Frame largely belongs to a movement within the larger IT industry, and a trend that is somewhat imperceptible about what is happening to the traditional desktop computer platforms. Bozinovic refers to a trend involving the ‘de-construction’ of the personal computer. If you recall back when the late Steve Jobs was at D8 (All Things D Confab) he famously said: “I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people are going to need them. And this is going to make some people uneasy.”
Jobs made the correct reference that when we were an agrarian nation, the vast amount of automobiles were not cars but trucks because that is what people needed on a farm. When cities become more popular cars became more popular, and we all adapted.
The reference is interesting because one could think of the power of the cloud and what if offers the information technology industry as similar to the power of the city and what it offered industrial society. Both offer fundamentally more access to the things that people already had access to and both fundamentally offer more convenience in that access to those same things.
The net effect of the cloud plus mobile transformation in the IT industry is an inevitable shift in values on the various elements of computing. As we became “mobile compute users” always on/always available rushed to the fore as a critical value element. Batteries became more important than CPU GHz ratings, for example.
Yet, just as mobile has changed our thinking about what we compute with, the cloud is continuing to change our thinking about where and how we compute. This is where Frame comes in. Frame is a new platform in the cloud that has the potential to change everything about how we compute. And to connect this to Jobs’ trucks and cars analogy, Frame is going to affect the nature of the access to trucks (workstations in particular).
Getting Started on Frame
AFR (Anthony Frausto-Robledo): So when did you get started with this technology?
Nikola Bozinovic (NB): The company was started in 2012 and for the first year and a half the core technology was developed. We came out of stealth in the fall of 2013, with what I’d call good public coverage. And since then we have been working with lots of early customers…on both sides—the supply side and the end users.
AFR: Like who on the supply or OEM side?
NB: On the software provider side they have been the likes of Adobe, Solidworks Corporation and Siemens. And then we announced in Q1 of this year that for end-users we will have Frame and Frame for Business, so that anyone can use and install their own apps to run in the cloud virtualized.
Different than the Competition
AFR: How are you different than the competition? I am quite familiar, for example, with OTOY and what Autodesk has done partnering with them…how are you different?
NB: Let’s take a step back, because you asked how we got started. Before MainFrame 2, which is the name before Frame, I was the founder of a company called MotionDSV and we were a software vendor for six years building high-end video processing software. This software used the latest and greatest from NVIDIA with a CUDA optimized workflow.
But it was built around PCs and we had a lot customers who wanted to run it on different platforms, like Macs for instance. So one way we are different is that we have this background as a vendor with this problem that we at Frame have now solved. And that insight as a vendor helps us. Additionally, our focus is only on this goal of enabling ubiquitous computing…to run any software in your browser on any platform. If you look at OTOY, if you go to their website, they are doing a wide range of things and its really a rendering company at their core.
AFR: They have done interesting work with their protocol.
NB: Yes, they have done some work to develop their protocol, they have developed some interesting technology. But in terms of focus, all we do is ubiquitous computing. All we do is focus on getting your apps wherever you need them.
Looking at the Technology of Frame
AFR: Yet, your technology is fundamentally similar to that of OTOY and others, correct…it’s an instance as well?
NB: Yes, but the thing about Frame is it’s a platform that can run on any infrastructure. We run on Amazon Elastic Compute, we run on Microsoft Azure and we can run on other systems. As for an instance? At Amazon the unit of compute is called an instance, and instances come in different sizes, and the instances that have been popular with the CAD crowd are those that have a GPU behind them.
Yet, there are many other types of instances and they are optimized for different things. Some of them have a lot of RAM, some of them have a lot of CPU cores, or some of them have a lot of GPUs behind them. Frame addresses all of these options. Frame is really a cloud with a choice.
AFR: A cloud with a choice…sounds compelling…
NB: Yes, choice is where we are in computing now. Frame lets you take your own tool—be it Creo, CATIA, Solid Edge, what-have-you—and it doesn’t require that you change your habits and workflows and the ways you work with your data. Those are the tools that you know, that you have an investment in, your designers know how to use…so by giving people an opportunity, whether at home or at a customer site, you can access your data and apps on any device be it Mac, PC or Chromebook.
AFR: So let’s recap the core compute offerings for the end-user scenario with Frame and Frame for Business.
