Engineers working on cloud documents can collaborate online

Autodesk heads for the clouds

Design software firm Autodesk has announced a set of cloud-hosted services that will help smaller firms.

The Autodesk Cloud service includes more than a dozen Web-based capabilities, products and services, the company says, enabling customers to access and store their work from anywhere. In particular, they will be able to send simulation and visualisation jobs for rendering on Amazon’s compute cloud, and to collaborate on 2D and 3D design files via the Web.

This is just the start for Autodesk and the cloud, according to Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk’s VP of suites and services. “In three years, all of our major applications will be available online,” he said, though he added that they will still be available for local installation too. Just because all its apps will be available online, Autodesk does not expect all its users to use them that way.

“This is giving small firms access to technologies that would otherwise be inaccessible to them,” he said. Not only did the rendering service allow beta testers to render jobs three to five times faster than they could manage locally, but the ability of the cloud to run multiple jobs in parallel meant they could render 10 visualisations as quickly as one, he claimed.

The inability of small firms to quickly produce multiple realistic images of a proposed building or product from a computer model has been a limiting factor when trying to compete with large rival, Anagnost said. “Our target is SMEs in design who wouldn’t build their own server farms.”

Anagnost added that there may also be opportunities in areas of engineering and manufacturing where the availability of extra computing power via the cloud will allow more data to be considered when calculating the optimum answer to a problem, which should in turn give better results.

Autodesk Cloud will be available on subscription, with full subscribers also getting 3GB of online storage. The company is also considering token-based pay-as-you-go schemes for lighter or less frequent users.

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