How Autodesk Uses Cloud Computing to Revolutionize Sustainable Design

How Autodesk Uses Cloud Computing to Revolutionize Sustainable Design

Autodesk is on a mission to dispel any doubts about the power and possibilities that cloud computing brings to sustainable design.

The technology and its impacts on design are Topic A this year at company's user conference in Las Vegas, Autodesk University 2011.

GreenBiz readers are no strangers to the concept of cloud computing and the dimensions it brings to energy and carbon management, overseeing and operating property portfolios and building design.

The subject had captured headlines intermittently in the design, building and IT trade media until early this fall when a surge of developments began.

Many were announced in the advent of Greenbuild, the green building industry's massive annual conference. They included Autodesk's introduction of sustainable building and product design tools in the cloud.

Since then there's been a steady flow of app and product news as companies bring services to the cloud.

The proliferation of apps for personal devices has perhaps made it easy to overlook the significance of growing numbers of business and design solutions in the cloud.

To Autodesk, the maker of some of the most widely used design software for buildings and products, the rise of cloud computing is more than a mere migration of locally based software to the sky. The company considers it the latest disruptive technology, a powerful change agent that is revolutionizing design as well as the way we work and interact with the world and the people in it.

That's message Autodesk chieftains -- from CEO Carl Bass to the heads of key company business units -- are bringing to Autodesk U this week. [Disclosure: The firm is hosting my stay at the conference.]

Here is a sampling of what Autodesk execs said in media briefings yesterday. I'm at the conference through today and will share other gleanings from the gathering later.

"We are in the midst of a major technology disruption and platform shift," said Senior Vice President Chris Bradshaw, the company's chief marketing officer, who added the developments bring unprecedented change and opportunities.

SVP Steve Blum, the head of worldwide sales and services, pointed out that the growth of cloud solutions for business turns the evolutionary pattern of technology on its head. Historically, it was government, the Defense Department in particular, and some of the United States' largest businesses that drove and developed technology.

Today, the buying patterns and expectations of consumers are driving the development of apps, other software and devices that are used in the workplace. That's changing Autodesk's approach to business as well and influenced the company's development of a vast new customer source: individuals.

"We're thinking about the social consumer very differently now," Blum said. The growth of a consumer market for design products for fun (virtual sketching and sculpting, for example) and work has also informed the company's offerings to its traditional customer base: businesses.

"By 2014, 46 percent of employees will be mobile only," Blum said, citing recent research by IDC on Cloud Trends.

Professionals expect to be able to take their work with them wherever they go, access it whenever they need it, and control who they share it with and how, said Amar Hanspal, SVP for platform solutions and emerging business.

He said the cloud provides the advantages of flexibility, mobility and the power of infinite computing -- such as the ability to swiftly generate numerous complex renderings with an array of materials choices and impacts in a few hours at most, rather than taking days.

For a company born of the desire to democratize design, the cloud brings that capability to the next level, Hanspal said.

It also brings a new dimension of connection between the customer and the company, even at its highest level.

Commenting on the engagement and passion among consumers, Bass noted with glee: "I get more email from people about their 99-cent application than [from customers] with a $5,000 application."

Concept photo of cloud computing via