NB: We deliver Windows apps through the cloud via Frame and Frame for Business. You get a productivity workstation or a graphics workstation and it takes just a couple of minutes to get started. The system carves out a piece of the cloud for your computing needs. This is an account we have created on top of what we might call an Amazon instance…though we call it a Launch Pad. We pre-installed few apps to get people started with. Google Earth for example.
AFR: But the Windows environment is hidden mostly. Instead you are presented with this beautiful, cloud-inspired and simple app environment.
NB: You can Alt-Tab between applications just like in Windows, it is Windows. When you install your apps you get the entire Windows environment, but normally it is hidden and only the Launch Pad is shown.
AFR: It’s quite clean and aesthetically pleasing.
NB: We were inspired by Apple. We are mostly a Mac shop here.
Data Storage and Extreme Speed
AFR: How do you work with your files?
NB: You work with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, et cetera. From within Frame you setup connections to your cloud storage drives which people already use commonly today.
This aspect of working with your apps out in the cloud, where your data already lives, is growing. Frame has super fast pipes with 20x times faster download speeds and up to 200x times common upload speeds.
AFR: I can imagine many types of cases where those speed increases make the deal for Frame.
NB: Absolutely. For people who cannot really afford these fast pipes but who need an option, they can take their workflows that require these fast pipes and place them entirely in the cloud with Frame.
We have customers who have extensive data flows in the cloud, and it’s just too expensive to move that data back down to the client machine…ever! So, if your data and data-flow is in the cloud, it just makes sense to put your apps next to where your data is.
De-Constructing the Personal Computer or Workstation
NB: What we are talking about is De-constructing the personal computer.
AFR: Yes, that’s a good term and quite interesting way to look at this trend.
NB: Right, your hard drive can be in one place—it can be Dropbox, Box, whatever—and then your ‘compute’ can be someplace else. And that compute piece can be larger or small and you can change it on the fly. So with Frame one moment you can be running your workflow through a quad-core machine and then switch to a 32-core machine and then an hour later switch to a machine with 300 GBs of RAM. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you are connecting from. It could be Mac, it could be PC…it can even be Chromebook.
AFR: So it’s very much about your workflow and where you reach your workflow from.
NB: The true story is it’s not about the desktops but the apps. So yes, you are right, it focuses on the apps you have chosen for your workflows and liberates them from platforms while simultaneously giving you more freedom with devices. So you can use the devices you want to use, where and when you want to use them. They don’t need to have big hard drives, lots of power or even much storage.
Markets and Demand
AFR: This can really upset the workstation market too. What industries are hot for this functionality, where are you guys working?
NB: We are hearing from customers large and small. We hear things like, we still have a few PC only apps but we are all on the Mac. Then we have the traditional business case. CAD is number one, digital content creation is number two. AEC is interested and video editing folks are interested…and video in particular as they have very large data sets.
AFR: In the CAD markets what providers have you been working with?
NB: As I said earlier we are working with Siemens. But to be more clear we have been helping them with the Solid Edge CAD system.
Why Code for Mac Anymore?
AFR: This can have a big impact on the developer environment and the motivations for developers targeting certain platforms. If folks can reach the Mac market with their Windows apps this way, why code for Mac anymore? That’s a question some people are going to make.
NB: It’s a very interesting point and a valid question. We see Frame as a very broad but still very horizontal platform and that decision is still going to be on a software developer. It is pretty clear that this is a much easier way to deliver apps to Mac users this way, but do the users want Mac apps this way? How will they react? It depends on the apps and their user base.
SolidWorks has been hinting on a Mac version forever. And I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. And there are other examples as well. Ultimately, it’s up to the software developer to decide.
AFR: You see the de-construction of the computer. I see Apple release a new MacBook that trades compute power for battery-life, weight and sleek good looks. I think we are referencing the same trend. People use to laugh at Apple’s Macs and call them toys, then came the metal machines and it became about aesthetics. There’s almost an obsession with thinness and beauty. But the reality is, with Frame, you have taken the power part and put it in the sky.
NB: Exactly. Again, it’s de-constructing the computer. If you are selling a device you win on the design, the best keyboard, the best screen, camera, touchpad and battery life. You can worry less about the power aspects of compute and optimize around the things that people carry about, like battery life, weight and looks.
AFR: Thanks for talking to me about your company and Frame. It’s fascinating.
NB: You are very welcome, the pleasure was mine.