IntelliCAD 8 on Mainframe2
|By Ralph Grabowski||
Article first appeared in upFront.eZine
This is one of the most interesting times in CAD. Mobile is part of that. We want to bring technology to screens wherever people are.” That is what Graebert Gmbh CTO Robert Graebert told me in a recent conference call. Last week I held interviews with two companies who are taking CAD software in different directions. This week, I report on IntelliCAD running with Mainframe2; next week, ARES on Android.
IntelliCAD as SaaS – Software as a Service
CAD vendors have come up with several ways to run their software like in the old days of mainframe-and-terminal systems, but most of them suffer from a self-imposed problem: latency. The idea is that CAD users employ the software “anywhere,” which means the terminals (modern day laptops) are – by definition – a long way from the mainframe (servers aka “cloud”). The problem is exacerbated by the high resolution required for CAD modeling (lots of data that needs to be pushed long distances), something mainframes didn’t have to worry about on those text-only terminals.
Nikola Bozinovic of Mainframe2 thinks that he and his team have solved the problem: by starting in 2012 to skate to where they figured the puck was going to be in 2014. (For those not into hockey, Wayne Gretsky became the greatest player by doing exactly this: his secret was to skate to where the puck was going to be.)
In brief, this is how Mr Bozinovic’s system works: any kind of application runs on top of the Mainframe2 software (it is kind of like a operating system), which runs on any kind of cloud hosting service, like from Amazon or Google. The differences of Mainframe2 from other systems are the emphasis on CAD and DCC [digital content creation] software; the remoting video-based technology; and that it even provides a billing system clients can use.
One of the first software vendors to take advantage of Mainframe2 is IntelliCAD Technical Consortium and their new IntelliCAD 8 software. It’s a clever way to quickly make the new release available to the general public, because IntelliCAD is sold only through members. (ITC members typically need a few months to customize the software with their branding and add-ons.)
To experience the “Nexus”-like release of IntelliCAD, you can try it out right now at http://www.mainframe2.com/intellicad. As you get into it, remember these caveats:
- Don’t use Internet Explorer; but the demo works on just about anything else, including Opera, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. I’ve run it on my desktop, on a year-old Chromebook, and even on my Android smartphone (*)
- These demo sessions are limited to 30 minutes.
- Click the Gear icon in the lower-left corner to increase the resolution.
(*) While Mainframe2-IntelliCAD runs in the Chrome Web browser on Android smartphones, the problem I found is that IntelliCAD requires keyboard input at times, but the Android keyboard is unaware of IntelliCAD’s need. It’s fine for any operation that would otherwise involve a mouse, like interactive viewing.
Q: Are you working with CAD vendors other than ITC?
A: Yes, many of them, because our focus is on CAD, simulation, and DCC; there will be more announcements in the following weeks.
Q: I am used to short delays when using CAD on other SaaS connections. Why does IntelliCAD appear to work so fast in my browser, from 800 miles away?
A: We spent three years making sure it runs as fast as possible, following 15 years of expertise from working on optimizing video feeds.
Other protocols out there, like those used by Citrix and VMware, are based on technology built in 1999 for slower connections and slower CPUs; this is no longer the case. We skated to this puck in 2014:
- GPUs have matured for virtualization and can be hosted in the cloud, like Amazon.
- Today’s Internet pipes are optimized for video, like Netflix, which requires delivery with very low latency.
- Browsers have improved so much in recent years, and now they are capable of decoding incoming video as high as 1920×1200, with no plug-in required.
As a result, we get the equivalent of a $5,000 workstation for a fraction of a dollar an hour. This is where work will happen over the next few decades.
Q: I notice that the maximum resolution seems to be 1280×720. Can it be made higher, or is it limited for bandwidth reasons?
A: Click on Gears menu (lower left) and select a higher resolution. It goes all the way up to 1080p. I recommend you try the Dynamic setting: this way you get exactly the size that matches your browser, with no additional scaling.
Q: For a while, I noticed you had an item on the Web page that encouraged people to sign into Dropbox. What is that about?
A: It’s feature that we haven’t announced yet. Basically, it’s the easiest way to get your files in and out of a cloud-based app. When you’re logged in, your Dropbox files show up as a mounted network drive.
Q: How many simultaneous users can your system support?
A: As many as you like! That’s the beauty of the cloud, everything is elastic. We’re running the system on Amazon Web Service, and the platform is live in seven geographies around the world, including North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Q: Is co-editing possible?
A: Yes, although this feature is not enabled on the IntelliCAD demo. Check out the video on our home page for a preview. The reason why we didn’t enable everything on every account is that we want to educate people about how things work first, and not overwhelm them.
Q: Who are your competitors?
A: OTOY is one. They started as a rendering company with Octane; now they have remote computing technology. They focus on how to get video from A to B by rebuilding an encoder. We are leveraging 15 years of video processing and encoding experience (through H.264 now and H.265 next), as well as optimizing for the hardware. In addition to what we think is the best remoting protocol, we also have orchestration, scaling, worldwide availability, billing, and security. This is why dozens of ISVs [independent software vendors] selected Mainframe2 as their cloud platform.
AppStream from Amazon is another competitor, but they just started on it last year and are significantly behind.
Q: On the CAD end-user side, who is your customer?
A: Users who travel; when CAD users need to share drawings with customers; also, educational institutions. Also, it is a solution for Mac users to use Windows software but don’t want to use BootCamp [which requires a paid Windows license].
It’s not only for power desktop users; we have non-ISV customers as well, such as an architectural studio with software they are going to run. They like it, because we don’t replace their ISP or their on-premise servers.
Our end users are the people who use CAD and images and videos; we don’t want to spend much time on spreadsheets and other 2D applications. Creative tools deserve a great distribution platform; if Angry Birds can be so popular, when why not serious software?
Q: How much does it cost?
A: You can think of a Mainframe2 as of a hosted app store; it operates on a utility model for software vendors. End-users pay the software vendor for the time they use their software. At the end of the month, the software vendor pays Mainframe2 for the platform cost they incurred. This covers the cost of underlying hardware infrastructure and the Mainframe2 software. Finally, users can pay either the CAD vendor (if they have the billing system in place) or directly to Mainframe2.
Current cloud infrastructure cost ranges from 20 to 80 cents per hour. Mainframe2 software cost depends on what features your application needs. Our customers pay only for what they use; with a premium option to deliver software worldwide with custom SLAs [service level agreements].
Our new elastic model is a win-win for end-users and ISVs. As the end-user, you no longer need to pay $10 or $15 thousand to get started with a Creo; you can now start with a $200 laptop. As an ISV, you quickly reach a worldwide audience with an instant start.
Additional functions – Dropbox, collaboration, and more – will be rolled out in coming months.
IntelliCAD 8 from ITC
After getting the delayed IntelliCAD 7 out the door, ITC has been issuing updates quickly. In release 8, IntelliCAD adds support for DWG 2014 format, native 64-bit code for large memory addressing, dynamic viewing, and a host of improvements to the user interface, drawing assistance, and import-export. You can try it out athttp://www.mainframe2.com/intellicad.
The full list of new functions is available at http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/60127/file-1087790675-pdf/docs/IntelliCAD_v8_Brochure_4pg.pdf.
About the Author
Ralph Grabowski, TenLinks senior editor, is one of the leading CAD journalists and authors, with over a 100 books and many hundreds of articles. His upFront.eZine may be the industry’s longest running newsletter. Ralph holds a civil engineering degree.