE2
- 15 GB RAM
As with all new systems the first thing I did was run the SOLIDWORKS Performance Test. The results were USA Server – Overall 108,3
and the Australian Server Overall – 104,7 Whilst the performance results are nowhere near that of my IC3D workstation (or the recently tested MSI WS60) However if you look at the Share My Score for the Performance Benchmark Test they compare favorably with or better than many of the “middle of the road” workstations (Dell Precisions T3600/5500 – HP Z420) running processors up to 3.0GHz
Switching to the Rendering Benchmark (by Rob Rodriguez – Axis Cad Solutions ) “Speaker for Render Benchmark” which can be found on Charles Culp – SWtuts site . Running on the USA Sever it completes the Render in 7mintues/47seconds Where the Australian Server completes it in 7mintues/50seconds In comparison with the above mentioned MSI WS60 – 4minutes/25seconds and my IC3D – 3minutes/8seconds.One of the surprising (?) features was that the graphics supported RealView. Although not recognised by RX I have had no issues with the display or graphics in my use so far Transferring files for there use in Frame is simple! As Frame has integrated the connection to your choice of “cloud storage” In my case Dropbox. With claims of 600 Mbps pipes — 100x faster than the average upstream connection. When the connection is made to Dropbox it creates a Drive (G:) for simple file accessThere is also the ability to Upload files which are stored in the created Üploads Folder (under “Favorites”)There is also the ability to Copy and Paste from the Local (Computer) Clipboard to the Frame (Computer) Clipboard. These are all accessible in the lower Right Hand corner (and also shows the status of your cloud storage connection) What’s it like using SOLIDWORKS on Frame? Well despite having not spent a great deal of time putting it to a great deal of practical test, it doesn’t take long for you to forget that you are not working locally. With no real latency to note (whilst working of the Australian Server) sketching, modelling and even rendering felt like a normal experience (if not on a slightly “slower”computer than I work with on a daily bases) I did try to push thing a little though! Much talk about cloud computing is about mobile devices. So I decided that I should try running Frame in Firefox on my original Nexus 7 So there it is SOLIDWORKS in a Mobile browser on Frame! ……. Well I did managed to get it to open SOLIDWORKS and that was about it. It wouldn’t open a file but that may be as much about Android 5.1 as my Nexus 7 has never been the same since!
Overall if you have the need for cloud computing (for any of the reason and benefits that cloud computing offers) and SOLIDWORKS is part of that mix then you should have a closer look at what Frame has to offer.