October 17, 2011
Autodesk Cloud Debuts
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Autodesk Cloud Debuts
By Susan Smith

Autodesk Cloud rendering provide customers with powerful rendering capabilities, helping them better visualize designs, increase the number of renderings they can create and reduce hardware investments. (Photo: Business Wire)

Dr. Andrew Anagnost, Suites, Subscription and Web Services, Autodesk spoke on their recent announcement of Autodesk Cloud.

Prior to heading up the Cloud initiative, Anagnost was in the Manufacturing Solutions division and spent his time developing and bringing Inventor to market. In his current role, he and his division are driving the suites initiative across the company, consolidating the vast portfolio of products into suites and working on Autodesk Cloud.

According to Anagnost, Autodesk has created a business model on top of an existing set of service. They also expanded and commercialized some experiments that were out of Autodesk Labs that were broadly accessed by customers, then turned them into commercial services.

“What we’re doing with Autodesk Cloud is trying to extend the desktop to do things with the Cloud that have not been possible using desktop applications,” said Anagnost. “We’ve attached the Cloud to our subscription program.”

Users of Autodesk Cloud can enjoy a free level of the initiative related to storage and access to certain types of sharing and viewing services. However, for those on subscription, there is a whole other set of services. “Someone on subscription is getting a whole new initial set of functionality off their desktop that they previously did not have as part of their subscription contract,” Anagnost noted.

Autodesk Cloud is not the first cloud offering the company has embarked on. According to Anagnost, the product Buzzsaw, which has been in existence since 2000, has been a successful way of delivering a cloud offering to AEC Customers. Their Green Building Studio (GBS) for energy analysis is also in the cloud. Other experiments on Labs included a set of services offered to customers for feedback, experimentation and modification.

These services covered three areas: 1) general collaboration viewing and sharing, a set of services that help people share information. AutoCAD WS for sharing DWGs in the cloud and using them on mobile devices. “As part of the cloud release we released the mobile and online version of Design Review, the popular DWF viewing and markup tool,” said Anagnost. “That’s now online and all of those are connected together with simple sharing workflows that are compatible with more controlled sharing environments like Buzzsaw and other applications that we’ll have in the future.”

2) Visualization – Project Neon, a visualization tool service for doing high quality photorealistic rendering in the cloud, has been on Labs and is popular with the AEC space. Now, with Autodesk Cloud, it has a Revit plug-in and is integrated with Revit and AutoCAD. With the service they can basically populate an entire portfolio of renderings in a very short time -- minutes as opposed to hours or days. They can get access to a large compute server farm or expanding compute server farm and they get many renderings as they like simultaneously computed. They can also get great 360 degree travels around the design as well.

“It’s actually encouraging people who have not previously created a portfolio of visualizations to do it, and to do it in such a way they weren’t able to do it before,” Anagnost pointed out.

Cloud applications such Autodesk Cloud documents provide users with the freedom to work where they can be most effective, and to view, edit and share designs anywhere and with almost anyone. (Photo: Business Wire)

3) Simulation and optimization, GBS and conceptual energy analysis application. These are attached to the cloud and to Revit and to the subscription offerings. “We have also rolled out an mechanical optimization tool on top of Inventor which essentially does the simulation simultaneously and tells the users what the best answer is, same type of concept from the conceptual energy analysis,” said Anagnost. “This gives them lots of options simultaneously to help them figure out what the best answer is. On the desktop this would consume large amounts of compute power and actually may not be possible in the time frame they have to work in.”

Over the next 18 months, Autodesk will rapidly expand the portfolio of apps that are online. “Our primary philosophy and emphasis is going to be: do in the cloud what you could not do on the desktop – so you’re not going to see us rushing to deliver all sorts of design apps in the cloud because we’re struggling right now to understand what the real benefit to the customer is,” said Anagnost. “However there is real benefit to these collaboration, visualization and optimization apps in the cloud and you’ll also see us link together these services more intelligently that the information in the cloud that can be easily be moved between various types of visualization and optimization tools. You can really get the answer you need.”

The act of putting data up on the cloud will probably auto-populate a lot of things in the future. For instance someone may put a Revit model in the cloud and then Autodesk might autopopulate a 360 visualization of it for sharing without the customer even requesting it. “There will be all sort of extension and ways of turning this cloud infrastructure into a web of interesting things for the customers that they wouldn’t have done at the desktop,” said Anagnost.

Anagnost stresses the point that they will not be just duplicating their desktop applications on the cloud, but rather, looking at what is the value of having the application in the cloud. Within a three-year period, however, he suggests that it’s “highly likely” that all their desktop applications will have some kind of cloud version.

Autodesk Cloud is available now with free levels of access available to anyone who can create an Autodesk ID. With that they get 1 GB storage and access to sharing and viewing applications. “An architect might have a client to whom they want to show the client visualizations of the remodel they’re working on or share some DWF drawings of the design,” suggested Anagnost. “They can put them online and immediately share them with someone who is not an Autodesk subscriber or even an Autodesk account. The person can view them and comment on them.”

The real powerful, professional benefit of the Cloud is available to subscribers, however. If you’re already a subscriber it’s automatically added onto your service. There is a matrix of what services are available for what design suite customers or product subscription customers. The Cloud is automatically added on and offers 3 GB online storage.

3 GB online storage is not limited at the moment, and there are 10 units of cloud units for compute time. Customers can pool these if they have multiple subscription contracts so they can lump all the storage together.

“The idea is to offer as part of the subscription the 80% solution for most people – 80% of the users will need this much storage and compute power, and there’ll be a certain segment of the population who needs much more compute power,” said Anagnost.

Anagnost advises prospective Autodesk Cloud users to do the following:

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