Monday, October 3, 2011

To Cloud, or not to Cloud, that is the question...

if Shakespeare were alive today, perhaps he'd be asking that very question (to himself) about publishing and writing his works in the wonderful mess of data centers and switches we call the cloud. Despite being a technophile; I'm not a tweeter nor am I a rabid fan of the cloud. But why???
  • Ownership of content is still fishy. Depending on which cloud service you're working with, ownership of the materials you place on the cloud may or may not reside with the hosting service. So, if you write that sequel to Hamlet you've been thinking about (or not) then Google might just own your book. "Not Cool" says Willie S.
  • Access to content is also a little fuzzy in my book. To make an example a little closer to home, what happens when you've got 15 people across 4 offices working on one project and POOF there goes the cloud? If your host goes into bankruptcy how do you and your project team access the files you need to continue doing your job? What happens if they have a colossal failure at multiple data centers (for any reason) and you can't send out those CDs on a project with penalties for later submittals? Good luck convincing the owner that the cloud ate your homework.
Now, that said, the cloud offers some amazing potential. To throw a shout out at Autodesk, their new "Autodesk Cloud" and the features that come bundled with it make the first hint of a compelling reasons to have all our employees use the single sign on. (Bluestreak was not enough, sorry). Hosting DWFs on the cloud that can be accessed and marked up simultaneously on multiple platforms (from iPads to Win7 Tablets to my brick of a laptop) is a huge benefit. Cloud based rendering (ala project Neon) is also interesting, although Neon never got to the point where it provided compelling results for me. But, as it progresses further I can see where the "Unlimited Computing" the Carl Bass likes to talk about can come into play. Now, Autodesk Cloud still has some issues to deal with...

  • Everything is still managed through single file interactions, so sharing 725 DWF sheets with 14 people is a complete waste of time if they're packaged as individual files. Same thing for uploading new versions. Actually, they need a desktop sync system like Box.net or Dropbox.
  • Storage on the cloud is parsed out by user (???) instead of by firm/project/etc... I can't even finish uploading all 725 DWFs with my 3 Gigs of apportioned storage as a subscription user. They really need some solution for project level storage, as well as firm level storage; that is in addition to user level storage of course.
  • What about network licenses? We have roughly 55 Revit licenses at last check. We have roughly 75 full time Revit users. I'm not clear if we can only have 55 subscription sign ins with 3 gigs and the rest will have only 1 gig of storage, or if all of our employees can have 3 gigs.
  • How about viewing Revit files natively? I'm only exporting to DWF to get them on the cloud, I'd love to be able to upload the Revit file and be done with it.
  • DWFs are good for markups if they're separated. No one wants to mark up 725 sheets as one DWF. However, all the associative linking in DWFs across multiple sheets is lost when you export individual DWFs. It would sure be nice if the Cloud was smart enough to recognize links across multiple DWF files and let you still hop around between them without the restriction of one uber DWF set for the whole project. 


  • The cloud is great and all, but the apps really need to support local storage. If I don't want to use the cloud for some crazy reason like security requirements, I should still be able to use the design review app to view my own files by synching them to my iPad in iTunes.
  • And, to add to that, we should be able to specify our own "cloud" and pull files from it. If we have our own net-accessible file server, why can't I point to that and pull files down???
Issues aside, the Superintendents on the project I'm working on LOVE being able to access up to date DWFs on their iPads, including the 3D models. So, it's a big hit in that regard. A few tweaks and I think Autodesk could have something really useful on their hands. It is a great first try! Good job factory. Now, I just need to actually read that darn EULA...

My two cents on the cloud for today...

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