Electronic and electrical design is an increasingly global activity. OEMs and CEMs operate through a distributed network of production facilities. Design, test and manufacturing functions can be geographically very remote from each other and are commonly outsourced to partner companies.

The traditional model of CAD, where companies buy ‘seats’ of a design tool which are assigned to specific workstations, isn’t aligned with this. It means that each worldwide team needs its own powerful and expensive workstation, with the all of the relevant software installed, to access the design drawings.

Managing who has the rights to modify what aspects of a design and ensuring that teams don’t make conflicting changes, is a further headache. Confidential design information can end up scattered across multiple workstations and servers around the world at different contractors, with little control over who accesses it.

Companies, including Cadonix, are developing cloud-centric CAD tools that can run in any browser lowering the dependency on capabilities of both the designers and their workstations.

With a CAD tool that is designed for the cloud from the start, all the processing power that is needed for schematic routing and simulation, harness design rendering, database operations and reporting, is located at the server end. High-bandwidth networking means that users only need an internet browser to send commands to the server and respond to its outputs.

This platform-agnostic approach means design can be carried out on any desktop, laptop or mobile device, anywhere that has an Internet connection. There is no software for IT departments to install, no licences to manage and designers can log in and work from the office, at home or anywhere.

Cloud-centric CAD offers virtually limitless storage, allowing designers to readily monitor the ever-expanding range of components coming onto the market. It also makes it easy to share data. Because each schematic can now be designed independently, work can progress in parallel whilst maintaining full visibility amongst all participants.

Updates and changes can be flagged in a two-way linkage across project management or PLM systems, with Red line, Release and Lock instructions automatically added to each collaborator. Built-in collaboration means it is quicker than ever to re-spin and synchronise; it is the quickest route from design, through prototyping to production.

Cloud-centric tools ensure that data is held at one central point rather than distributed across workstations. Whilst this greatly enhances security in one sense, it does open questions about the security of that central point. An additional concern is the cost and disruption, should work in progress be lost.

However, the fact of the matter is that cloud based solutions are inherently more secure than traditional approaches. There are well established protocols for accessing systems securely via a standard Web browser.

No information is stored on the client computer: instead, it is continuously saved on the host, leaving little potential for loss. Security is not left to the end user: it is entirely under the manufacturer’s control.

Multiple undo steps and rollbacks allow users to backtrack if they make a mistake. They can also quickly return to where they left off, for example in the case of a computer crash, loss of power or a dropped Internet connection at the client end. This also means that no drawings on the operator’s computer can be lost, copied or stolen.

Security, collaborative features and ease of use, even for complex designs, make cloud-based CAD a significant step forward in meeting the demands of the industry.

Writer is Dr Andrew Armstrong, CEO, Cadonix

– See more at:http://www.electronicsweekly.com/news/design/eda-and-ip/cloud-based-design-tools-run-browser-2014-10/