Many of the Cloud models that software vendors are using today are simply a reworking of their existing software solutions onto a hosted platform. While this might extend your customer base if you use it to lower cost, simply hosting a solution does not make it a Cloud solution or a new business model.

Autodesk, whose main focus is in 3D modelling and design for engineering and entertainment has taken a view more in line with what we would like to see from more vendors looking to expand to the Cloud. Rather than simply redeploying their software for the Cloud, they have looked at the pain points for some customers. The company has looked at what Cloud offers e.g. a compute resource rich environment, and then moved a number of features and components that can best take advantage of the resource gains, into the Autodesk Cloud.

A good example of the business case here is the time taken to create a photo quality render of a complex design. Given enough local resources – eg a workstation with multiple cores and >4GB of RAM, you can create one, perhaps two, photo renders overnight. By using the service in the Cloud you can create a dozen or more inside an hour. An additional benefit
here is that a major client could come in for a meeting, work through some changes, and then leave with the images they want rather than wait several days for those images to be emailed or posted.

It is not just photo quality rendering that is happening here. Autodesk have a product called Green Building Studio which allows you to carry out an energy analysis of a building design. This will also be available inside the Autodesk Cloud allowing an architect to concentrate on doing the design work locally while the analysis is carried out at the backend.

This should not only speed things up but make it easier for architects and engineers to make and understand the impact of changes on designs. It will also enable clients to see what impact their own needs have on the energy efficiency of a building.

It is not all good though. You have to be an Autodesk subscription customer to access these resources. Nor was the company prepared to say when it might move AutoCAD and some of its other software to a full Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery option through its Cloud platform. On the plus side however, part of this release does deliver Autodesk Buzzsaw as a SaaS solution which provides team collaboration and document vault capabilities to

While Autodesk has not yet packaged the Autodesk Cloud in such a way as to make it deployable on the servers of its large customers, they have said that this is something they are looking to target. We welcome this intention as it is our opinion that vendors creating Cloud solutions should not ignore those customers with their own virtualised datacentres who want to run these Cloud offerings locally rather than on someone else’s premises.

Autodesk developers are not, as yet, being given a place on the Autodesk Cloud, although it is a service that Autodesk wants to eventual enable. The Autodesk Cloud does have its own set of APIs so the next step will be for some developer partners to see how they can not only port their own assets but also agree a licence/access model with Autodesk to make this work. Not including developers in this first release is, we believe, unfortunate. Like many vendors, Autodesk has a thriving ecosystem lead by its developer community and providing them an online shop and a way to integrate with the Cloud platform should have been a key priority for Autodesk.

Autodesk is not going this alone. It’s core partner is Amazon and despite Amazon’s recent high profile outages, Autodesk believes that they offer a good global option for their customers. At the same time, Autodesk has said that it is looking at other Cloud platform providers and may well be making further announcements in this space.

We see Autodesk Cloud as a good move and something that other vendors should be looking to emulate. The key elements here are additional functionality and not just a rehash of existing components. Autodesk has made clear business cases to show the benefits to its customers but we feel ultimately that the company should have included its large developer partner community in this first release for a more powerful impact.