Autodesk takes its software to the cloud

LAS VEGAS – Autodesk Inc. is hoping its engineering and architectural design customers will move to the cloud to perform all of their simulation, visualization and rendering needs.

The 3D design software firm, which kicked off its Autodesk 2010 conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, spent a good portion of its opening keynote address hyping a new “infinite computing” model — or as many in IT are now calling it, cloud computing.

Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski said he envisions a world in the near future where leaders on engineering or construction projects will be able to access all of their designs and processes for a given project in one place.

Traditionally, he said, a project manager is like “a doctor without x-rays.” But this can change if the manager’s various teams are all using cloud-based software that keeps all of the project’s design progress and changes in one place.

The company also stressed the cloud’s role in making high quality visualization and rendering more efficient.

Autodesk’s Project Photofly, which is headed to market soon, is a tool that lets users upload digital photos of a building or object, which is then rendered in the cloud to create a 3D model of the object. Similarly, the company’s Project Neon is a cloud rendering service that users Autodesk’s cloud to translate 3D models into photorealistic rendered images of their designs.

“You can even see how the lighting will look based on the paint of the walls,” said Brian Matthews, vice-president of Autodesk Labs.

The firm is also developing Project Twitch, which allows users to remotely run apps like AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Revit, from Autodesk’s cloud. When working with a tablet device, users can control the app via their tablet’s interface and get the rendered images streamed to them via video.

But while these products are expected to be well received by the vast majority of Autodesk’s customers upon final release, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass said the move to the cloud could be a tougher sell for its biggest customers.

“The largest customers are not the sweet spot right now,” he said in response to a question from Computerworld Canada. He added that while some large customers have embraced the concept, many still want to built out their own data centres and rendering farms.

“I have one customer that says they have more computing power (in-house) than all of Amazon,” Bass said “That’s hard to believe, but possibly true.”

Bass said that these companies will eventually jump on-board the cloud bandwagon as the concept reaches a tipping point, such as the one IT shops have seen recently with tablets and smart phones.

“At one point they’re going to wake up and say ‘this makes a whole lot of sense,’” he added.

Autodesk’s customer base is also increasing in the entertainment realm, as many movie and video game graphics designers turn to its software for creating 3D graphics.

During the conference’s opening keynote, Digital Domain CEO Cliff Plummer explained how his company used Autodesk products to create some of the visual effects in the upcoming film Tron: Legacy.

From Autodesk’s perspective, it could just be a matter of time before a full-length feature film’s visuals are created entirely in the cloud.



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