Autodesk and the Cloud, Part 3: Experts Take Aim at Cloud Stereotypes

16 Dec, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

At Autodesk University 2012, speakers claim that cloud technology can work for large enterprises — and concerns about data security need not be a roadblock.

Editor’s note: This article is the last installment in a three-part series about Autodesk cloud-technology developments. See also, “Autodesk and the Cloud, Part 1: Customers 'Absolutely' Will Have a Choice” and “Autodesk and the Cloud, Part 2: Fusion 360 Will Deliver Professional-Level CAD on the Cloud.” In addition, the previously published editorial, “Updated Forecast,” offers related commentary.

“We are the first company to bring you a full set of professional tools in the cloud that spans the entire design process,” said CEO Carl Bass to the thousands gathered at the opening session of Autodesk University 2012 in Las Vegas late last month. Indeed, Autodesk is one company that’s betting a lot on the cloud, both for its 12 million professional customers as well as the nearly 100 million users who have tapped into the company’s more lightweight products and services aimed at consumers.

And the company claims to be finding success. Andrew Anagnost, senior vice-president of industry strategy and marketing, said at the event, “We released Autodesk Cloud last year, which was renamed as Autodesk 360. Since then, we’ve had 15 million users access Autodesk’s cloud services. In fact, Autodesk 360 is continuing to add one million new users each month.”

Referring to Autodesk’s cloud-based product lifecycle management solution, released nine months ago, Bass said, “PLM 360 is the fastest-growing PLM system ever released.” Other professional cloud-based tools in the Autodesk 360 lineup include BIM 360 for building information modeling, energy analysis, and rendering; and Simulation 360, which offers cloud-based mechanical simulation as well as fluid flow and thermal analysis. More than one million renderings and 15,000 simulation jobs have been completed since the services launched, Autodesk reports.

With so much invested in cloud technology, it was no surprise that the company presented “The Reality of the Cloud” as the first of several high-profile Innovation Forums during the week. There, an IT systems manager from international construction giant Bechtel described his company’s move to the cloud to support new mobile workforce initiatives, and a former White House CIO told attendees that under the right circumstances, data stored on the cloud can be more secure than data stored on in-house systems.

The Cloud: Not Just for Small Business

“A construction company is not what you typically think of as a fast follower in the cloud space,” said Scott Zimmerman, manager of enterprise systems at Bechtel, during his presentation at “The Reality of the Cloud.” But “two years ago, our chairman and CEO laid down a challenge: Get our employees out of the trailers and into the field.”

So Bechtel built a private cloud it calls the Project Services Network. “It serves projects in just about every country and function in our company,” Zimmerman explained.

He believes that the speed of business is driven by innovation and simplicity, two characteristics inherent in cloud-based technology. “Cloud is really about getting the right information to the right people at the right time on the right device,” Zimmerman said. “Our business is about speed, and that comes from innovation and simplicity. We see cloud as the magic part of that formula. … Mobility, the cloud, and [application programming interfaces] will be a game changer for Bechtel.

“There is no perfect cloud,” Zimmerman concluded. “Each company will have its own recipe for making it work.” Do what makes sense for your business, he advised, adding, “The key [to success] will be people and process, not technology.”

Security on the Cloud, Explained by a Security Expert

Teresa Payton, a former White House CIO and expert on cyber-security and identity theft, was next to take the stage. “I think it takes a lot of guts for a vendor to ask a security expert to come in and talk about the cloud,” she said. “Autodesk wants to have an open and honest dialogue with you about how to understand security in the cloud.”

One thing that concerns CIOs and CEOs is intellectual property theft, Payton acknowledged, adding that 51% of CIOs cite security as their greatest concern regarding current or planned moves to cloud computing.

“You have a right to be concerned about security of your intellectual property on the cloud,” she said. Data security should always be your first priority, whether it’s stored on the cloud or in your own systems. “You need a prenup with your cloud vendor,” she advised. If the company goes out of business or if you move off the platform in the future, what happens?

“I believe with the right best practices and the right conversations with your vendor, you can actually be safer in the cloud,” Payton concluded. “Pick your partners wisely. Everyone is penetrable. The key is figuring out what guidelines to follow when your digital assets are gone, and figuring out how to handle the incident and how to let your customers know.

“You cannot protect that which you do not have in your line of sight. And that is what makes you nervous about the cloud. But, in some regards, you’d be better off going to the cloud because you can hold that provider contractually liable and ensure that your data is secure.”

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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