Who is telling the truth in Autodesk’s Cloud PR trainwreck?

Who is telling the truth in Autodesk’s Cloud PR trainwreck?

Does Autodesk intend to move all its applications exclusively to the Cloud? That is, online only and no longer available on the desktop? Autodesk people who say yes:

Carl Bass, CEO
Phil Bernstein, Vice President, Building Industry Strategy and Relations
Scott Sheppard, Autodesk Labs Software Development Manager (with private Cloud caveat)

Autodesk people who say no:

Kenneth Pimentel, Director, Visual Communications Solutions
Andrew Anagnost, Senior Vice President of Industry Strategy and Marketing
Clay Helm, Public Relations Manager for Manufacturing, Cross-Platform, Sustainability, and Consumers
Various other underlings who make reassuring but non-specific noises about expanded choice, or who admit to inconvenient impracticalities

There’s huge irony in the way Clay (or Andrew) attempts to paint the shafting of MDT customers as a we’ll-look-after-you example, but I think that’s a deliberate distraction tactic; other than this comment I’m going to ignore it. I’m ignoring, too, the spin about informal interviews, misinterpretation and the like. There’s a black-and-white contradiction here. Autodesk either intends to move all its applications online and away from the desktop, or it doesn’t.

Two men say they’re Jesus
One of ’em must be wrong
Dire Straits – Industrial Disease

So who do we believe? Last time I looked at an org chart, the CEO trumped the lot. The buck stops with Carl. So why is he letting his underlings go around undermining his Cloudy Vision? I see the following possibilities:

  1. Autodesk is going Cloud-only but it’s supposed to be a secret. Carl let it slip out and the underlings have been sent to try to cover the tracks by confusing and obfuscating.
  2. Autodesk is going Cloud-only, Carl had it right, but the underlings haven’t all been told yet and are incorrect in their “corrections”.
  3. Autodesk isn’t going Cloud only and Carl was just making stuff up on the fly. Why? To try to impress what he thought was a specific audience who wanted to hear that. It’s ironic that the nature of the Internet meant that the comments made its way to pretty much everyone, including the customers who ultimately pay his salary.

None of these options makes Autodesk look good. Is there an option 4? Feel free to speculate. Ultimately, the only chance of sorting this out is by Carl Bass himself coming out with a definitive and spin-free statement. Even then, will anyone believe him?

I have lost all trust I had in you
Opeth – To Rid The Disease

I can agree with one thing Clay (or Andrew) had to say; you will get the best idea of what’s to come by looking at Autodesk’s history. So if you’re concerned about Autodesk pushing you onto the Cloud against your will, don’t be. Instead, be afraid. Very afraid.


  1. Matt Lombard

    There might be another possibility. Maybe they haven’t made up their minds, and they are floating ideas by the public, or possibly they’re trying to back off Carl’s all-in declaration.

    It’s funny that MDT comes up as an example in Autodesk moving to the cloud. I also used it as a possible model for SolidWorks moving to V6 (with current SW being left behind as a dead end, MDT style). I was an early adopter of MDT (V1.1), I didn’t hang around for the transition to Inventor.

    Best of luck.

  2. R. Paul Waddington

    “Ultimately, the only chance of sorting this out is by Carl Bass himself coming out with a definitive and spin-free statement. Even then, will anyone believe him?”

    Interesting question. Bear in mind the person about which you are speaking is the CEO of a publicly listed company. If Autodesk is going cloud only, no problem. If, however, they are not then there exist a case for …..

  3. James Maeding

    Let’s say I did want acad through SAAS.
    I could not implement it for a long time, as I would need to migrate customization, test stability, test plotting, and so many things that we do when switching versions.
    I would argue adesk made release 2008 or 2009 of Land desktop the longest utilized version of Land Desktop ever, as they were the last for LDT.
    Keep in mind, Adesk did not write LDT, they bought it.
    They did write Civil 3D, oh what a disaster that continues to be.
    So if they want to see a version of acad last forever, they can go SAAS only and watch the previous release. The danger is those on subscription will go off, as sub only allows use of three versions back. Sounds like a benefit but it quickly becomes a problem.

  4. Brian

    Again…the software WILL be on your computer (for the foreseeable future) the KEY to run it will be in the cloud. Your files will be in the cloud as well, but will download for you to work on…anyone that says anything different either doesn’t understand (ie. C Bass) or has been smoking some good “stuff.”

    1. James Maeding

      An internet based license server (like Bentley has done for a while now) would not be bad, so long as they handle things like Bentley has.
      That is not anywhere near SAAS. You comment on where files will be stored does not make sense.
      The people flocking to the cloud are consumers that need their phones and music backed up.
      The rest of us know the cloud as simply remote storage, and generally companies only use that if forced to by some client. You would be correct in saying we do not understand Carl Bass, since misinformation generally does not help sales.

    1. James Maeding

      The Civils out there that use Autodesk Infratucture Modeler, which is like navisworks but allows draping of high res photos on a surface, may have noticed the release of AIM 360.
      I tried it and found it does not handle even medium sized models, only small ones.
      So much for that experiment, you have to be desperate and have days to play with settings to have a chance of uploading a decent model. Makes me just want to wrap my arms around Adesks next 360 experiment.

  5. Dave Ault

    I use Solid Edge. Some of my files are as large as 105 MB. I am lucky to hit 75 KB download and 45 KB upload rates on my DSL. If I spend an hour each day to download this file and then save this file where is the benefit to me on this wonderful cloud paradigm.? I am not discussing all the perils of storing things online in someone else’s server as this has been covered until users are blue in the face. I am however asking you to defend your dope smoking comment by demonstrating how our concerns are wrong. Evidence please with real software and real world case studies of how all this will be better, cheaper and no doubt secure would be nice for starters.

    1. ralphg

      Some SaaS systems do delta saves, where only what changed in the drawing is sent up the pipes. This has not, however, been implemented by Autodesk in AutoCAD WS yet, which is where I would expect to see it.

      Some months ago, I reviewed Autodesk’s render-on-the-cloud function, and found it less convenient and slower than rendering on my desktop. Some readers complained that my model (which was the most complex one included with AutoCAD samples files) was not big enough.

      So I asked, how does one determine when a model is sufficiently big enough to be rendered on the cloud, or is too small to bother with the cloud?

      Which leads to the next level of abstraction: if there are models too small to benefit from rendering on the cloud, what does this mean for those CAD vendors wanting to move everything to the cloud?

  6. Matt

    I’ve used the cloud to render before it was made available to subscribers only (I use a student license). I have mixed feelings about it. You were severely limited in the resolution of final output (1920×1080 max res) Also, the raytracing quality was not adjustable except in terms of one word settings like low, medium, high, best. I did several tests on best setting at 1920×1080, and compared to my quad-core laptop at 3.4 GHz, it was much faster. The only trouble is, as I mentioned, the lack of customization. I’m sure that aspect has been improved upon by now.

    What would be interesting is to find out if the cloud rendering engine is strictly CPU based or is GPU-accelerated.

    1. James Maeding

      The issue you mention, customization, is the elephant for Autodesk to eat.
      No one cares about a stripped down autocad, or any flagship program as SAAS.
      The people in industry would not give up workflows developed through much trial and error, because the SAAS version does not do something.
      I do see non-industry people like students liking online autocad, as they do not have real deadlines. Should something not work, they talk to the TA and get credit.
      Until Autodesk talks about customization support, they have said nothing and done nothing companies would care about.

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