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Online design startup sparks tool debate

Posted: 02 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Upverter? online design? CAD? PCB? Mentor?

"There's a whole realm of low-end tools in the Maker market where people are trying different things, there are even open source tools, but I wouldn't say [cloud-based design] has tremendous near-term growth potential," he added.

For its part, Altium has supported a cloud-based repository of board models, reference designs and other content for about six years. Earlier this year, it released Circuit Maker, a desktop board-design tool geared to let the Maker community create and share designs online.

Upverter is one of the few companies pursuing board design as a service, said Dan Fernsebner, a corporate director of technology partnerships and business development for Altium. "We have had discussions about it...we always look at different business models, but for now our focus is on cloud-based collaboration," he said.

Indeed, vendors of mechanical, not board-design tools have made the deepest inroads into online design. For example, Ansys released in May Enterprise Cloud, a set of simulation tools hosted on Amazon's servers.

"Over the last year customers who I thought never would move intellectual property to the cloud are not just talking about it but doing it," said Barbara Hutchings, a director or partnerships for Ansys. "Amazon's security is pretty robust, and we architected a solution with encrypted data and credentialed access," she said.

The numbers of mechanical engineers moving to the cloud "are small but growing might be a hundred, but not a thousand, it's a groundswell that's just beginning," she said.

The approach saves on the expense of local servers and enables global collaboration among far-flung teams, but the new service is not poised to be a huge new business in the short term, Hutchings said.

"We don't plan to move the revenue dial significantly," she said. Nevertheless, "in my crystal ball in ten years we will be looking at each other and saying 'can you believe customers used to buy this software and run on their own machines,'" she added.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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