From Athens to V8i: Bentley's 'History-Making' Launch

6 Nov, 2008

With much fanfare, the company debuts software portfolio for infrastructure design and lifecycle management.

Referring to the software suite it unveiled yesterday, Bentley Systems reports that the lowercase i in V8i stands for intuitive (design modeling), interactive (dynamic views), intrinsic (geo-referencing), incredible (performance), and interoperable (with other Bentley and third-party products). But that little i might as well stand for something bigger than all of us -- for the power lines, utility networks, bridges, and roadways around us that we take for granted. Code-named Athens prior to its public debut, V8i is a comprehensive software portfolio that supports the infrastructure lifecycle.

Yesterday, in a two-hour launch event held at the Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton Hotel and broadcast online, Bentley CEO Greg Bentley said, “I’m not exaggerating when I say that [V8i] is the most significant release in the history of Bentley.”

V8i was not created from scratch but assembled from existing Bentley products. With MicroStation and ProjectWise at the center, Bentley put together a bundle that sweeps across various markets: AEC, GIS (geographic information systems), civil engineering, and facilities management.

Athens Wasn’t Built in a Day
V8i is the culmination of Bentley’s in-house developments and acquisitions over the years, buttressed by the partnerships it has struck with various industry leaders. The hydraulic simulation features in V8i’s water-loss reduction component, for example, can be traced back to Haestad Methods Water Solutions, a hydrology technology developer Bentley acquired in 2004. Also in the mix is ConstructSim, a product that Bentley inherited after its acquisition of Common Point in May 2008. V8i’s interoperability platform revolves around various industry-leading file formats -- DGN, PDF, DWG, ISO 15926, and IFC, among others.

When it comes to the much-publicized DGN-DWG interoperability, a boom promised by the recent Bentley-Autodesk partnership, Athens is still under construction. The RealDWG exchange won’t be part of the initial V8i release, according to Bhupinder Singh, senior vice-president of Bentley software. It’s expected to be delivered some time next year.

Singh acknowledged that interoperability issues still haunt the CAD community, “not because of a lack of effort [to address it], but because it’s a difficult problem” -- attributable in part to custom software, fragmented workflows, unique configurations, and different local coordinates mandated by clients.

Along with the premiere of V8i, Bentley is launching BE Communities, a Bentley-focused social networking portal populated with blogs, forums, wikis, online instructions, access to academic licenses, job-hunting tools, and news. The promotional video clip featuring a pair of imaginary engineering students suggests the site is part of Bentley’s plan to capture a new breed of CAD users from the Facebook and MySpace generation.

The all-in-one bundling of various solutions in a single release is in line with Bentley’s efforts to advance “integrated project delivery (IPD),” defined in the American Institute of Architects’ publication “IPD: A Guide” as “[leveraging] early contributions of knowledge and expertise through the utilization of new technologies, [thereby] allowing all team members to better realize their highest potentials while expanding the value they provide throughout the project lifecycle.”

In MicroStation, the core design component in V8i, users can expect to see better surfacing tools along with the ability to push and pull primitive shapes to create new geometry. The company also promises users tools to easily add geo-references (or coordinates) to architectural objects. The company’s chief technology officer Keith Bentley revealed some of these additions were prompted by Bentley users who had been using Rhino (a 3D package known for surfacing abilities) and SketchUp (3D conceptual design software from Google).

Bentley demonstrated improved MicroStation surfacing tools, part of the new V8i portfolio.
MicroStation now includes better push-pull modeling features.
The new version of MicroStation promises easy addition of geo-references to architectural objects.

Knowing that many users were relying on third-party rendering products, Bentley introduces its own rendering solution in V8i, based on Luxology technology and a result of the licensing agreement between Bentley and Luxology in August 2008.

The ability to create formula-driven geometry -- or automatically generate 2D/3D designs based on user-defined input parameters -- currently exists under various names in CAD programs. In Autodesk products, for instance, it’s known as “functional design.” In V8i, it’s called generative components, to be made available through MicroStation.

Bentley’s Stimulus Package
As a preemptive strike to counter the current economic downturn, both Autodesk and SolidWorks have devised creative discount offers to attract buyers. (Read “Autodesk Launches Rebate Program” and “SolidWorks Tries Out Installment Plan.”) Bentley now joins this move with its own version: 0% financing for V8i. Under this program, which ends December 31, 2008, buyers pay in three installments over the next three years. At the same time, the company is attracting members to its Bentley SELECT subscription program with an offer to waive all back fees. 

For previous reports of V8i, read “Event Report: Bentley Empowered (BE) 2008 User Conference,” published June 3, 2008 (note: V8i was known as Athens at the time).

Related content:AEC, BIM (Building Information Modeling), Civil Engineering, Design Visualization, GIS (Geographic Information Systems)