This year I attended the Graebert Annual Meeting in Berlin for the first time. The young event is a combination of a software technology keynote (really a series of them), discussing the state of affairs of Graebert and its ARES CAD technology, plus developer presentations, with developer workshops that are more highlight presentations than hands-on help sessions. The usual networking between Graebert, its partners, press, and its key customers and OEM clients is also on hand.
Why is Graebert and its Annual Meeting Important
This is only the second year a CAD press corps has been invited to this Berlin-based event. And the event is growing in importance. Last year, senior associated editor, Pete Evans, AIA, attend and authored a fine summary report Graebert announcements.
So why is this important?
The answer is multifold. Firstly, despite the massive trend in BIM in AEC and the 3D MCAD evolution—all of which for the most part have involved new types of file formats incompatible on some level with DWG—the lingua franca of the CAD world is still very much alive and well. And it will have to be for years and years to come.
There are billions of, mostly 2D, DWG CAD drawings in the world in useful existence or possess some form of industry value. One might think of DWG files in the era of 3D and BIM as physical music CDs in the era of digital downloads. Both will likely be around for a decade or two longer. In a nutshell, DWG matters.
Reason two is that DWG is in a new-found state of innovation. Back when Autodesk was the main driver of this file format, innovation may have been seen to be slowing down, as the CAD giant pushed forward in AEC and MCAD with brand new products moving away from AutoCAD—respectively, Revit and Inventor. But today the lingua franca exchange CAD file format is growing away from its mere “exchange format” perception to something more interesting.
At the heart of that “more interesting” is Graebert itself and its cast of first-tier technology partners. This might be the main core reason why this annual meeting matters. Graebert’s ARES DWG-based technology platform is powering solutions from CAD industry giants like Dassault Systemès, Corel Corporation and Esri. One of it newest, and perhaps most interesting partners, is US-based Onshape. All of these companies, including Onshape from certain perspectives, are already industry leaders.
Finally, what Graebert itself is doing with DWG is truly noteworthy on both technical innovation levels and strategic marketing levels. And this innovation warrants significant attention by the larger CAD industry.
Highlights From Announcements
To be quite honest, I was blown away by both the volume and quality of Graebert’s announcements this year. For a company with just about 70-80 employees worldwide, they have achieved quite a bit since last year’s Annual Meeting.
There were three really interesting big announcements, but ARES Kudo—its ARES in the cloud solution—was to me, perhaps, the most impactful and exciting. The reason is two fold: (a) this is a full DWG-based ARES CAD solution running entirely through a modern web browser, and (b) it supports true, multi-user, simultaneous collaboration with no need for check-in/check out. Even if your company’s main tools are not DWG-centric these days, ARES Kudo may serve a central role in multi-party DWG based collaboration.
ARES Kudo also supports versioning and will eventually not feature a “save” button in the menu structure. ARES Kudo borrows concepts from Google Docs and Onshape and Graebert’s Dr. Robert Graebert stated that the versioning will be as simple as Apple’s Time Machine technology.
For what it’s worth—and this is a bit of a side bar—it is very endearing to this author to hear so many folks in the CAD community speaking so highly of Apple’s platforms, devices and solutions…it’s been a very long time coming. Many of my CAD peers continue to find and illuminate faults and criticisms in iOS, OS X and so forth, but the larger truth is that the market determines the winners and Graebert’s own staff admire and use Apple’s tech and are responding to market demands.
Case in point…
The second big highlight was the announcement behind ARES Touch for Apple iOS. While Graebert is about 60 percent through the work required to release the iOS version of ARES Touch, perhaps what was most interesting about this development was how it came about. A year or more ago the view perspective communicated by the company was that Android was the more strategic direction for ARES on mobile. But when the company went to Japan and spoke to the largest AEC companies about ARES they asked for it on Apple iOS. We have a small story on that development here.
ARES Touch on iOS will be more feature complete than Autodesk’s AutoCAD 360, says the Berlin company. A key distinguishing feature of ARES solutions on mobile is that they are completely 100 compatible with ARES on the desktop, ARES Kudo in the cloud and also ARES-based OEM solutions with the exception of features unique to those OEM solutions. As industry CAD analysts and journalist Ralph Grabowski explained to me, Autodesk’s AutoCAD 360 is not fully compatible with its desktop products.
A key feature of ARES is that C++, Lisp and DCL are all compatible programming languages and frameworks across cloud, mobile and desktop ARES software. This is an industry first.
Finally, the third big highlight of the Annual Meeting was the announcement of ARES Map, a partnership product with GIS industry leader Esri. While this product only runs on Windows platforms, it is nonetheless instrumental. In early access mode now, ARES Map brings intelligent connections to the world of data inside Esri’s data-rich solutions and fuses it with a native DWG full featured CAD product.
