Autodesk, Other Software Makers Widen Access to Cloud-Based Platforms
For Daemon Langdon, the digital triaging began in late February. Langdon’s eponymous San Francisco–based IT consultancy specializes in servicing architecture and engineering firms, which include Surfacedesign, Blitz, and Van Meter Williams Pollack. “When the pandemic first started hitting, some clients got in front of working from home as quickly as possible,” he says. “Then there was a major panic that came down the first and second week of March.” By his recollection, he and four full-time employees worked nonstop through March 25 to set up 600 work-from-home (WFH) stations.
Autodesk’s 2016 move to subscription services may have spared Langdon’s team some burden last month. Whereas transferring perpetual-license software would have required deauthorizing a license on one machine and reactivating it on another, subscribers log in from home as they would anywhere. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, the software giant is taking more active steps to help users adapt to WFH. Since the design community’s initial transition to remote work, widening usage has revealed problems in tech infrastructure. As RECORD previously reported, architects have experienced Internet connectivity issues from residential neighborhoods. Now, Langdon is observing that architects are overtaxing the virtual private networks, or VPNs, that provide secure access. “Suddenly 40 or 50 people are working through the connection and things are starting to break down. Certain VPNs are running so slow that people can hardly work.”
The situation has specifically driven users to bypass VPN and similar connections in favor of cloud-based solutions, and Autodesk is supporting that movement by making cloud-collaboration products available through its Extended Access Program through May 31. Autodesk launched this program on March 24, and participants use BIM 360 Docs, BIM 360 Design, and the company’s other cloud-based collaboration platforms programs as if they were signing up for a free trial. “We wanted to respond to our customers’ challenges really quickly,” says Joy Stark, who directs marketing for Autodesk’s architecture and building engineering products. “The fastest thing we could do is offer access through our existing trials.” Normal terms and conditions, which prohibit trial users from using software for for work for which they are compensated, are suspended.
The move has been a particular boon to Revit users, who are migrating their server-based 3D models to BIM 360 Design. On April 8, upon the opening of a new BIM 360 Design data center in Ireland, Autodesk reported that new project creation on that platform had increased 350 percent globally since mid-February. Subscribing to this cloud-sharing version of Revit normally costs $120 per month per desk, which is not included in the price of the AEC Collection software package that houses Revit.
“Even before launch of the Extended Access Program, we saw a lot of our customers adding capacity,” Stark says of this usage spike. “I think this was coming from firms [already] using BIM 360 Design for a handful of projects—they were able to pivot most quickly to remote.” Indeed, through most of March, multiple architects told RECORD that they were purchasing additional subscriptions, in spite of anxieties about the economic repercussions of COVID-19. Now that Autodesk has widened free usage of the platform, the company reports that, in Stark’s words, “the access program is getting firms who maybe hadn’t participated in BIM 360 Design before.” Existing subscribers who had not purchased additional usage prior to March 24 can add more collaborators and projects during the Expanded Access Program timeframe for free.
Read the full article at architecturalrecord.com
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