Autodesk heads to the cloud

This means no more piracy.
Now if I had said something like this, or if Neil would have said it, it would have been seen as highly cynical and an example of blind mistrust of “the man”. But here Brad Holtz says it, so it’s true. Guys like Brad aren’t cynical, but they will on occasion own up to ugly reality.

Autodesk announced a couple of days ago that it would be pushing all its products to the cloud in the next 3 years.


It would have been a pleasure to skip this altogether, but there is a fair amount of noise out there about this already. One Autodesk Revit blogger seems ecstatic about the change, in fact, if you are looking for information on the Autodesk cloud, this guy’s site has a pile of it:

“This means no more piracy”?!?!? What planet… uh, whatever.  When software companies are trying to protect their own assets, they do it badly enough, but when they are trying to protect a customer’s assets, I would guess that they do it even more badly, if I can use such language.

Remember the days when people used to consider Microsoft evil? Well, Microsoft is going to be your best bud when the cloud is done with you. You buy an overpriced operating system, yes, but you can use it until you no longer have hardware to run it. These were the quaint good old days. Oh, let’s mix some metaphors. An old time country singer sang about coal mining:

You load sixteen tons and what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

St. Peter doncha call me cuz I can’t go

I owe my soul to the company store


You get on that corporate teat, and you’ll never get off. Which is the point. As evil as Microsoft is, they only charge you once. You get bug fixes for free. Google never charges you. They just bombard you with advertising and own everything you do online. The cell phone companies are the real tyrants here. You think the Matrix movie was sci-fi? It’s not even prophecy, it’s just telling it like it is, there coppertop.

39 Replies to “Autodesk heads to the cloud”

  1. Yes and while you check that link out don’t forget this one. I just love it when the mountain of cloud PR propaganda blows up with such regularity. This cloud junk is just as worthwhile as say Ford or Chrysler guaranteeing you no traffic jams or detours or bridges out while driving when you buy their cars.

  2. About a half year later, and Carl Bass is announcing that in “two to three years from now, every one of our products will be used online —the ONLY way to use them, will be online” (emphasis his). This could be Autodesk’s NEW COKE moment.

    Mark Randa

  3. @Mark
    Mark, yeah, you’re right, they just seem to be putting up peripheral stuff. Which supports the idea that the only stuff really going to the cloud are peripheral things. Not full-blown CAD.

    The stuff that came from Autodesk labs was done right – labs, then release. SolidWorks got rid of their labs area. Instead, they tend to do private betas of hand selected sycophants and yes men, the result of which is a sucky product where “we didn’t see any problems in our user testing”.

    I’m not really too concerned about Autodesk, I only pointed out the cloud stuff because cloud is relevant to conversations here. Thanks for the correction.

  4. “Autodesk announced a couple of days ago that it would be pushing all its products to the cloud in the next 3 years.”

    I don’t see anything that states this as fact anywhere.

    The Autodesk Cloud is right now available to anyone with or without subscription. If you are on subscription you should get extra benefits and that is exactly what the extra programs are aimed at as well as the extra document storage for DWF or DWG or whatever documents you want stored. You don’t have to be on sub if you don’t need these extra utilities but they are really nice if you do need them. Service packs are also always free for Autodesk just like Microsoft with no need for subscription either.

    There is no indication here that the actual core products themselves will go cloud or not. The ones in the press release are all addons and extra software that was free on Autodesk Labs as beta software such as Project Neon, Nitrous, and Inventor Optimization. Others are programs like Green Building Studio for Revit which was free to sub users before as well.

    However, if one thing will go to the cloud with a passion from Autodesk as a core product it will be the one announced on 11/29/2011 at Autodesk University this year. IMOP, there is no way core AutoCAD, Revit, or Inventor will ever be full cloud in the next 10 years. Not when rurual areas are still without high speed internet and when IT departments still won’t let go of the “Engineers don’t need internet” mentality.

  5. Kevin,
    Here is another bottom line. If a company makes promises knowing they technically can’t deliver on it but demand to be paid and held unaccountable for buyers problems, that is also theft in my opinion but yet more offensive because it is both theft and fraud. Piracy only violates one criminal area.

