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Autodesk launches design cloud on Amazon

One of the biggest challenges in computer-based design is the amount of processing power it takes to simulate how designs will perform in the real world.

Autodesk Inc., makers of the popular design software AutoCAD, will launch a suite of applications in the next two weeks for visualization, optimization and collaboration on Amazon’s cloud, reducing the computational overhead for users.

The company hopes to be a bridge to the cloud for its existing customers and also to attract smaller design firms that cannot afford big compute farms for 3D visualization.

“Our cloud services will open up these capabilities to more companies,” said Dr. Andrew Anagnost, VP of Web services at Autodesk. “We can do all that processing for them.”

An optimization service will run simulations and show the best result and a collaboration service will crunch data for specific users in a workflow model. In typical cloud fashion, Autodesk will offer a free subscription for a limited amount of capacity, with more capacity for a fee. The company didn’t release exact pricing.

Autodesk has plenty of experience running Software as a Service. Its Buzzsaw online data management tool for the construction industry is over a decade old and taught the company a few lessons. It was spun out and then back in and is currently run from Autodesk’s internal servers.

“There are benefits to that, but absolute problems too around scaling up dynamically … You can’t do it with internal infrastructure,” Anagnost said. Autodesk expects to push elements of Buzzsaw out to the cloud in an experimental way. “As long as the customer will see no difference, it will go to the cloud,” he said. “The lines will blur around what’s on the desktop and what’s in the cloud.”

Anagnost expects all Autodesk’s software will have online versions within three years.

The biggest limitations to its new services will be bandwidth and security. Smaller firms may not have enough pipe to upload data to the cloud. And security in the cloud, or lack thereof continues to be a worry for many companies. 

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