By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: Well, there are fairly hairy issues around some of the security aspects of the cloud. Through this vault concept of yours, you make designs available to be hosted in a public repository, right? What is stopping people from copying designs? What are the intellectual property issues? I’m not talking about physical security but I am talking about securing the intellectual property, securing the re-use of those designs and all those sorts of issues around it such as how do people get paid their dues and royalties. Can you share with us insights on how are some of these hairy issues around your vault architecture are dealt with?
AP: Right! Ok. Now I am clear on what you are asking. Some of those details I don’t have specifics at the moment on how that is being secured. I do know that there are facilities in place to allow people to protect their IP but I don’t have the answers to that question.
SM: Would you be able to furnish answers?
[Note to readers: Alan provided us more insights on the topic of vault security post interview via email as mentioned below:
In terms of security of the content in the release vaults, in the context of interchange between various design vaults – this functionality is planned for the future, not for the next release of Altium Designer (Altium Designer 10).
In a nutshell, a customer will register a component (say, or other IP) into an Altium vault, and that component will then be visible to those seeking it, from that Altium vault. The original customer’s vault-in-cloud is not exposed, because it’s not a public vault. It’s akin to putting a product into a shop – it’s supposed to be there and it’s supposed to be bought, but the warehouse remains secure.
But this is the future. The current vault product is all about electronics design and especially the design data management, the management of all the design data and processes associated with getting something from the concept in the head of the designer out to the manufacturing line and from there to market. When shipped (from the end of January 2011) Altium Designer will include the concept of an Enterprise Vault Server, where electronics designers can publish certified components (certified by the designer, design team, or designer’s employer) for sharing. None of this (in Altium Designer 10) will be in the cloud, for now.]
SM: Do you have something else that you would like to discuss in terms of your cloud strategy before we move onto the topic of ‘Blue Sky’ opportunities and entrepreneurial opportunities in the cloud?
AP: We talked a little bit about the use of Salesforce as a business platform. I actually wanted to drill into the Google docs adoption viewpoint. I think one aspect that is worth mentioning is how collaboration has evolved to the next level by the use of cloud based solutions. Google docs and other such cloud based products have made our business lithe in terms of having the Gmail facilities and not having to manage the infrastructure to support email and what not. With Google.com solutions, we have pretty much moved away from Microsoft across the board. I can remember quite a few examples within our organization where we are trying to roll out some sort of team brief or some sort of work document like this. We have about 3 or 4 people simultaneously working and collaborating on a document now which you simply couldn’t do before. I think that kind of facility has made our approaches to collaborating and getting out design innovation documents much more easier.
SM: You were earlier using Microsoft. How is it that Microsoft doesn’t yet have a similar kind of collaborative office suite available?
AP: Well, with Microsoft Windows Azure release there are similar offerings and functionalities available now. I think these things are much better now than before when we moved to Google. But I think one of the problems with Microsoft solutions is that they trying to preserve the traditional notion of having the desktop application as well as the cloud based application. With this hybridized approach they are trying to preserve the richness of what they have already got on the desktop while they are moving forward to the collaborative thing. I think that adds layers of complexity to Microsoft solutions that are intrinsically difficult to manage and maintain for a user. It will be interesting to see how that evolves. If you look closely, in your traditional email approach when you send out documents or if you look at document management approach with a Microsoft Office, you have a model where person A sends documents to person B, person B opens the document then edits it, saves it, attaches it to another email and sends it back to original sender. Now you have got effectively 3 copies of that document whereas in the cloud model, you have only one copy of the document in the center and everybody is accessing that one document and collaborating on that one document simultaneously.