Much of the discussion around integrating applications with the Internet has centered on mobile applications connected to web backends that deliver greater customer experiences than mobile apps or web sites could by themselves. But the real power of this concept comes when a full ecosystem can be delivered that leverages the true power and appropriateness of mobile, desktop and cloud-based compute power. And if you want to see this in action, just look to Autodesk. The company, we highlighted in this blog last year for its early experimentation with cloud-based rendering, has moved that work substantially forward and aims to change the way architects, engineers and designers get their jobs done and dramatically improve how they interact with clients.
Autodesk Cloud, introduced yesterday, brings storage, IaaS-based rendering and collaboration capabilities to its customers in a way that compliments the mobile applications they introduced last year. This strategy isn't a move away from the desktop; nor is it a move toward "anywhere computing" but instead is a shift toward "where-appropriate computing." No one is going to convince me that complex product or architectural design can be done better today than on a full size computer with a big, high resolution screen, keyboard, mouse and drafting tablet. And there's no better place to do complex rendering than on a pay-per-use, HPC-farm of scale-out compute servers, like at Amazon Web Services. When working with clients on a design, it's hard to beat the value of a cloud-based storage and collaboration platform where files can be stored, shared and retrieved by clients wherever they are in the world. And AutoCAD WS has so far shown that there is hardly a better way to show designs to clients than in their native form on any device the customer wants to use to view them. Forget printing out designs or sending PDFs or faxes around, when your clients can see, manipulate, comment on, markup and even edit the native files and immediately get them back to you. Who hasn't had a design project that suffered delays due to this 1980s collaboration system -- which is still the norm in the world of home design, decoration and remodeling?
You should examine what Autodesk has done here and how it is working to drive its customers toward a model of greater efficiency. You don't have to be a software company to apply these lessons. Autodesk Cloud isn't about software, it's about identifying customer workflows and bringing technology to bear to improve that experience -- and in doing so driving up customer loyalty and your profitability.
Infrastructure & Operations professionals should take note of how they are doing this as well. Autodesk is taking responsibility for the security of these services so their clients don't have to and are embracing the Uneven Handshake of cloud security. They are also embedding analytics into their mobile, cloud and SaaS services so they can learn from how their clients use these parts of their solution and therefore prioritize their R&D more effectively. For example, Autodesk knows what editing capabilities are most commonly used in its mobile app AutoCAD WS and this information helps them determine what capabilities to expand upon. The I&O team that can bring such a technology solution to the table at their company would clearly be positioned as a leader and innovator, rather than the guys who take weeks to bring up a new application or you only see when things have fallen over.
Well done, Autodesk. I'm going to expect much more from the designers I work with from now on.