Autodesk to shift design tools to the cloud?

Both The Register and The Cloud Circle (among others) have reported that Autodesk is to move more of its existing client/server designer applications to run as cloud-based solutions, Amazon Cloud [update: 27 September news release], deployed via Amazon EC2. Both cite the example of SaaS-based construction collaboration platform Buzzsaw as an example of Autodesk’s experience in this space and also mention AutoCAD WS (though there is no mention of the lack of significant development of another cloud-based construction management service, Constructware, acquired by Autodesk for $46m in 2006).

The Register says “Autodesk is planning to take the bulk of its software onto cloud services in the next three years” [my emphasis], starting with tools such as AutoCAD WS, and will be:

“… buying compute time from Amazon EC2 to run a design and visualization suite aimed at small and medium sized companies who are looking to run collaborative design sessions. … The pricing model will be subscription based, with a basic offering for small jobs and then data maintenance pricing if a company needs more computing cycles or fine-grained management of who accesses its data.”

BIM in the cloudThis is a major step for a software business which has grown to industry dominance by selling on-premise applications. While there is growing acceptance of mobile tools and of cloud-based solutions in some areas of architecture, engineering and construction, there will still be many companies and individual professionals who will be sceptical about the security, reliability and responsiveness of externally-hosted applications and data, particularly when it comes to the increasingly data-hungry field of building information modelling (BIM – see my previous posts on BIMaaS) – and the UK, of course, is set on a route to wide-scale adoption of BIM by 2015 (post). There will also be firms whose work (defence-related work for governments, for example) will necessarily have to remain offline and internal for security reasons.

[This is a reconstruction of a blog post originally published on Saturday 24 September 2011. Unfortunately, a database failure at the web-host erased it yesterday – and my website and blogs were down for 12 hours. Apologies to anyone inconvenienced by this.]

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