    There is no technical reason with the astonishing advancement of desktop power to be held hostage by any cloud offering insofar as CAD goes and the only benefits accrue to the people who knowingly offer something they can’t and won’t be able to deliver on. There is not one person who can prove to me that with all the abundant examples of failure the cloud is going to benefit me. I understand why Matthew defends it. He has to because his paycheck depends on it. But for others whose paycheck depends on quality work done quickly and efficiently, the defense of the quagmire of cloud insanity is without any examples of proof of benefit and or reliability. New and exciting I guess and that is enough for some but the idea of picking a pretty brick wall and then running face first into it does not appeal to me. I surmise though that it would be better than doing so with an ugly bick wall.

    As far as I know the cloud is not on the radar at all for SE and for NX. Only in the area of PLM type things at this time is there any discussion of the cloud. There is no discussion I know of where either CAD program will be forced onto the cloud or undergo a kernal change.

    Personally speaking I will not use software that can’t reside on my desktop and fully function and do so without any internet connection. I think I am adult enough that The nebulous idea of “trouble free support and less cost to you and no IT staff required” from companies who want me to go there is not needed. I will take care of myself and the promise of having my hand held with BIG savings by mercenary corporate MBA CPA types who seem to have bug proof software for calculators only somehow has scant appeal.

  6. @Neil
    Your situation is a good example of why the idea of letting customers “rent” functionality could be a good one. I don’t know how the pricing might work, but from what I’ve heard execs tell customers as SolidWorks World, the idea is definitely on the table.

    I’ve think that you and a lot of others who read here are a bit more willing to investigate outside or open source solutions than a lot of our customers. I think small shops and independents like Mr. Lombard have a lot of leeway that people in mid-size to large companies don’t have. Many companies won’t trust their business to open source software, and would prefer to work with a software vendor as opposed to someone like Anna (I talked to her about her operation last month, and it sounds like it’s going well).

    This is also just my own personal opinion, but I don’t think that someone like DS or Autodesk getting into the rendering or FEA or CFD outsourcing business will affect someone like Anna too much. I think there’s room for numerous options to exist. And I think there will always be independent shops like yours, or Matt’s, who will prefer to do business with someone like Anna as opposed to their CAD vendor, and that’s OK. Everyone has options.

  7. @Kevin Quigley
    If you are using the pirated version only for personal learning and self development I think you do have a valid argument – and to be frank software vendors could do more in this regard to encourage this.

    As I recall, SW did or does offer free licenses to out-of-work individuals so they can learn a new skill and improve their resumes.

  8. @Anon

    In answer to the pirated question – no never. If you are using the pirated version only for personal learning and self development I think you do have a valid argument – and to be frank software vendors could do more in this regard to encourage this. Alias used to have a Personal learning edition of StudioTools, for example, that was free, had access to all the tutorials, but saved the file format in a different format to the commercial version – so it was totally incompatible with the paid for version. It also had limited file translation and could only save in the Alias PE version format.

    However, what I see is many companies and people using expensive software commercially. The number of freelancers I deal with who claim to have Alias StudioTools, or CATIA v5, for example. The other argument is that they pirate until they can build the business up to the stage when they can afford the commercial version. Again, that is a non argument – if you are setting up as a business behave like a business – if you can’t access the cash, take out a loan. or buy a lower cost system and learn to use that well. At the end of the day it is your work that counts, not the software you use.

    Sure these are hard times, but the bottom line is simple. If you earn money using pirated software it is theft and it undermines the whole profession. Where do you draw the line?

