It's official. After introducing a handful of exploratory products and experimenting with a boatload of Autodesk labs projects, Autodesk is formerly rolling out a series of up to a dozen Web services as part of its Autodesk Cloud offering.
While many of the new cloud services are aimed at users of Autodesk's building information management (BIM) platforms, there is a good variety of stuff likely to appeal to mechanical engineers and designers looking for more flexibility in integrating CAD and other design capabilities into their day-to-day work routines. Acknowledging its previous cloud efforts, Autodesk Product Line Manager for Cloud Platforms Shanna Tellerman frames the announcement as "Autodesk diving into the cloud in a meaningful way with a collection of services that will connect together more and more...
"The opportunity [in the cloud] is pretty widespread for us to extend our current desktop tools and take the processes and workflows that our customers use today and help them do more powerful things in the cloud," she tells Design News. "There are a lot of ways traditional software is changing, and the cloud used in the right place for the right kinds of methods is where we are focusing."
In addition to allowing users to access and store their designs anywhere and to view and collaborate on models via Web browsers or on mobile devices, the Autodesk Cloud platform will also leverage the scalability and power of the cloud to offload some of the more heavy-duty processing chores from users' desktops, freeing up their machines for other work. In that vein, the Autodesk Cloud Rendering service lets users tap into powerful rendering capabilities offline on the Web, helping them better visualize designs and increase the number of renderings they create without having to invest in expensive, powerful hardware.
Autodesk Inventor optimization offloads simulation tasks to the cloud, letting users test multiple design variables.
Autodesk Inventor Optimization, another new, upcoming cloud service that was previously known as Project Centaur in the labs, taps cloud resources in a similar fashion, but this time for offloading complex simulation tasks. By performing simulation in the cloud instead of using desktop resources, engineers have the ability to explore more variables, allowing them to better optimize designs around weight, cost, and safety factors, Tellerman says. Autodesk Inventor Optimization will launch shortly.
One other new cloud service of note is Autodesk Cloud documents, Autodesk's version of Google Docs, which is specifically oriented to store and manage design files. Unlike Google Docs or other generic Web-based file sharing services, the Autodesk version is a cloud-based storage system that understands design files so users can readily share and view DWF or DWG files just using a browser. This service is also different from AutoCAD WS, a Web service that lets a user view, share, and edit DWG files, so it can be used across Autodesk applications, not just AutoCAD.
Some of the cloud services will be available in base form for free to anyone who signs up, Tellerman says. Autodesk subscription customers will receive access to the cloud services free of charge as part of their license fee in addition to 3GB of online storage for each seat of software covered under the subscription.