Scott and I have been working to bring out the best in Autodesk Vault and Autodesk PLM 360 as most of you know. Additionally, we’ve been looking at numerous Autodesk Labs offerings that are cloud based, as well as unmentionable non-Labs software that leverage the cloud in various ways.

Autodesk BIM 360

So I was interested when Autodesk announced BIM 360, the cloud centered civil collaboration platform. I asked about what other applications are planned for the civil side, and threw in Civil 3D. I ask this because of the continuing saga of transportation and BIM, or the lack thereof. Segments of the user community have been requesting more BIM functionality within Civil 3D, seeing the great benefits where applied in other circles, such as Revit. The specifics of these requests and which concentration of users are not important in this article, but might be worth mentioning later.

Infrastructure Modeler takes to the Skies

Infrastructure Modeler has been initiated on the cloud, with increased capabilities and the ability to pass information back and forth with Civil 3D, something that seems to be getting better as the product matures. I was given a link to a great article on the subject at Informed Infrastructure.

At present the tool is only capable of conceptual planning and collaborative design, but it is still a wonderful time saver, as it is much easier to perform numerous what-if scenarios, where the complexity in civil 3D is a hindrance… and my best client like to change his mind A LOT.

Autodesk Imfrastructure Modeler

Will this product be expanded beyond conceptual design?

The Recent Carl Bass Statement

Autodesk was a usual reluctant to make a statement regarding the specifics of and future plans. I specifically mentioned company CEO Carl Bass’ comment that everything Autodesk offered would be available on the cloud within the next three years, which indicated to me that there was likely a company mandate to do so. I imagine the company reaction going something like this: “Oh crap, did you hear what the boss just said? Well we’d better figure this one out fast”.  Hahahaha… who knows, but still, it’s funny because it could have happened that way.

Autodesk’s Response:

“Autodesk is very excited about the possibilities for cloud computing to enable our customers to do things that they simply can not do today.  We’ve already seen how Autodesk 360 is helping some customers with rendering, simulation and analysis using an almost infinite amount of computing power, and how other customers are achieving new levels of collaboration between stakeholders and in the field using mobile technologies.  You will see new cloud services and technologies from Autodesk that will help our customers move from a tool-centric approach to an information-centric approach, and enable companies and organizations of all sizes do more with their Autodesk software so they can imagine, design and create a better world.”

Some Painful Reality

Sentiments range from indifference to bitterness over Autodesk’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for a Civil 3D / BIM / Object oriented model structure, where structure is the key element. Two hurdles lie in the wake of Civil BIM.

  • The need for rigid composition in specific structures
  • The need to code a new product

From my perspective, there is nothing, and I mean nothing that will be done to accomplish this task within the AutoCAD environment where Civil 3D currently sits. For Civil 3D users, AutoCAD is not the limitation, but is freedom. Freedom to do things in a non-perfect world is not an occasional requirement, but is the norm. There is nothing regular about the field, and the name of the game is quantifying and working within irregularity.

Can Autodesk make a new Civil product that is BIM-centric? Sure, but think of the limitations that a non AutoCAD platform would require. Are you willing to give up the flexibility that you have. The painful moaning would never end…. Well, it would ebb, but only after many software cycles, and the ‘I used to be able to do this in Civil 3D’ griping would go on forever.

What I think

When you develop something as widely used as Civil 3D, you are always going to hear griping. You cannot make everyone happy, all the time.

  • I do not believe that Autodesk is the evil empire, where they are bent on screwing their customers.
  • I do however think that they are faced with innumerable desires and views of how their software should be developed, and only so much time in order to make the best products on earth.
  • I do believe that increased revenues help develop increased capabilities, and naturally they will continue to try to pick up  a greater consumer base.

I feel that it is extremely unfair, and unreasonable to say that any product is useless or offers no value to a group, when you  or I are only a tiny portion of any group on this planet.  I also feel the same about accusation that a software company has ‘ignored us’ or similar statements.  Have I felt let down before? Sure, but that’s part of the process, and knowing that my ideas are not necessarily what drive a development team. (In fact, it seems quite the opposite is true  😉

I feel reasonably confident that the development of the products surround the simple process of deciding what is possible, that will provide the best benefit, over the greatest width of the plans for the future, with the resources and time that is available… just like everything else that is accomplished in our personal day-to-day lives, from your grocery list to your child’s future and education.

While I am of the opinion that a BIM oriented Civil solution would be great (and I’d be glad to go that route), it’s not up to me. It’s not my product to develop, and I’m not the only one using it. I am however, keeping my eyes on that cloud growing overhead.