  9. Matthew I have a project atm where I really could make use of CFD to optimise a shape. Unfortunately I can’t afford SW Flow and its probably only going to be needed this once so even if I could, owning it wouldn’t be justified. If I could download Flow to my workstn and pay for my actual use of it into my VARs bank account it would be cool and if there was a cluster available nearby it would be even better.
    What am I thinking of doing presently to solve this?
    Well I suppose I could get a specialist service or consultant to do the work for me but I quite like the idea of DIY.
    After browsing some on the internet I discovered there are a few decent open source CFD programs out there.
    I can set up Linux in a dual boot and run them fine.
    Now granted it isn’t as integrated, technically good or as pretty as Flow but it looks like it will do the job in this case.
    So while there is certainly an opportunity for DS to provide these things they run the risk of standing on people like Anna with her new rendering service or not having enough real payers or say because of open source solns not make it worthwhile.
    As we have seen with n!Fuze there is no point in DS offering for $ what others do for free or low cost already regardless of how well its coded to integrate with SW. No doubt Anna can provide a respectible rendering service with less overhead and margin than DS.
    I am not sure there is anything like the revenue to be had or indeed even a viable business in DS limiting themselves to providing just these apps on the cloud.
    I think the end game for DS still has to be moving entirely to the cloud or the whole mission is a waste of time and resource.
    Really the choice comes down to abandoning the cloud altogether or pushing on as originally intended. Although it may be comforting to distressed users to hear some SW employees talking belatedly about a more modest deployment of the cloud I think it would be foolish to believe this will come about.
    Having spent maybe $20m on coding already and more millions on a new building etc in MA. plus endured the penalty of maybe hundreds of millions on slipping SW sales/upgrades in the meantime I would think the cloud now has to be done regardless. Now too Autodesk are going to the cloud or so they say so the whole situation just became more sticky. Just because corporations exist to become bigger corporations and have to beat competitors any likelihood that the right thing will be done for users is quite miniscule. This is all about lock in and profit for DS and not serving customers.

  10. Right now, I don’t have any more insight into the pricing structures of our future products than you do, so I really don’t know how things will shake out. But Austin (and others) have said that the idea of paying a la carte for software add-ons and processing power is something that’s a benefit of making the new applications cloud-enabled, and is definitely on the list of possibilities.

  11. @Matthew West
    Most people don’t rent something for a month, and only use it for 2 days. The only people getting away with that kind of robbery right now are the “minutes” plans for cell phones.

  12. Companies don’t want to hire people to support the hardware, don’t want to dedicate the office space to racks of servers, etc. Especially if there isn’t a steady need.

    It’s like Zipcar. Sure, buying a car is cheaper in the long run if you compare per-hour operating costs (even factoring in consumables and maintenance). But if you live in NYC and only need a car once or twice a month to load up at Costco, Zipcar is probably much more cost effective.

    You also have to assume that the future probably won’t resemble the present. Bandwidth will increase and costs will go down.

  13. @Matthew West
    Doesn’t it seem crazy to try to rent out hardware when hardware is so cheap and bandwidth (especially on mobile devices) is so expensive?

    To be attractive, your offering is going to need to be much more compelling than your first 2 tries, Post3D and n!Fuze. The pricing structure needs to be more granular (smaller time intervals) and generally less expensive if your argument is going to carry any weight.

  14. Neil :

    Why not let people keep using their workstn for SW and offer cloud services on demand for rendering, simulation and specialist apps like 3dvia where it makes sense?

    Jeff and Neil,

    That’s exactly the point I was making. In general, there are lots of companies who could benefit from the occasional use of distributed computing resources to augment local resources (and not just for CAD, but for all manner of tasks), but not often enough to justify buying their own hardware as Devon suggested.

    There are also a lot of larger companies who would prefer to lease cloud resources as it helps reduces hardware spend and the need to hire support staff. Many companies today are requiring that their software vendors provide cloud/hosted solutions as opposed to locally-installed solutions. If you don’t offer those solutions, they won’t renew your contract. Again, these are mostly bigger companies, but these things are happening.

    As it relates to SolidWorks, read this interview I did with our CTO. You don’t even have to read all of it — just scroll down to the question that reads “So how do you see new SolidWorks technology working when it’s released in the next few years?” In the interview, he says “I think what you’ll see are applications that rely on a combination of local and remote resources, at least when it comes to design software. We’ll use the power of the desktop or mobile device to give you a great interactive experience, and use cloud resources to give you access to data anywhere and offline computation of complex tasks (like analysis). And, while we may have a browser application in the next few years, it may not be your primary tool, but rather an option you can take advantage of for some operations, like viewing designs from your home, or a client’s office.”

