SPK helps a tech manufacturer to increase security and availability of its CAD systems and data by moving them to the cloud—while helping them to save $30k per year.
A well-known maker of power distribution units for IT racks and related equipment had recently acquired a design team overseas. Thus its nearly 75 CAD designers were now dispersed across the U.S., Thailand, and China.
This scattered setup—all too common these days—created a raft of issues for the company: Data security was paramount; they wanted it to reside in the U.S. Performance was another problem: How could, say, an on-prem server in a closet in China serve a globally dispersed team? And how could they provision hardware and software tools to their workforce (an issue magnified by any staff turnover), quickly and cost-effectively?
They knew they needed to move to a cloud-based solution. To get them there, they contacted SPK and Associates.
Seeking Stronger Security And Performance
Data security and residency were primary concerns for this client. It wasn’t just a regulatory concern (such as, say, GDPR). It was good old-fashioned, healthy corporate paranoia: Would you want all of that valuable IP residing on a single, aging server over in China? Not only was the hardware aging, but the software was out of date, too. It simply couldn’t scale to meet the needs of the growing team.
The security and scalability constraints went hand-in-hand with performance concerns. Since the company’s Solidworks PDM environment was hosted in China, their U.S.-based CAD designers were suffering through glacial delays; for example, each PDM operation was taking five times longer than it would in a typical server setup.
Given staff turnover, the prospect of provisioning new hardware and software for each user quickly snowballed. The company was spending far too much time setting up new users with the hardware and software tools they needed to simply start doing their jobs. In the best case, each new designer took hours to set up; unfortunately, it often took much longer. And when hardware is involved, there’s more variability, in terms of procurement, burn-in, troubleshooting, and so on.
The SPK Solution
SPK first worked with this client to fully understand their requirements; for example, Solidworks PDM is difficult to deploy across globally dispersed teams because it’s highly sensitive to network latency, which can degrade the user experience and hamper productivity.
So based on their specific needs, along with SPK’s systems, networking, cloud, and Solidworks application experience, we architected a custom solution, which consisted of a suite of vCAD workstations, coupled with Solidworks PDM Cloud Hosting. To provide optimal performance for both their Asian and American employees, we co-located both of these solutions in Northern California.
The technologies we deployed to the customer’s environment included:
- 3D accelerated desktop streaming in order to enhance user performance for CPU-intensive activities.
- Network security and auditing, thanks to the architecture and configuration implemented.
- Cloud-hosted Solidworks PDM, running on AWS.
- Microsoft SQL Server Standard, which SPK optimized and helped to properly manage, freeing up valuable time for overworked IT teams.
Today, the company is getting all it wished for—and more.
- Data is secure and accounted for. The data resides safely and securely in the U.S., alleviating prior concerns about potential vulnerability and IP theft.
- Performance is better—for everyone. Thanks to the Nvidia-based T4 GPU, coupled with second-generation Xeon scalable processors in the vCAD instances (hosted in the cloud by Amazon, with their virtually unlimited hardware budget), all employees now enjoy faster performance, even for CPU-intensive FEA analyses. Notably, even the designers in China report faster response, even with the servers now in California, versus “down the hall”!
- Provisioning—and scaling—are lightning fast. Previously, it would take days to procure a physical workstation, and then hours to set it up. Today, a new user can be up-and-running in less than three minutes. The company simply requests that a new vCAD user is created, and then the user can configure his/her vCAD workstation up to the administrator’s pre-configured limits. Speaking of admin privileges, they can now also easily inventory and manage the entire fleet of vCAD workstations for all users.
- Savings, savings, savings. The company had been spending about $9k a year on hardware refreshes—and another $21k in labor to provision those new workstations and maintain the existing fleet. Today, those costs have evaporated; that’s $30,000 in savings, every year. Another, hidden savings: Since all the CPU and GPU horsepower of the virtual workstations is in the cloud, there’s less need for that kind of power among the basic machines that access them. In other words, a computer that would normally last a user three years now can easily be useful for five years or more. That’s a substantial hardware savings, right there.
Secure Data and IP
Performance is better for everyone
Other parts of the “system” were equally creaky:
- For one program, they had been using a partner’s design-controls system, but found the tools to be inadequate, and the process of updating requirements, tests, and risk analysis to be slow, error-prone, and cumbersome.
- They had been using an older, on-premise installation of PTC Integrity Lifecycle Manager purely for source-code control, and a very old on-premise PVCS Tracker system for bug tracking and change management of the source code. The Integrity system was several years old; the PVCS Tracker was so old that it had already been deprecated (read: “no longer supported”) by its manufacturer.
- The company’s internal IT department was over-burdened with the prospect of trying to manage outdated on-premise systems; this underscored the need for a migration to the cloud.
A Multitude of Requirements
Clearly, there was a lot of room for improvement—but there were numerous considerations:
- The new design-controls solution would integrate requirements management, risk management, test management, change management, and source code management. This would ensure that the company was fully compliant with the necessary medical-device regulations such as ISO 13485, the Quality Management System standard for Medical Device manufacturing; ISO 14971, the Risk Management standard for Medical Devices; and IEC 62304, the Software Development Lifecycle standard for Medical Devices.
- Speaking of compliance, the new solution would need to meet FDA requirements, and those of the company’s own internal Quality Management and Regulatory auditing teams.
- Importantly, PTC Windchill RV&S is a highly configurable application lifecycle management platform—but out of the box, it doesn’t implement any processes. PTC provides its partners and application engineers a standard solution template which is very generic. But it’s loaded with demoware, which is good for demonstrating the potential of the product, but not necessarily a good starting point for configuring a customer-specific solution.
How, then, did SPK and Associates rise to meet these manifold challenges?
SPK and Associates implemented a tailored Design Control solution that was based on the SPK Medical Device Solution TemplateTM. This is a streamlined configuration that’s optimized for medical device product development.
It starts with the out-of-the-box PTC Windchill RV&S platform. But it then pares down the configuration, leaving out all of the demoware and other extraneous features. This is because the computer system validation (CSV) requirements for the medical device industry would require that any such extraneous features be either removed or disabled—and then their removal or disabling verified.
Thus by starting with a clean configuration that’s optimized for medical-device development processes, the customer configuration could then be developed and certified much more quickly than by creating a custom solution from scratch, or by attempting heavy reconfiguration of the generic PTC systems-engineering solution.
- Today, the company enjoys one-click full traceability via the SPK Report Engine™.
- They benefit from a private validated cloud environment hosting PTC Windchill RV&S.
- SPK provides computer-systems validation (CSV) covering IQ, OQ, and PQ (Installation Qualification, Operational Qualification, and Performance Qualification, respectively) for the company’s PTC Windchill RV&S intended uses.
- SPK provides application management support for the new environment.
- Requirements and test management are now completely integrated and traceable.
- Risk management is now available, meeting FDA requirements.
- Traceability exception reports are now available at the push of a button, saving several weeks of manual effort.
- SPK and Associates helped this company to improve their overall product-development efficiencies for risk management, requirements management, and test management, shedding weeks off the development/release cycle.
This vCAD solution SPK has is a game changer! We can set up virtual desktops running our version of SolidWorks, connected to our PDM, in less than 20 seconds — at the touch of a button. And the performance using vCAD and PDM in the cloud is actually better than our on prem solution!
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Whether you’re trying to solve technical problems, implement new technology tools and strategies, or improve efficiency, SPK and Associates can be a key part of your strategy. We can provide a free, no-obligation initial assessment on almost any technology or engineering situation. Contact us today at (888) 310-4540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.