AEC Tech News #147

20 Jul, 2005 By: Michael Bordenaro

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

Soft(ware) Parade

Analyst Forum reveals industrywide AEC software strategies

A parade of 20 AEC software vendor executives provided rare insight into market approaches and business strategies for user companies looking to establish their own software strategies. Staged by Brad Holtz, president and CEO of Cyon Research, the Analyst Forum on Software for the Built Environment provided lively and informative discussion among vendors who openly shared their market visions and on-going development efforts and revealed a surprising number of collaborative projects, views on competitors and plans for the future. (For a list of participating vendors, see the Links section below.)

Colocated with eight other conferences held in Orlando, Florida, in late June — including EcoBuild America and the AEC-ST (Science and Technology) conference for the building and infrastructure industry — the forum was a highlight for those in attendance.

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A Look Around the Industry
The Analyst Forum line-up included representatives from multiple vendors in nine panel discussions that addressed different AEC business areas. Ranging from civil engineering to architecture to project management and financing, the panel discussions provided a thorough look at some of the leading software for almost every aspect of a building project.

“The goal was to create a single setting in which to gain a clear picture of what is going on in all the different areas of the AEC industry,” said Holtz, who said he was surprised by the amount of integration already established between AEC finance and project management programs, such as Meridian’s collaboration software and Primavera accounting software.

Participating in the forum were representatives of Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, all of whom expressed a heightened interest in the AEC market, which is evolving its use of technology tools.

David Anderson, Oracle vice-president for engineering, construction & real estate professional services, said, “The AEC industry is growing into our technology solutions.” He revealed that Oracle is releasing a new database, named Fusion, that will help lower the total cost of ownership for enterprisewide technology solutions that support online sharing of data for intelligent modeling, which many large AEC companies are currently being required to adopt by clients and competitive market conditions.

SAP, which has been serving the AEC industry in Europe for 20 years, recently established a sales division for the North American AEC market. Headed by Roland Schmid, the division is looking to approach large AEC firms who may have clients using SAP systems and may gain an advantage by embracing compatible systems.

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Microsoft Moves Further into AEC
Microsoft’s Karl Schulmeisters, industry technical strategist, manufacturing solutions, indicated that the upcoming Windows Longhorn release will include improved graphics capabilities for designers, which the company has served since a 2D graphics program was the first new tool for Microsoft 2.0. Longhorn will have what Schulmeisters calls “2.5D” capabilities through a new graphics component program named Avalon. Microsoft is also continuing its close working relationship with Autodesk, SAP, Oracle and others looking to improve intelligent modeling capabilities through improved data transfer.

For example, Microsoft and SAP are working to migrate the companies’ combined complex vacation scheduling capabilities to improve AEC data sharing. With Microsoft Outlook as a front end and SAP as the database engine, users can improve calculating power while using a familiar data-entry landscape.

Gehry Technologies CEO Malcolm Davies revealed that his company’s focus is on large developers interested in the savings potential created by equipping the team members on sizable projects with its CATIA-based Digital Project software. (See the related article in the November 2004 issue of Cadalyst. An updated version is slated for publication next month.)

Holtz and Cyon Research partners created the by-invitation-only conference COFES (Congress on the Future of Engineering Software), which has a history of open collegiality among software competitors who gather to discuss industrywide potential.

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Strategic Focus
The Analyst Forum — the first exposure for the AEC general public to strategically charged discussion — provided a thorough map of AEC software development. I hope Holtz will find a wide audience for this type of information as more AEC companies realize the complex but beneficial software planning that needs to occur as they migrate from 2D electronic design to intelligent modeling.

Note: Tapes of the forum proceedings ($229) can be preordered online or by calling (800) 679-3646.

Participating Vendors

Eagle Point
Leica Geosystems

@Last Software
Gehry Technologies

Gehry Technologies
NetGuru (Research Engineers)

Meridian Systems

Project Accounting
CMiC (Computer Methods)
Sage Timberline

Project Management
CMiC (Computer Methods)

Infrastructure Stacks

Informative Graphics