  15. Matthew >Devon is right that it’s possible to create your own processor farm, but not everyone needs that capability often enough to justify the investment.

    Yes exactly so why would we want to be continuously making use of the cloud (its main attribute being its a processor farm) if you agree we don’t need what it offers often enough to justify it?
    Why not let people keep using their workstn for SW and offer cloud services on demand for rendering, simulation and specialist apps like 3dvia where it makes sense?
    Answer: DS are lost to the dark side of pyramid schemes, racketeering and social engineering. They have picked up on the looting scams and leveraging the banksters have perfected and adapted it to the equally unsexy world of CAD. DS management ought to be rounded up and guillotined for crimes against humanity along with the others.

    Edit: I see someone posted about this point while I was typing but i’ll leave it.

  16. Matthew, in point of fairness, isn’t the opposite of your point also true? Yes, maybe it’s not feasible for someone to create a local processor farm (for such reasons as Rick pointed out), but similarly, such occasions of need are generally just as rare as local processor farms are impractical, no? So wouldn’t it also fit that just as I may not invest in building up my own local brain farm, I might also rather not pay continuously for access to it on the cloud? Are you suggesting we may face a la carte pricing with the cloud—much as we do NOT see currently for things like subscription services (and tech support)?

    Further—there ARE such things as contract render farms. Anna has started one herself. Loads of power, payable only when I decide I need it (if ever), and costing me nothing when I don’t.

    I’m still unsold that all the promised benefits far outweighing the unmentioned snares. Are these benefits really the type that MOST users need MOST of the time? Is this really a value that can sustain itself to your customers?

  17. The only area where a cloud processor farm could help is with rendering, FEA or CFD. A prime exmple of current cloud capability is the Solidworks forum. Yep… I can type five words ahead of that responsive system. The forum is just displaying text.

    As far as generating geometry there is no hope of internet bandwidth that would be sufficient to match a local machine. Of course Solidworks seems to be drifting away from geometry creation.

  18. There are positive aspects of cloud computing that *don’t* involve storing your data online. A cloud-enabled product can leverage distributed computing resources that give you more power than possible with your local machine. Devon is right that it’s possible to create your own processor farm, but not everyone needs that capability often enough to justify the investment.

  19. I worked for a company who paid for their software. I never have used any CAD software (that I have pirated) for any financial gains ever. I have only used it for learning purposes. NX is a little harder than SWX to learn. As for paying for software and return of investment – that’s why it’s always better to buy the best product – not some bug ridden crap.@Kevin Quigley

  20. @Kevin Quigley
    I worked for a company who religiously paid their subscription fees. My pirated business stems back to when I was so brutally assaulted that I was left unable to work with my one of my hands. I had no way of working in the practical jobs I’d had so I took a pirated copy of AutoCad 2000 and learnt. Same too with SWX 2003,04,05… until I had gained a qualification and employment. This goes back to my original argument about piracy – it used to be one of the main ways you learnt CAD. Kevin have you never done this?

  21. @chad
    Chad, all you have to do is read the news to hear about cloud failures. Every time there is a breach of data connected to the web, or an access failure, that’s a time when the cloud has let someone down.

    To be fair, there are some legitimate advantages of cloud delivery of software, but for CAD, I think they are severely overpowered by the disadvantages. I think it makes sense for things like keeping a blog. The data is on the web. It makes sense for stuff you want to share, and to give away. It makes sense if you really need mobile access. It possibly makes sense for access with any hardware, although CAD really requires a big monitor, and unless you pack a projector, you still have some hardware requirements.

  22. All this cloud stuff and still no real implementation of it. I’m not going to knock it until I see it fail. I just don’t understand where all this is going. Seems like a lot of talk with no direction on how this is suppose to benefit the end user. The more I think about the cloud the more lost I become. Perhaps this is what these corporations are relying on. Now I understand what is meant by “ignorance is bliss”.

