Posts Tagged SaaS
While Autodesk labs has already made Photofly available for free over the web another competitor has thrown their hat into the PointCloud from Photos ring, Areoscan , and I have to say they are playing a game of catch up with Autodesk, who I believe already has a pretty good reseller network and did I mention Photofly is currently free. Add to this battle that Autodesk most will likely have the functionality built into the next AutoCAD release and its a big hill they are starting to climb. So I can’t say if there will anything new or compelling in order to pay for the service, unless they are going to fly you to their HQ in New Zealand for a personal demo. And don’t get me wrong I am always rooting for new companies but right now cannot see how the services between Photofly and Areoscan differ, except Photofly is free and Areoscan is more difficult to pronounce.
Autodesk continues to move forward with their Saas (software as a service) offerings. While Project Twitch allowed users to test drive a variety of software without saving or uploading anything Project Butterfly give you space in the cloud to upload your files and drive through them, collaborate, save all within a web base AutoCAD environment. I have just started playing around with it, although it has been out for awhile and although there is a bit of lag but it still delivers. I believe getting files, models, etc. in the cloud is the beginning. The start of real collaboration, the start of value added services, the start of a more efficient work place and the market leader is starting to figure it out.
Graphisoft continues to lead with flexible pricing models for their BIM authoring software package, ArchiCAD 13. More popular overseas, Graphisoft first introduced their Star(t) addition priced at $1995 and now introduced ArchiCADRental (ACR). ACR allows users to flex into ArchiCAD based on need and essentially usage. Allowing users varying price points to get into a BIM package is definitely a good thing, I think the ACR model tests the waters for a demand / SaaS based model. Initially, the model allows for 1, 3, 6 month and 1 Year pricing models.
Excellent article from Chris France on AECBytes on how Little Diversified is using Private Cloud Computing to deliver cost savings across its organization and powerful computing to its designers.
Excerpt below but well worth the jump to read the article. And thanks to John Allsop and his blog @ http://blog.tropicalismo360.com/ for bringing this to my attention.
We have heard a lot about Cloud Computing and SaaS (Software as a Service), but what about moving our high performance graphics workstations to the cloud? This article describes how Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, located in Charlotte NC, built a private cloud that included their high performance graphics workstations (HPGW). A private cloud differs from the public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services or Google by the fact that the cloud computing infrastructure and resources are controlled by the individual business that deploys it. (See a brief discussion by Tom Bittman of Gartner on private cloud computing in this YouTube video.)
So I had been ruminating in a post awhile back about using Revit and or BIM authoring tools as a service, Saas , or computing in the cloud. If you have been to any business or venture conference in the last 18 months+ inevitably someone will ask you what your SaaS model is, or you’ll hear the word cloud more than it’s repeated on the weather channel. Well sometimes you can tire of this chatter and discount it but this makes sense, rather than devoting your time and resources managing hardware boxes and upgrading software, etc. it makes more sense to just go to work. Wit regards to the BIM world, you want to have the BIM centrally stored and distributable, I mean this model makes more sense to me for BIM than most. So in comes Project Twitch from Autodesk, which is the “remote delivery of (Autodesk) application over the internet..” and included in the test is Revit Architecture 2010. For latency reason they say you should be within 1000 miles of the test lab in San Fran…really? slackers. This is a very good thing.
The idea of BIM and IPD is a fantastic one but the biggest goal that remains is getting all disciplines working within the same BIM. Today there are multiple products that perform a wide variety of tasks from BIM authoring tools, like Revit, to energy analysis packages like Ecotect and IES, and integration tools like Navisworks. To facilitate cross communication file formats and schemas have been introduced like IFCxml, GBxml, AGCxml, etc. How is one to understand let alone implement best practices? While the options makes ones head spin there are corollaries in the software world and well established ones at that can help guide us. For simplicity sake I will use the one I am using today to publish this blog. The software or authoring tool I am using resides on the internet, or in the ‘cloud.’ It is saved in bytes and I continuously misspell words it helps me correct them. This blog also automatically publishes to twitter because of a plug-in I installed and if you are reading this it is because it was picked up by an RSS feed, or keyword alert, or through a google search, etc. The data can then be diced up and delivered in a variety of ways that serves the most value to you. This example holds true across all data. Facebook, Salesforce, etc. are all platforms that allow you to distribute and interact with data that resides in the cloud because people smarter than me have written programs designed specifically to do a particular task. Imagine interacting with a BIM in the same way. Imagine ripping of data that is important to you without having 5 different programs installed and each needs to be translated into the next. This is why the idea of cloud computing and SaaS are so powerful and prevalent in the marketplace today. There are firms working on this today and when they become widespread and put into use we will see the promise of BIM become a reality.
