Autodesk Strives for Consistency, Cloud-Centricity in 2013 Product Lineup

19 Apr, 2012 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Updated components for AEC, manufacturing, and entertainment suites are integrated with each other — and with the Autodesk 360 cloud computing platform.

"We will not be working — any of us — in the way that we worked five years ago." That bold assertion is Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass's take on the impact of cloud technology, which he considers a watershed "much bigger than the shift to PCs, much bigger than the shift from DOS to Windows."

At the company's 2012 Media Summit last month in San Francisco, Bass told the audience in no uncertain terms that cloud, mobile, and social technologies are reshaping design workflows. "We're moving to a world where the computing center of the world is really where you are ... I'll never [again] be in the position of saying 'I'll email you those files when I get back to the office.'"

The summit coincided with the launch of Autodesk's 2013 software portfolio. The seven 2013 design and creation suites feature expanded toolsets, automated industry-specific workflows, and toolbars that connect users to the Autodesk 360 cloud computing platform.

Cloud and mobile technologies have made a big splash in the CAD market in a short amount of time. According to Bass, in its 28 years of operation, Autodesk has totaled 12 million paid users of its professional products; by contrast, AutoCAD WS, a cloud-based CAD editing app, has already racked up 7 million users — in less than two years. "It's an unbelievable amount of usage … and I still think we're really at the beginning," said Bass.

Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass showcases artwork created with the company's SketchBook mobile drawing and annotation app. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

This impact is not limited to design professionals; consumers are benefiting from the democratization of design technologies enabled by the cloud. Autodesk is actively courting that market, and for good reason: There are far more makers, hobbyists, and casual designers in the world than professional CAD users. The company's SketchBook Mobile drawing app for iOS- and Android-powered devices has been downloaded 10 million times in the two years since its introduction. Instructables, the online do-it-yourself community that Autodesk purchased last year, garners 13 million unique visitors per month. "It's a new group of users who are interested in creating things, who are interested in being imaginative and creative," said Bass.

The 2013 Portfolio: More Consistency, More Cloud Options

After Autodesk introduced its product suites last year, they earned the company nearly $600 million, said Amar Hanspal, senior vice-president, Information Modeling & Platform Products Group, and the company is continuing with the software-bundling model this year. "No single product can do what [our customers] are looking to do ... [they] need a cohesive range of products that can work together," said Hanspal. He explained that Autodesk's goal is a "cohesive and cloud-centric" product line, with "cloud" being shorthand for cloud, mobile, and social technologies all working together.

This year's suites feature customizable, one-click workflows and improved interoperability, making it easier to connect design and visualization tasks, and to reuse and share designs. In addition, the 2013 suites are designed to provide a consistent user experience across the software in the suite and in Autodesk 360, which enables users to store files, share designs, and access additional computing power from any location.

Autodesk 360 now offers access to cloud services for rendering, simulation, design optimization, and energy analysis. Subscription customers now receive to 25 GB of storage and between 100 and 500 Autodesk Cloud Units (the credits used to purchase cloud services) per user, depending on the suite level.

Simulation and PLM in the cloud. Cloud power and scalability promises speed and savings for users performing simulation, rendering, and other intermittent, compute-intensive tasks. "What would you do differently if you could compute answers infinitely faster?" Bass asked.

Scott Reese, senior director, Digital Simulation, explained that Autodesk is attempting to break down the primary barriers to simulation: ease of use, computing power, and total cost of ownership. ForceEffect, a mobile app that Autodesk launched three months ago, enables users of all types to explore engineering problems at the highest level. "ForceEffect is smashing the ease of use barrier," said Reese. "[It] helps customers explore what's possible, and gives engineers a simple tool to evaluate their concept."

According to Reese, the key to overcoming the remaining barriers — hardware requirements and financial outlay — lies in the cloud. Simulation 360 enables users to move from an ownership model to an access model, where they can pay as they go and conduct any type of simulation, regardless of their in-house hardware infrastructure. "We believe [Simulation 360] will revolutionize the entire simulation space," said Reese.

Autodesk also touts lower cost as a benefit of 360 Nexus, the cloud-based PLM solution it announced last year (read more in Cadalyst's report on Autodesk University 2011). To prove that point, Buzz Kross, senior vice-president of Design, Lifecycle & Simulation, did the math comparing the costs of a traditional PLM system (about $5 million) with 360 Nexus (about $280,000). Kross stressed that the cloud-based option also provides time savings, since there's no deployment time and it's accessible from any location.

Expanded Suites and App Offerings

To form its industry-specific suites, Autodesk bundles primary design and creation software (such as AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, AutoCAD Civil 3D, 3ds Max, and Maya) with cloud services and an expanded toolset of complementary software relevant to a particular field. As with the 2012 versions, the suites are available in Standard, Premium, and Ultimate configurations, with the price increasing along with the number of included applications. "AutoCAD isn't in just a few suites, it's in every suite," explained Hanspal.

The 2013 family of Autodesk design suites includes:

  • AutoCAD Design Suite
  • Autodesk Building Design Suite
  • Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite
  • Autodesk Factory Design Suite
  • Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite
  • Autodesk Plant Design Suite
  • Autodesk Product Design Suite.

The Autodesk Design Suite was renamed the AutoCAD Design Suite this year, a move to "help people identify this really is just an extension of AutoCAD," said Charlie Crocker, senior product line manager, AutoCAD Family. "[It's] a powerful way you can extend what you already know about AutoCAD [and] expand the workflow you can support with AutoCAD." All levels of this suite now include AutoCAD Raster Design software, which Crocker called "a huge value to an AutoCAD user." He explained that Raster Design would cost $2,000 if purchased separately, whereas upgrading to the suite costs only an additional $500 for those on a current AutoCAD subscription.

The Building Design Suite updates include the addition of Autodesk Revit 2013 software to the Premium and Ultimate editions; Autodesk Navisworks Simulate 2013 software to the Premium edition; and Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler 2013 and Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis Professional 2013 software for the Ultimate edition.

Like its kin, the updated Plant Design Suite also features an expanded toolset, automated workflows, and access to Autodesk 360 services. Ian Matthew, technical marketing manager, Plant Solutions, explained that 360 enables widely dispersed teams — common in the oil and gas industry — to work closely together, despite their geographic separation.

Alan Saunders, global industry manager, Utilities, noted that more utilities are embracing intelligent modeling, and the Infrastructure Design Suite now offers complete model-based design for electric distribution. The suite is designed to "integrate CAD and GIS data into a single cohesive world," he explained, and to help users visualize existing and designed data in 3D. The Infrastructure Design Suite also features the addition of AutoCAD Raster Design software at all levels.

The Product Design Suite now includes Inventor at the Standard level. "Our intent is to make it the de facto standard, so everyone starts at that level in the design process," said Stephen Hooper, senior product manager for the Product Design Suite. Daniel Graham, product marketing manager, explained that users can move 2D data prepared on a mobile device directly into a 3D Inventor environment and build on it top of it. "[It's a] focus on not having to start over, not starting from scratch in the different design environments," said Graham.

The Autodesk Exchange Apps store now comprises more than 200 apps for multiple products, said Hanspal, including Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Inventor, and Autodesk 3ds Max software. Customers will now be able to access Exchange Apps directly (via the web) and from within Autodesk products.

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