  23. @Anon

    Feel free to kick away. No doubt Solidworks are glad to see the back of you anyway so you can take your pirated business to Siemens. Though I very much doubt they see NX as a drafting package… mater how great CATIA or NX is, if you actually PAY for your software you have to justify the return on investment. That is the reason SolidWorks is the market leader – still.

  24. P.S.
    And as for storage. We just added 10Tb in the form of NAS “off site” but still attached locally to our Ethernet for very little $. When Verizon went on strike a few weeks ago, a large chunk of lower Manhattan’s DSL service some how went dark for almost 2 weeks. All the voip phones in our main office were out. Not pretty. F the cloud.

  25. Has Siemens announced a cloud effort? The more I look at NX the more I’m liking it. I’m currently in the position of spearheading an effort by the company I work for to actually implement 3D and PDM. Right now all of the 8000+ products are documented in 2D done in Velum with all the fun that comes with revisions and custom orders. Originally we were looking at SW as that is what most of the engineers hired within the last 5 years know. But for many reasons (not the least of which is this cloud nonsense) I’m starting to think I should be looking at NX.

  26. Sick bastards! Parasites! SCUM! Well that seals SW fate.
    If Autodesk are there then DS will have to be there now regardless of whether its a good idea or not. It makes a convenient mutual excuse for any corporate to join in now and seize their customers under the guise of competive pressures.
    Just when I thought we were making progress with DS toward rational and practical cloud use this blows up…keep dreaming Rick Chin.
    Looks more and more like a long range gang rape of the $1B CAD industry by vampire bankers doesn’t it? They control just about everything else.
    Serfdom is back. Will there be rioting in the streets? Probably not – most CAD users are tame and docile. Give them a look at their future pen at SWW with party balloons and they are ready to move in with a nudge.
    I would say if Autodesk are there in 3 years for all their products then SW is dead by SW2014 at the latest regardless of what you have been led to believe
    I guess the question we ought to be asking now is how long will DS allow you to get licenses from their server for your SW DVD version. Knowing Autodesks mentality I bet they give their own serfs a year and then declare ‘upgrading’ to be mandatory.
    As soon as they have a server ready for you you will be put on it.
    If there is cynicism here its about corporates capturing their market at the top of the curve knowing their existing product has no where to go and taking advantage of dire economic circumstance that may last 10-15 years to move slow or distressed payers and even squatters from ‘ownership’ to rent. Its a grand CAD foreclosure and a giant fraud/hoax on users everywhere.
    The search for a SW replacement just became more real. Inventor is off the list obviously.

  27. Lets talk about software piracy. I have Siemens NX8 – not a beta – the full version with help, release notes etc. How did that happen – big CAD companies have leaks – and ‘back in the day’ that’s how AutoCad users learnt the software. I have heard it was even a semi-official policy to ignore the millions of pirated copies because it actually meant thousands of extra (self taught) draftsman – which made it easier to sell the software. Nowadays if say a professional drafter were to be hired by a company that were to implement NX – I’d be doing several of their (Siemens) multi-day courses. The CAD days of old are almost completely over. It makes sense to the corporates to try to pin it all down using the cloud. But I doubt it will happen. Oh by the way – I left my job in disgust at Solidworks. Once you have tried Catia or NX it makes you laugh at SWX as a serious drafting tool, and don’t get me started about their marketing (especially the endless mindless comments on Facebook by the numerous people that have spent a day with it and the paid ‘whore’ bloggers). Apologies to Matt for giving SWX one last kick. I gave AutoCad 2000 a kick years ago.

  28. Auto DESK and Dassault just keep slammin’ it to their customers, trying to wring dependance and money out of them.

    I say look at the new hardware that will be available in the next 18 months; low cost,high storage capable computers will make data storage affordable and secure on site. Why use the cloud? Any IT jockey can set up remote secure access to computers via the Internet. Heck that’s how I support my customers, piece of cake. It does not matter where the data is stored, the results are the same. In fact, on site computers allow faster communication.

    Cloud computers can be accessed for creating farms for multiplying computer power, guess what? they can be on site too.

    Auto DESK and Dassault have become the arrogant PRO E of today. Sooner than later, a better business model will replace them also. History will repeat itself.


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