Microsoft at COFES: Old Friends, New Ideas, and A Hint of the Future

Written by Craig Rode.

     I just returned from COFES, (Congress Of the Future of Engineering Software).  It’s held in Phoenix, which is not a bad place to visit when one lives in the Seattle area where it’s been raining for what seems like months.

     COFES is a great opportunity to meet luminaries of the CAD/PLM space.  I encountered old friends, new ideas, and even a couple of customers from back in my CAE sales days.

     I had the opportunity to host a pair of technical sessions with the help of my colleague Todd Needham, who works in Microsoft’s High Performance Computing group.  These informal meetings, really conversations on a large scale, confirmed two things for me.  One, there is still an awful lot of confusion about what cloud computing is.  Second, despite the confusion, there is a lot of interest.  People sense something big is happening and they don’t want to miss it.  And they want to know how it can impact their areas of interest, in this case PLM.

     We discussed technology and business models.  It’s obvious that some people still think of cloud as “just like the datacenter, but somewhere else.”

     If you think back to the initial use of computers, they automated existing manual tasks, like bookkeeping or accounting.  Nobody back then was able to imagine solid modeling or Finite Element Analysis.  Similarly, the Internet, at first was perceived as a convenient way of moving and sharing files.  Nobody in 1995 envisioned eBay, YouTube, or Facebook.  So it’s pretty risky to predict what new business models will emerge from cloud computing with respect to PLM. 

     If you look at some trends, you might be able to glean some hint of the future.  Engineering is increasingly done in countries, like China and India, where low cost is an issue.  Software piracy is a serious issue (Software hosted in the cloud is more difficult to pirate.)  Devices running apps are becoming increasingly important ways of creating and accessing information.

     I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the next disruptive business model in PLM is CAD authoring and data consumption in the cloud.

     In fact, I’d be surprised if it weren’t.

Comments (3)

  1. Oleg Shilovitsky says:

    Craig, Cloud can be a possible next business model. The biggest issue, in my view, is trust of customer to cloud service providers. It is the same issue as if you think about email. Do you trust Google? Hotmail? Salesforce etc.

    Actually, here some of my thoughts about the same topic on my blog…/cofes-microsoft-and-engineering-software-business-models

    Best, Oleg

  2. Karel Crombach says:

    Couldn't agree more … don't / shouldn't we have a small task force in Microsoft that prepares a vision at this point? A vision that we can share with customers and partners (who both struggle with the idea)? Would love to participate in stepping beyond current imagination.


  3. Craig Rode says:


    Thanks for your response.

    I agree that security is *perceived* as an issue.  But I believe that the right security measures are already in place.  People need to gain faith in cloud computing, the same way they had to gain faith in putting their credit cards online.  Who goes to the bank anymore?  And Salesforce is growing like mad, so apparently people are comfortable putting their customer data in the cloud, which is among a company's most valuable assets.  Nothing is completely secure but when the benefits (low cost, access anywhere, other new business models such as Simon Floyd discussed at COFES) outweigh the risks, I think we'll see movement.

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