Powered by ArcGIS by Esri, ARES Map enables users to convert CAD information into smart GIS-enabled entities. Architosh has a full report on the announcement here.
Rounding out the other announcements was of course updates to the core ARES Commander product line to version 2016. ARES Commander is what Graebert calls a “cross-device” CAD experience platform. Beyond the addition of iOS and cloud into this “cross-device” strategy—truly marking a uniform and compatible full-featured CAD experience on all platforms—the core CAD base gets many functional updates with both new and improved commands.
Graebert’s Partners: Talks
The Graebert Annual Event was split in two days with the first being the keynotes, and talks from Graebert and its OEM partners. This included presentations by Corel, Dassault Systems and Onshape.
Corel announced that its CorelCAD 2016, based on ARES, will be including an Android version, built on the code base from ARES Touch for Android. CorelCAD has unique features that enable the CAD tool to integrate into workflow that involves its technical drawing CorelDRAW applications. Corel is a company that many have forgotten about but the company has rebounded from its struggling days and has three core powerful brands in CorelDRAW, Corel Painter and WordPerfect, which the last always remained strong in the legal world. Architosh will be publishing a special feature on CorelCAD from an interview in Berlin in the near future
Onshape had perhaps the most interesting talk out of the current OEM partners in attendance, with Robert Minor of Onshape stating that the company is truly challenging the notion that the CAD world is file-centric (or file-based) with their true cloud-based Onshape MCAD solution. Onshape itself is not an ARES OEM product, but rather Onshape Drawings, a component of Onshape in the cloud, utilizes ARES technology.
I had a chance to speak briefly with both David Corcoran, co-founder of Onshape and Robert Minor, who is a principle software engineer at Onshape. On a bus ride back from the event to the hotels Robert Minor told me that about 75 percent of their developers are programming on OS X, noting that when you are developing software for the Web the possibilities are wide open in terms of software tools to use for programming. Of course, this factoid didn’t surprise me at all…it’s consistent with what I’m hearing from other software firms targeting mobile and cloud as well.
Keynote Notes and Other Tidbits About the Event
Wilfried Graebert opened the Annual Meeting keynote by explaining the timing of this event in early October—it coincides with their fiscal year end close in September. In the past year the company’s growth rate was healthy 30 percent. They have a new office in India this year and are hoping to do well in the India market. In Japan, where they have an office, sales have doubled over the past year, marking a very strong start.
The event this year was held at (day one only) at Soho House, a storied Bauhaus-era structure that was once a successful Jewish-owned department store. During WWII the Nazi party took over the structure for itself and it became the headquarters for the Reich’s Youth Minister Baldur von Shirach. Amazingly, it survived Allied bombings in Berlin completely intact while 70 percent of the rest of Berlin was destroyed. After the war the East German Communist Party held their seat there and the GDR’s first postwar party-leader and de facto dictator, Wilhelm Pieck, later had his personal office on the third floor in the very room the Graebert Annual Meeting took place. (see images: 07 – 08)
This historic space held Pieck’s library at one point and was done in library-esque wood paneling and bookshelves. Inserted into a roundish shape was a circular bar zone where Annual Meeting attendees could gather for coffee, water and food and lunch later in the day. At day’s end, the hall space was turned into a dining room where attendees had dinner. (see image below)
Forbes magazine has a superb article on the Soho House in Berlin, a third member among Soho House hotel and restaurant properties in the US and London. Wilfried Graebert made note that the actor George Clooney once stayed at the hotel, and the party scene at its roof-top pool and bar is famous among Berlin’s elite creative, emerging and beautiful crowd.
Onshape told the audience that they chose Graebert to partner with because “they are experts and know it [CAD and DWG] very well.” What is interesting about all these developments is the degree of innovation now being applied in the DWG-based CAD space. If you go back five or seven years the impression back then was that DWG, with its attendant 2D legacy connotations, was a thing worth leaving behind. The future was in 3D CAD systems and not in AutoCAD.
But then at the turn of the last decade, Autodesk stunned the market with its return of AutoCAD to the Mac market. Some of my colleagues, like Grabowski and others, opined that Autodesk was wasting its efforts focusing on Apple’s base. But it was around that same time that the team at Graebert began envisioning a multiple-platform and multiple devices future for DWG.
In fact, by the looks of it today, it appears that Graebert had a vision of where the markets where going much earlier than they may have initially been given credit for. And by the looks of the announcements and partnership developing around the company today that vision seems to be paying off. — Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, LEED AP, EIC
Postscript: Some Pictures from the Annual Meeting
Compliments of Graebert who had a professional photographer at the Annual Meeting this year. Here is a sampling of some of the photos from the two day event.
To learn more about Graebert’s ARES technologies, its OEM programs and partners go here: http://www.graebert.com
(full disclosure: Graebert paid for airfare, hotel and most meals.)