Is a CAD in the Cloud takeover inevitable?

Is a CAD in the Cloud takeover inevitable?

One argument that CAD in the Cloud supporters sometimes make is that the Cloud is taking over regardless of what anybody thinks, so we might as well just embrace it and reap the benefits. Nice try, Nostradamus, but I’ve been around computers long enough to see many Next Big Things come to nothing and am thoroughly unconvinced by such attempts at self-fulfilling prophecy.

How inevitable is a CAD in the Cloud takeover, in terms of Cloud-based applications replacing traditional software? I’ve added a poll with a specific question about that, so it’s your turn to play soothsayer. What are the chances of you using a public Cloud-based application as your primary CAD software in 5 years? Please vote, and as always, your comments are welcome.


  1. A couple of years ago the thing that was going to completely replace all current CAD was direct edit. These days, even direct edit sales people admit that design professionals can still get more out of history based CAD than direct edit. So I’m with you. These future addict fads come and go. CAD in the Cloud may arrive, but it will only take over if customers buy it. Vendors will not walk away from money, but I think some vendors are going to take more of a beating than others before they learn that they cannot simply impose whatever conditions they choose on the entire market.

  2. I’m currently digging into a Labs project that is labeled as structural analysis on the cloud for Revit. The thing runs much slower that any local machine would, while not revealing any new technology – existing software running on server instead of locally + existing private cloud Stratus interface for linking with Revit. In earlier days, this “linking” would be called “export/import”.

  3. I do understand your hesitation. I think that we have all seen plenty “Next Big Thing” items over the course of our careers. Oddly enough I do feel that cloud processing is an eventuality for the CAD world. The largest barrier to this goal that I can see has nothing to do with the developers or even the users. I feel that the ultimate barrier to cloud processing of any kind lies with the telecommunication companies in this country.

    Industry mobilization to rule out net neutrality, impose ridiculous bandwidth caps, and pathetic penetration rates all combine to hinder CAD in the cloud. I guess I just feel that whether you support the concept of “CAD in the cloud” or not, I think the real players are on the sidelines, pulling the strings.

    – KFD –

  4. ralphg

    When Alibre first launched, it was supposed to be CAD-on-the-cloud. It didn’t work out, and so it is also now run locally.

    CAD-on-the-cloud does not serve the needs of heads-down drafters, some of whose machines may not even be permitted to access the Internet for security reasons.

    As Mr Moreno notes, the weak link is the ISP. Instead, I think the future of CAD-on-the-cloud is local cloud installations, on-premise, in-situ — and then only for those firms who (1) need cluster processing, such as for renderings, animations, and analyses and (2) are large enough to afford it.

    Those of us who live through the days of client-server computing understand the practical problems, unlike today’s marketeers who never did, and so only accentuate the positive.

    1. As long as ISPs are considered, there really is an issue of productivity.

      As for analysis, there are limits, and they are, to a disappointment, in the most technology-intensive parts of the realm.
      Time-history dynamics requires multiple GB’s of high-density mathematical data processed as quickly as possible. It is net even an issue of solely analysis, it’s post-processing that takes time, too.

      Even modern dedicated workstations with SATA3 SSD’s and huge RAM are slowed down by it. Any network activity in this workflow is a total killer.
      I think that the way here is to use GPU capacity.

  5. Matt Stachoni

    The term “CAD in the Cloud” could mean different things to different people, so whether it’s a positive thing or not is debatable until we have some solid definitions. Autodesk is purchasing massive amounts of computing power and technologies because it knows that Cloud based interprocessing is the future. Maybe not for “CAD” so much as for BIM, which has entirely different computational fit points to contend with.

    For the traditional CAD world, the Cloud typically means free storage and freedom to access your drawings instantly on a variety of mobile platforms, such as laptops, phones and tablets, as well as your workstations in the office. And you know what? That’s AWESOME. If they want to call it The Cloud instead of Some Glorified FTP Services, that’s their business.

    For advanced modeling solutions, including BIM, the Cloud introduces massive multiprocessing for those parallel tasks that can most take advantage of it. Advanced BIM applications like Revit really do take a toll on your hardware. Indeed, much of the program’s design is truncated to be usable on today’s PC hardware. Some of the seemingly normal things you wish BIM applications did well, such as model building components much more comprehensively, are out of reach for the non-supercomputer. How cloud based processing could help the industry advance beyond our current mundane BIM capabilities is anyone’s guess.

    And don’t forget the collaboration aspect, as evidenced by the interoperability of Vault, Buzzsaw, Project Bluestreak, and others. Once you get these separate pieces of technology talking to each other via a Cloud interconnect, amazing thing can happen. Expect Autodesk’s Design Review to become completely Cloud based, as with Autodesk Quantity Takeoff and, I predict, Navisworks Manage.

    For now, I will note that Autodesk’s Cloud Rendering services are nothing short of astonishing: a 1hr 20min rendering running on my workstation took less than 2 minutes via ACR. The image looked better to boot, and after 5 minutes of Photoshop tweakage I was done. That’s amazing productivity for such a traditional time sink and is, in my mind, a game changer. I expect cloud rendering to be fully incorporated into the next release of 3ds Max and Maya.

    For other stuff like structural and energy analysis, the effectiveness of a Cloud solution depends on how well the task responds to multiprocessing; does it allow you to split the task up into discrete parts (as with rendering) or is it serial in nature, where the next step relies on the one before? There, cloud processing power may not return that much of a bang for your almost zero buck.

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