October 28, 2016
Vendors across the CAD landscape are scrambling to figure out the best way to bring the advantages of cloud computing to design. Onshape offers a 100% browser-based 3D solids modeling approach that automates version control; Autodesk offers a hybrid “appified” approach to cloud access in its Fusion 3D modeling software; Siemens PLM Software’s Solid Edge offers a floating license and preferences that follow you from one computer to the next. Several vendors are experimenting with a form of virtualized CAD using Frame, a server-based utility that serves up desktop software from a remote cloud services provider.
Graebert has taken a different approach, which it outlined at its annual conference in Berlin this month. It has crafted mobile and browser-based versions of its .dwg-based desktop software so all three platforms work with a common user interface, with complementary access and license rights. Calling its new approach Trinity, it will appear later this year on the 2017 edition of ARES Commander (desktop CAD for Win/Mac/Linux), ARES Touch (mobile CAD for iOS and Android) and ARES Kudo (browser-based CAD). Purchase of any one of these give the buyer a license to use all three. Trinity also includes a new customer portal allowing each user to manage licenses and rights across all computers and devices.
ARES Touch offers full functionality as compared to the desktop and browser versions, but the exact user interface is a matter of choice. There is a Full mode for designing, a Simple mode for viewing and adding annotations, and a View mode that offers a full-screen view of the drawing but very few operations. ARES Touch will also ship later this year with an open API for third-party development, making ARES Touch the only CAD software for mobile offering third-party extensibility.
“The transition to mobile and cloud in the CAD industry will obviously take years,” says Wilfred Graebert, founder and CEO of Berlin-based Graebert GmbH. “In the meantime, we will see desktop, mobile and cloud coexisting. Our customers don’t want to be forced into only one of these options.”
Extending 2D as a Business Model
Graebert GmbH occupies a unique position in the CAD market. It is second only to Autodesk in number of seats of 2D software in professional use — but most of those seats are sold through other vendors including Dassault Systemès, Corel Software and GIS behemoth Esri. It has chosen to focus on research and development and allow others to market its software. It does offer a house brand, ARES, but sales are only 10% of company income. “ARES forces us to have a real product every year,” says CTO Robert Graebert. “It shows the world what we do and our OEMs can then have what they want” from each year’s release.
The Graebert business model is predicated on the simple fact that 2D drafting has not gone the way of the dodo. Counting both free and paid licenses, there have been more than 9 million downloads of DraftSight, an OEM version of Graebert’s CAD technology distributed by the SOLIDWORKS division of Dassault Systemès. There are now more than 1.3 million active DraftSight users (free and paid) and more than 440,000 corporate accounts. If you separate paid professional licenses of SOLIDWORKS from educational licenses, there are more active users of DraftSight than SOLIDWORKS.
For ARES, the business model is to offer a stark contrast to competitor Autodesk by allowing customers to choose between an annual subscription or a perpetual license. When the new versions of ARES ship in the next few weeks, Graebert will have the only CAD software on the market — in either 2D or 3D — that offers both access utility (common data access on desktop/mobile/browser) and license utility (subscription or perpetual).
“The number of people interacting with dwg files has not dropped off,” notes Robert Graebert. “Developing economies don’t leapfrog to 3D.” To support what it sees as strong market demand for 2D CAD, Graebert offers ARES Mechanical, a version of its Commander desktop CAD customized for mechanical design.
As if to prove CAD is not a monolithic market, Graebert also announced during its annual conference a new joint venture and a new product in Japan. For three years an OEM version of ARES has sold in Japan as Jdraf; users include three of the country’s top five construction firms. Now Jdraf will be branded as ARES Commander, and Graebert will take a 50% ownership position in Graebert Japan, co-owned by Tokyo business partner Computer Systems Technology. The new joint venture starts with 121 sales agents in offices across Japan.
About the Author
Randall S. Newton is principal analyst at Consilia Vektor, covering engineering technology. He has been part of the computer graphics industry in a variety of roles since 1985.Follow DE