Panzura is seeking to raise its UK construction profile, but needs to understand the BIM opportunity. Meanwhile, Google lurks … .
Until a few months ago, I was unaware of Panzura, a US-based hardware technology provider, but it is now promoting its file server hardware vigorously to UK construction firms involved with building information modelling (BIM). Its AEC customer lists bears strong similarities with that of Newforma insofar as it is heavily dominated by design organisations (including BDP, Gensler, WSP, Allies & Morrison, Wilkinson Eyre, Cartwright Pickard and Woods Bagot – among others).
Panzura targeting BIM
Now around eight years old, Panzura has partnerships with a Bromsgrove, UK-based hosting provider Prestige and, perhaps more importantly, with Google, and it held a half-day seminar at Google’s London Victoria offices today. The event attracted around 60 BIM and IT managers, many of them – on a show of hands – vexed by Revit file management issues (we were reminded, more than once, that Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass is an advisor to Panzura) and attracted by talk of a BIM-friendly file management system.
Panzura’s people (Andy McGlashan and Steve Winfield) painted a strong case for its secure management of BIM files, including file lock-in and – with Google support – cloud-based back-up, archive and disaster recovery. But some doubts began to emerge with its peoples’ grandiose claims that it already – from a technology point of view - delivered Level 3 BIM! I could sense irritation rising in the audience, and, sure enough, they were challenged by BIM practitioners citing PAS1192 requirements (remember: the final building blocks of Level 2 BIM are still yet to fall into place), and the need to support BIM-related workflows through a common data environment (CDE).
Panzura helps AEC design organisations with respect to internal file management, using file metadata to help reduce latency in file synchronisation. A case study, focused on US-based CNS and Syracuse Airport, suggested that, by jointly using its hardware in conjunction with Google Cloud storage, Panzura could reduce latency from around 22 minutes to eight seconds, and remove the need for branch office file servers, tape back-ups, archives and disaster recovery precautions. Panzura controller hardware installed at each office location (entry-level solutions cost from US$17,500) could help firms manage their internal collaboration on files, we were told.
However, in a detailed discussion (Bentley Projectwise, 4Projects and “other EDMSs” were mentioned), it became apparent that Panzura’s focus on Revit and similar model files largely overlooked PAS1192 process management requirements. Under intense questioning (well done, Ian Bush), it was clear that Panzura is largely focused on the internal corporate management of files, less on collaboration with other (external) members of the design team. Only slowly did it emerge that Panzura felt application programming interfaces (APIs) might need to be developed to support Level 2 workflow needs delivered through third party CDE platforms. I think Panzura’s people might need to work harder at understanding imminent UK BIM workflow requirements and how its technology fits alongside process and policy issues (Bilal Succar‘s three circles diagram – a long-time favourite of mine – was shown and discussed more than once).
Google for Work
Separate to issues about how Panzura might (or might not) support Level 2, today’s event was also aimed at raising industry awareness of Google for Work (formerly Google infrastructure for business). Brad Gilshaw outlined how Google is competing with (“the bookstore”) Amazon Web Services (used by 4Projects, for example), Microsoft Azure (used by Bentley), Cisco, HP, and the like (all Panzura cloud storage partners) – in providing enterprise-strength hosting solutions (at just £0.026p per GB – less than 3p), with high resilience (a recent review found Google had delivered 99.9996 uptime: around 14 minutes annual downtime – versus 2.69 hours of AWS downtime). Google’s environmental control Nest acquisition was also quietly mentioned. There was no mention of Genie, Flux or related built environment initiatives, but, surely, if Google decided to invest hard in this vertical it would quickly knock several incumbents out of the market.