Autodesk testing cloud applications

SAN RAFAEL – Autodesk, the global leader in computer aided design (CAD) software, is moving cautiously but steadily toward cloud computing.

According to Dr. Andrew Anagnost, vice president of suites and Web services, the company is beta testing several cloud-enhanced applications, with first commercial deployment scheduled for 2011.

Cloud computing allows users to access applications over the Internet instead of purchasing them for the desktop. It’s a radical change from Autodesk’s approach, which has been to license software suites for designers to download onto their own computers.

“Our approach is different than other software developers,” said Dr. Anagnost. “We’re not just moving our applications onto the cloud, but we’re extending the power of the cloud to the desktop.”

Autodesk’s initial deployments are in the areas of visualization and simulation, he said. One application allows designers to place many different views of a product or building on the desktop in a very short period of time.

“In one hour we can give our architects 50 different high-resolution views of a house to show their clients, something they could never do before. That allows them to get feedback much more quickly. The whole collaboration process is speeded up and enhanced,” he said.

Simulation, vital to engineers and designers of building systems, is another process that lends itself to cloud computing.

“Using the cloud we can give 20 different options showing how a design will function in the real world, in just hours instead of days. It’s a very powerful advance,” he said. “From a user’s point of view it gives access to almost infinite computing power.”

Autodesk is investing heavily in these applications, which are now offered on its website for testing.

The company is also extending its viewer capabilities to other devices with the goal of giving users the options to access cloud-enhanced visuals and simulations – and to mark them up and comment on them – from iPads, cell phones and the entire range of electronic devices and browsers.

Asked about security, Dr. Anagnost conceded that it is always an issue with cloud computing.

“There’s no doubt security concerns will slow the adoption of cloud computing, much like they’ve slowed the adoption of computer banking,” he said.

“But users are overcoming their fears as security measures are standardized and breaches less frequent. Once people realize that the same infrastructure that brings them a trusted application is still in place they’ll be likely to change.”

Meanwhile, Autodesk’s cloud-enhanced test programs are eliciting a positive response among users, he said.

“Our first cloud applications will be ready for the market by sometime next year, and we’ll be testing some new ones. By 2012 we’ll have a much broader portfolio to offer our customers,” he said.

Twenty-eight-year-old Autodesk makes and sells design software, including 3-D design products, to the manufacturing, architecture, building, construction and media and entertainment industries. Headquartered in San Rafael, the company has more than 10 million customers in 185 countries.

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