Autodesk Jumps on the Browser-based 3D Design Bandwagon

On the eve of the Autodesk University 2013 conference, Autodesk is executing well along its main messages: cloud offerings are doing well, there is ongoing expansion in manufacturing, and the complete suite offering is working. The vendor recently announced that its customers will now be able to access Autodesk design tools via a Web browser. These tools include Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Maya, and Autodesk 3ds Max. Autodesk customers can access full-fledged 3D design, engineering, and entertainment work in a browser (without the need for desktop virtualization layers and stationary workstations) without sacrificing performance, power, or functionality.
This announcement expands the company’s ongoing strategy to provide access to its most popular tools from almost anywhere, anytime, regardless of device and without compromising performance. Building on Autodesk’s collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), OTOY, a provider of computer graphics rendering, visual effects software, and cloud streaming technology (in part owned by Autodesk), and NVIDIA, which has pioneered the art and science of visual computing, this new capability is an important expansion of the remote access capabilities provided through Autodesk Remote software.
In August 2013, Autodesk Remote was made available to subscription and rental plan customers worldwide. Remote allows users to drive Autodesk software installed on their primary computer from a remote PC or iPad, using its full power for 3D design and modeling work, regardless of the device. The collaboration with AWS (the recent launch of NVIDIA G2 instances for Amazon EC2) and OTOY expands on this capability to include access to Autodesk applications hosted in the cloud, without users having to download a piece of software to their local PC. With this new capability, developers can access 90-day trials of the aforementioned Autodesk products.
Some other companies might object to Autodesk’s market-first mantra, given that Mainframe2 recently had a similar announcement, whereby Adobe Creative Cloud is using this technology for cloud graphics. Mainframe2 also claims that it offers much more than the mere data compression/streaming protocol ORBX that OTOY offers, such as services scaling, provisioning, orchestration, security, storage integration (e.g., Dropbox/Box), single sign-on (e.g., OKTA), user management, access policies, collaboration and session sharing, metering and billing, network optimization, end-user experience, etc.
Autodesk’s announcement dos not offer much information about these “upper parts” of OTOY’s stack. It also remains to be seen how Autodesk will ensure low latency and uptime service level agreements (SLA's) as well as how collaboration by users and saving files and versioning is enabled. In addition, what about Autodesk’s PLM 360 and Fusion 360 cloud offerings, will they follow suit of Inventor, Revit, etc.?
In any case, this trend could start the wave of computer aided design (CAD) disruption, as the big players could scale their solutions and deploy across the globe. With these types of technologies, I would expect more college kids to build CAD tools that can now be deployed anywhere. This could set of a wave of price pressures and eat into fat maintenance contracts of the on-premises CAD establishment. The enterprise software could start to get more exciting, again.
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