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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: John McEleney, Head of Strategy, PTC (Part 4)

Posted on Sunday, Oct 11th 2020

Sramana Mitra: What happens to the core CAD? Does that still remain mostly or generally an on-premise desktop-based system?

John McEleney: For companies that have an install-base type of systems, the CAD geometric data is typically stored in a vault. They’re not necessarily moving it out of the vault to a different system.

The PLM system is managing that database of geometric information. In the context of Onshape and how we’ve built it, Onshape is a cloud-based native system but it’s not a file-based system. We don’t have a collection of files. PDM systems are managing a database of files.

Onshape is using MongoDB, a database-driven system. If you’re connecting a PLM system to Onshape, you can just specifically link to the actual assembly because you can use a permanent URL. That being said, Onshape itself has many of those PLM characteristics inside of it. Some people just use that for their PLM systems.

When we started Onshape, we looked at it a little bit differently than the rest of the industry. Up until Onshape, most of the people in the industry at large had CAD systems at the core and they had these PDM systems of PLM systems to control and manage a version and lock things so people wouldn’t necessarily try to access something.

We’ve inverted it. We’ve inverted the model. At the core, we’re going to build a collaboration and sharing engine. Metaphorically, we’re going to wrap a CAD system around it.

With Onshape, there is only one version of Onshape and there’s only one version of the data. We provide and share links with the appropriate levels of control. When somebody clicks on that link and has the right privileges and access, then they get access to that underlying data. We’re not moving data around. There’s only one source of truth.

Sramana Mitra: What is PTC’s strategy? Is it to move all the core CAD customers onto Onshape?

John McEleney: As you can imagine, they have a very large and successful business with Creo. When you step back, you look at it and say, “Not everybody is going to move tomorrow to a cloud-based CAD system.” As a startup, we believe that as well. Let’s just take the extreme, which is not an Onshape or PTC customer. Let’s look at Boeing. If you’re selling an IT infrastructure system to Boeing, you’ve got to be there the day they design. 

Sramana Mitra: It’s true in electronic design automation. It’s true in mechanical design automation. You have to win the design. You have to be in there before the design begins. 

John McEleney: The question is where do you target first. I’ll tell you the biggest faux pas when I was a founding CEO at Onshape. The first thing is in this market, you’ve got to win the design.

When we were looking at what markets to go after, we wanted to go after segments and users that had a higher probability that they were about to start a new design when we were knocking on their doors.

We segmented the market and looked for people who had rapid design cycles. Think about consumer electronics. Think about assembly and fabrication. The reason is, if you’re making a call to that account, the chances of them starting a new project next week is greater than if you went to Boeing.

By the way, those people who have shorter design cycles, they’re going to see a greater ROI if you can improve their design cycles. That was our strategy early on. When we started Onshape before launch, I was absolutely wrong about what our initial market was. I said, “We’re going to go to the Solidworks fan boys. They love us.”

All of them would talk to us because we were the former Solidworks guys. We started it and built it. In fact, they were completely the wrong people to talk to. They were the people that we should talk to last. The reason is they love Solidworks. They talked to us because we were affiliated with Solidworks, but they loved Solidworks.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: John McEleney, Head of Strategy, PTC
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