Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Monday, September 28, 2020
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CAD Shift to the Cloud Quickens 

Graphics-intensive design and manufacturing workloads continue to migrate steadily to the cloud, making it easier for engineers, designers and architects to share and improve product development and manufacturing.

Among the earliest examples were graphics-heavy applications based on Linux and Windows that made the jump to the public cloud several years back. Leading that shift was Teradici Corp., which began offering graphics capabilities on Amazon Web Services in 2018 via its PC-over-IP (PCoIP) platform. The framework is billed as providing performance comparable to a local graphics workstation on a desktop machine.

The Teradici platform taps cloud GPU instances, allowing users to access applications remotely from laptops or PCoIP clients. Target markets include the energy and construction sectors

The Canadian enterprise software vendor has since upgraded its PCoIP to deliver computer-aided design and manufacturing services. Avatara, a St. Louis-based private cloud vendor is collaborating with Teradici to deliver a private cloud CAD service. The new service offers a “per user per month” pricing model, the partners said.

Avatara’s platform, dubbed CompleteCloud, supports a CAD graphics card that delivers full-motion schematics on a “non-virtualized,” on-premise platform. The configuration offers access to a range of CAD software that can be accessed with low latency from any device using Teradici’s PCoIP technology.

The combination illustrates the architecture, engineering and construction sector’s shift to “CAD in the cloud” as those tools are able to securely scale via access to cloud servers and storage. Data security concerns had previously limited adoption, market surveys have found.

Avatara said its advanced CAD users that include aerospace engineers are running graphics-intensive workloads while collaborating with from multiple locations. The CAD cloud vendor recently launched a new “Power” product incorporating PCoIP to provide cloud access to desktop users running streaming video and Google Earth applications. The partners said cloud access to computing and storage resources has greatly reduced the capital costs for CAD tools that must run processing-intensive graphics workloads.

Indeed, leading commercial space companies such as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. were among the first aerospace manufacturers to embrace cloud-based CAD and 3D manufacturing tools. Those innovations are bearing fruit: SpaceX recently completed the first crewed launch to and from the International Space Station from American soil since 2011.

Still, data security concerns have slowed adoption of cloud-based CAD. In response, private cloud service providers like Avatara have moved to address data security concerns by encrypting data embedded in cloud-based design and manufacturing blueprints.

As trust among engineers in cloud-based CAD grows, market surveys forecast steady growth in CAD software services. For example, a market study by business consultant McKinsey projects the software-as-a-service CAD market will grow 35 percent annually, accounting for 20 percent of the total CAD market by 2025.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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