Where is Autodesk taking us with all its technological advances and how might this affect the way we work in the future?
Having recently returned from Autodesk’s ‘One Team Extension’, a technical convention for the partner channel, one thing has become evidently clear. The cloud is the future.
The cloud as a storage platform can often spark many areas of concern. Lots of these concerns can manifest as a fear of the unknown. Typical questions tend to focus on issues such as storage location, security, disaster recovery etc. Perhaps these fears would have been entirely valid previously, however Autodesk is making tremendous strides in developing a robust cloud solution to help overcome the everyday issues we face. An area Autodesk has been focusing on is the location of the Autodesk servers, which provide the file storage system. These have been located in the US, which has raised a few security questions for some, due to the US Government access rights, however, Autodesk is in the process of addressing this particular issue, by hosting additional servers in Europe. For more information on this click on the following link http://www.autodesk.com/trust/overview.
Figure1. Autodesk Trust Pages
From the off, Autodesk clearly showed its intention with the introduction of its software subscription model. This provided users with the ability to subscribe to Autodesk software under variously termed periods, thus providing the benefit of “turning off” any subscriptions not required, which means the user only pays for what is used.
Entry into the market becomes more accessible to organisations as we switch from a capital cost to an operational cost. The result of this means easier, cheaper access to the arena. The software is consistently up to date as we become reliant on incremental updates rather than big annual releases. From a compatibility point of view, this may eradicate “versioning” of products, therefore increasing flexibility within our day to day software.
Further benefits of the cloud to any organisation include consistent data handling. Being able to open, track, view, edit, share and comment on any document in any location, significantly reduces the risk of out of date files as well as increasing efficiencies around project communications. Having access to all project files over multiple devices also provides distinct benefits around the handling of potentially hundreds of physical files on site.
So how might this look in the future?
Autodesk has an extremely aggressive development path for the sharing platform of BIM360 Docs. BIM360 Docs has been specifically set out to address the BIM level 2 requirement in providing a Common Data Environment (CDE).
In addition to the CDE, BIM360 Docs, will also provide extra functionality, which will prove to become an all-encompassing platform to perform project activities. To provide a brief insight to some of the functionality on the roadmap, simply uploading a Revit model will not only upload the model but will also extract all project sheets required in one operation. This will then allow for viewing through various devices. With this particular feature, lots of time can be saved in the production of PDF’s as these have already been created, and for those of you who have to do this on a regular basis, you will know the time involved in completing this task.
Figure2. BIM360 Docs Interface
The platform will also allow for commenting and will eventually incorporate the whole of the A360 platform, including Collaboration for Revit. This will allow users to work live on their models, whilst also receiving comments and markups from other project members. This will significantly reduce the time taken for design review meetings, as lots of these issues will already have been captured and rectified.
If BIM360 Docs is to become the new platform for Autodesk to address a CDE, where does that leave Autodesk Vault?
Autodesk Vault has proven to be a robust CDE. Often users are unable to adopt a cloud approach due to a number of reasons, mainly those mentioned right at the start. Due to some of these and in particular security, not all, but most users feel far more comfortable working behind their firewall to produce their WIP files and using Buzzsaw as a mechanism to output published files to a wider design team. This really does suit a lot of organisations far more than an entirely cloud-based approach.
There will be many organisations who have a mixture of projects where some will require the “behind the firewall” security of Vault, where others could equally be readily hosted on the cloud. If this sounds like your organisation, then there is some good news. Autodesk has revealed they plan to connect Vault to BIM360 Docs.
The announcement of this provides a great environment for users who want to utilise both with complete integration.