A couple of examples are linked below.
A model server example and open architecture
Don’t we want to see as many programmers as we can working on the problems effecting us as possible? The more plug ins and apps we have working in an open environment, the better.
A lot of us have drank the BIM cool aid, it’s smarter, better, jumps higher, runs faster and there are a lot of good case studies out there on how much time/money it can save. I believe this, truly but the bold fact of the matter is that most of the world works in 2D most of the time. Now we can talk, scream and post how this technology is better but the IT world and Interweb are littered with carcasses that we supposed to be better. Not that I think BIM will end up there but what about CAD. I have read a lot about BIM but the fact is, I’m tuned into it and so are the rest of the cult members but what is the market demanding. One is a way to do things better, hence faster, cheaper…check. Another is the constant pressure to provide Software as a Service and do it for free, hello google everything. If we look at the cloud, that is programs and data out in the ether, for example, I am writing this on wordpress which is being hosted who knows where, but every time I type the url: and enter my password, all my data is there, and it works. How it works does much matter to me. So if people want free stuff and want it now, in the AEC world, CAD or some flavor of it would seem to be the best choice to get up there. Why? It can be a much lighter weight application than any BIM platform, just look at any CAD/BIM file comparison, but also simply working in 2D vs 3D requires a lot less bandwidth and computing power. So what, BIM rocks you might say or yell. However, let’s look at some of the benefits of BIM.
File Sharing/Collobaration –
While there is much to like about this, proprietary formats, info exchange, object transferability, etc. the fact it, the model generally resides locally on a LAN, and I have not heard great stories about sharing the model outside of an organization for technical and legal reasons. Some people are working on this like BIMServer, and if you make the jump be warned the site looks almost exactly like this one, not a big compliment just a bit confusing. But certainly a file in the cloud with collaboration tools built in would work much better. Plus once this data is out there it can be better utilized and analyzed.
Product Extensions/ Add Ons
One of the great things about Saas, opening up a platform is the amount of software that can be written for it, look at Salesforce.com, Facebook, Twitter, iphone so one would argue the more open the more better. All though that puts a lot of business models at risk. With the amount of software being written to aid the AEC community, the building wants to be open as it has jump through so many hoops to talk to each other. There is ifcMCL, and the release of agcXML, endorsed by Association for General Contractors for data interchange. However, to write software for the AEC industry one still has to be either a developer for one of the bigs, and you would have to write to each platform. Much more enticing to write for one.
You can’t say cloud without saying google. Let’s look at google for a moment, there was an excellent post by Phil Read on his blog, about Google and CAD, and how google is rolling through industries, whereas Autodesk is focused on AEC, Google is focused on data, and wants you to create it, so they can sort it, index it, and serve it. They have google earth, which by the way you can post Revit models to, they bought SketchUP, what are the focusing on, and can CAD be next. Might someone open up and democratize the CAD platform so real collaboration tools can be written, and added value programs layered on top. Maybe it’s case of one step back for 3 steps forward.
While I am a big proponent of BIM, I also like the idea of open platforms and maybe the opening of the ‘building’ is too big to ignore.
I read this morning through a linkedin update of an individual/firm that is running Revit on a 16-core Intel i7 Xeon 2.67GHz, 1GB Video Card, 12GB RAM workstation, and was asking if anyone was interested in using it for design/rendering/etc. I guess this was only a matter of time, but it begs the question of SaaS entering the AEC Software Marketplace. AutoDesk has Dragonfly that allows to export directly into a Revit format. I am not sure who the target user is for this, although they mention that “it can streamline your next home improvement. ” Again is the regular home user or enthusiast going to pick up dragonfly for an improvement project? Or is some who has a visualization program going to change workflows or programs to use Dragonfly? Or better is it Autodesk trying to work the kinks out of what could become a full blown SaaS (Software as a Service) effort? Certainly, they have to be thinking of this, especially when everyone can spit out SaaS or Cloud Computing fast enough to show they are with it.
What would the pricing model look like, free, freemium, premium, etc? I think it would be important from a data point of view, not a legal who owns the data point of view, but imagine actually having data stored centrally, and and then the building becomes the OS (operating system) and everyone adds value to the building through analysis and management, and 3rd parties writing apps, etc. Not that does not happen now, but it in the standard software, mostly stand alone, environment. Cracking this nut open as a marketplace, interesting to ponder. ANd it could bring a whoel new vitality to the marketplace beyond the current BIM movement. Keep an eye out on Dragonfly it might just tell us.