With all of the recent developments between OnShape, Autodesk’s 360 cloud offerings and even DS’ 3DEXPERIENCE, this truly is an exciting time for MCAD and ultimately, what the near-future holds for millions of users who depend on the software to bring their product designs to life.
But as discussions surrounding what the best offering is or who was first to the Cloud continue to bubble-up, it’s become quite clear that all that really matters is which platform can do it the best while also considering existing and future workflows.
But what if you could run any existing Windows app that currently works for you from within any browser?
Yes – this means that Solid Edge, SolidWorks, Rhino, MODO, Keyshot, Office, the Adobe suite of apps and many others can be ran from nearly any device with more GPU power than most existing laptops and workstations are even capable of.
This level of multi-device capabilities and processor-freeing power is exactly what Frame (previously called Mainframe2) is gearing up to release and – needless to say – they’re about to launch with a Cloud-bursting bang, starting with an appearance at Develop3D Live on March 26th.
We had the chance to chat with Frame’s founder and CEO Nikola Bozinovic about everything from who the platform is for, to why – unlike existing virtualization software – the platform “just works“.
“This a screenshot of what we call Frame Launchpad — it’s a page from where you start any app you (or your admin) installed on Frame. This account has apps like Photoshop or Office installed already (for example, I do almost all of my work on it currently).”
SS: Thanks for taking the time today Nikola! First, who are you and how did you become interested in the Cloud?
NB: Great talking to you! I’m a founder and CEO of Frame (previously called Mainframe2). I split my time between building our platform and listening to what our customers are telling us about incorporating the Cloud into their work processes. I’m also an engineer myself – I spent 15 years on video research and building software companies.
“Frame is the only platform that puts all compute AND graphics resources into the cloud. This enables true device independence.”
SS: Where did the idea for Frame come from?
NB: Before Frame, I was a chief technologist at MotionDSP where we built some great video solutions using new GPU APIs, like CUDA and OpenCL.
The problem was that a large number of people couldn’t run our Windows software because they wanted access from Macs or tablets (that can’t run Windows software easily). Users on underpowered Windows PCs without solid GPUs were left out too.
So naturally, we looked at existing virtualization options, like Citrix or VMware. We found them to be surprisingly low-performing, very expensive, complex and clunky. Some innovative companies, like OnLive, showed that you can get really good graphics performance from the cloud, but their focus was on gaming and not on professional apps.
So we saw this as an obvious gap in the market. From our own experience, we knew that there would be a massive demand to use the cloud for interactive graphics apps. I knew I could assemble the elite team to solve this problem, since we knew a lot about both graphics and low-latency video encoding. That’s how Frame was born.
“This is how the launchpad looks like when an ISVs (in this case it’s Siemens) has customized Launchpad for their users.”
SS: What exactly is Frame?
NB: Frame is a cloud service that lets you install any Windows software in the cloud and use it from any device. All you need is a browser, and there are no plugins required. Because it’s a horizontal platform and not an app itself, Frame is very flexible and it can support many different use-cases to meet the needs of software vendors, businesses, schools and even individuals.
SS: Are browser and mobile specific apps even necessary? What benefits does Frame have over browser/mobile specific development?
NB: Frame is the only platform that puts all compute AND graphics resources into the cloud. This enables true device independence.
There are some recent browser and mobile specific apps that claim you can run them anywhere, but in reality, their graphics workloads are bound by what the local GPU can do.
With Frame, you can access a super-powerful GPU in the cloud, which is tens of times more powerful than what you’ll find in a standard laptop or tablet. When you can turn any screen with input controls into a terminal, everything is easier to manage and also more secure. And unlike with many browser- or mobile-specific apps that are watered down versions of their desktop app counterparts, with Frame, users run the same, feature-complete software regardless of device.
“This is a screenshot of Solid Edge running in a browser (on a Mac).”
SS: What are the business models you’re seeing with different clients?
NB: Our first customers were software vendors – many of them are now using Frame as a platform to deliver their apps. With Frame, they can remain focused on their apps. We become their cloud experts and their app delivery backend, and that is what we monetize.
We’re now expanding the audience. In fact, at Develop3D LIVE this week, we’re unveiling the public beta of our first end-user product. Our goal is to enable anyone — individuals, businesses, schools — to install their apps to Frame in just a few clicks. We think that Frame is the most accessible personal cloud computing experience.
People can sign up for our free beta at fra.me/signup. We’ll have more details to share around the business model later this spring.
SS: What differentiates Frame from other Windows desktop virtualization offerings?
NB: The biggest difference is that Frame just works. It’s fun to use and it’s easy to learn — if you know how to use a PC, you can run your apps on Frame. It’s built from the ground up for the cloud. None of these apply to old-school VDI solutions, like Citrix and VMware.
SS: Why are we not seeing more CAD software companies using this yet?
NB: You will, shortly! We’ve been working behind the scenes with many ISVs for more than a year, and they are now starting to use it. For example, Siemens just went live last week with Solid Edge, powered by Frame. There’s a lot of work that we do for Adobe and other companies in design and desktop publishing. Expect to see much more soon.
“Look at Dropbox, for example. They didn’t re-invent the file system. They simply added a folder that you can use just like any other folder.”
SS: How would you say that Frame compares to existing Cloud-based apps?
NB: One big difference is that Frame is an app platform, not an app itself. This gives you enormous freedom to make what you want out of it. We call this “Cloud with a Choice.”
Cloud-based apps, like Autodesk360 or OnShape, are single vendor solutions that you can’t easily extend or modify. Some of them don’t have a “backup” offline plan. With Frame, your “backup” is what you’re already doing today on a PC. And again, since we enable using the full-featured desktop version of an app to run in the cloud, there are no compromises.
Is Frame powering Adobe’s new in-browser interactive application experiences?
SS: How do you think that Frame will change existing workflows for designers and engineers who use MCAD, Adobe, etc on a daily basis?
NB: We have enormous respect for engineers and designers and their existing workflows. We understand that these workflows are sophisticated for a reason and that’s why we don’t ask anyone to give up on what they’re doing today.
In fact, our goal is to get you the best of the cloud, without forcing you to give up reliable tools you use today. Most people will still likely spend 30 hours a week at a desk, using their workstation. We want to be there when they need the same (or greater) power and reliability – at home, on the road or at a customer’s site.
Additionally, Frame is so open and flexible, users can design their own workflows easily. For example – if you run a simulation and need lots of RAM, you can do that on Frame for a few hours. It’s as if your workstation can change its size on the fly! We think people will find great new uses will all this flexibility.
(note: the company was previously called Mainframe2 and has since been renamed to Frame)
SS: What does the near future of the Cloud look like to you and where does Frame fit in?
NB: We believe in users’ choice and the freedom to use whatever works best for them. We also love solutions that fit into what people are doing now and that can enhance your life instantly. Look at Dropbox, for example. They didn’t re-invent the file system. They simply added a folder that you can use just like any other folder. But without any hassle, your files are now accessible from anywhere. You don’t use Dropbox 100% of the time, probably not even 10% of the time, but it’s there for you when you need it.
Near-term, we see people using Frame in a similar way – accessing apps when they need them. Some segments, like education, will see faster adoption, especially driven by the rise of Chromebooks. And larger companies will take more time and be more cautious, as they are with everything else.
We’re still in the very early days of this whole “Cloud” thing. It’s very exciting and humbling at the same time to be a part of this amazing transformation.
To find out more about what the near-future of Cloud computing looks like – and sign up for early-access – be sure to head over to Frame.