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In-Depth: Looking at ArchiCAD 13 with Delta Server Technology

In this In-Depth feature Architosh talks about ArchiCAD 13 with its new Graphisoft BIM Server built on top of the company’s innovative Delta Server Technology. Akos Pfemeter, Director of Global Marketing presented ArchiCAD 13 to Anthony Frausto-Robledo a few weeks ago and in this article we cover some of the smaller details.

Several weeks ago I got a chance to see Graphisoft’s upcoming ArchiCAD 13 with its new breakthrough Graphisoft BIM Server technology. What makes this software update so significant is what it does to allow teams to work so much more affectively, remotely if need be and with better integrated communication and teamwork management. And it does this with Graphisoft’s new Delta Server Technology.

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Of course such a breakthrough approach is not to be unexpected coming from the Hungarians at Graphisoft. Additionally, such innovation should not be a surprise coming from a longtime Mac programming stalwart either. This company, Graphisoft, has been punching above its weight-class in the architectural CAD world since its founding in 1982 and is widely recognized as the leader in the 3D virtual building concept now commonly understood as BIM (building information modeling).

The Big Revolution: Staying on the Bullet Train

This is about teamwork collaboration, and the big news here is that unlike its existing self (version 12 for instance) or its largest rivals, ArchiCAD 13’s new teamwork functionality doesn’t ask you to do something as archaic as pick up the telephone in the middle of your all-electronic, computerized process, in order to collaborate affectively…the way things should work.

Not that telephones are all that “oh-so 20th century” but rather that the computer software is telling you to leave the realm of the computer–telling you to move to a different device entirely to make a phone call, to communicate–to finish the process you started on the computer.

It’s a little like taking a high-speed bullet train from Paris to Rome and then transfering onto a bus from Rome to Milan only to get back onto a high-speed bullet train to travel from Milan back to Paris.

00 - BIM Progress.

00 - Graphisoft's new ArchiCAD 13 with BIM Server provides a huge leap in productivity with teams due to its innovative Delta Server Technology and new color-coded user interface with built-in teamwork messaging and communication. Unlike leading rivals all communication with team members, regardless of where they are in the world, can take place within the user interface of ArchiCAD 13.

In other BIM programs you literally are asked to make a phone call in order to communicate the part of allowing others on the team to know you would like to make a “borrow” request, to ask them to release elements for you to work on, and to complete that loop of communication. That is assuming they are not standing right next to you, which in today’s globalized world means many key members of our teams are not.

Today’s social-media generation expects the communication processes to be built into their collaborative software applications, expects them to be instantaneous and rapid. ArchiCAD 13’s built-in messaging makes the BIM leader feel completely one with the era of social media. ArchiCAD 13 feels completely modern from the point of view of what is possible today. And this inherent flexibility in ArchiCAD 13 with BIM Server provides a big leap in productivity for teams. (see image 00)

Working Remotely via BIM Server

Graphisoft’s new BIM Server is a powerful RDBMS (relational-database management system) that the company has developed entirely internally. The actual database core system is licensed by a third party. It is powerful, says Graphisoft, and it was chosen because it offered the company an industrial strength database engine that worked on both Mac and Windows. We asked what database engine was licensed but the company isn’t talking just yet.

01 - Image one text

01 - In ArchiCAD 13 with BIM Server multiple users are identified on a project by color coding. There are several different ways to view the model by color coding options (see larger image by clicking on it) but the essence of the system is that color informs you instantly of what elements you have control and which ones you will need to make a request to have control over in order to modify them.

The BIM Server technology is referred to as Delta Server™ because it actually just focuses on updating the database based on the differences or “deltas” in the model data between clients and the BIM Server. Instead of a 100 MB sync of an entire model the BIM server focuses on syncing deltas that typically may range about 100 kilobytes or 1000 times smaller than the whole BIM model.

Accessing the BIM Server is easy from remote locations. You simply type in an IP address and login. A fast home, hotel or remote office broadband Internet connection is all you really need to work effectively with the BIM Server. You are still working and saving your changes locally within ArchiCAD 13 on your own machine. What happens is you update the model when you initiate synchronization by the send and receive commands or by reserving and releasing elements.

Akos Pfemeter said the company had the option to allow automatic synchronization to occur at all times creating a real-time but very busy and potentially disturbing BIM workflow. Especially over a LAN the issue wasn’t one of “can the BIMServer technology keep up” with the real-time effects of a team working together on a single model but rather what would the user see and feel in the workflow?

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Reader Comments

  1. Posted by:
    Christiaan
    September 2, 2009 07:31 am EST

    The least you’d think we could expect from a “longtime Mac programming stalwart” is a proper Mac interface.

  2. I’m not sure what constitutes a “proper Mac interface” these days? That is a good question itself. If you refer to the “classic Mac interface” I would argue that ArchiCAD 13 has many conforming elements. If you are talking about modern Apple application interfaces (like Aperture, iPhoto, iTunes, etc, then there is a problem as to what exactly constitutes the essence of a proper modern Mac interface…because they vary more than the old classic Mac interfaces did with each other.

  3. Posted by:
    GeoffB
    September 12, 2009 12:20 am EST

    Listen, I use ArchiCAD every day and like the software very much. But making a claim like, “Accessing the BIM Server is easy from remote locations“, with no supporting evidence is a disservice to your readers and leaves you looking like a fanboy rather than a reviewer. I suggest you look at Graphisoft‘s own wiki article on the subject http://www.archicadwiki.com/Teamwork/BimServerRemoteConnection and ask yourself if it sounds easy.

    Likewise the comment, “Graphisoft could choose to work with Apple in the future and utilize its MobileMe capabilities so that users could gain the Back-to-my Mac functionality to help resolve dynamic IP addresses“, is little more than wishful thinking. Show me (please!) where Graphisoft has taken advantage of Apple’s superior technology and I might believe your claim. Reality is it’s Mac-based ArchiCAD users that wait in vain for parity on basic features like SketchUp import.

    Make no mistake, this is a breakthrough product, but it’s very much v1 and still needs work.

    Best Regards,
    Geoff Briggs

    P.S. I’m not posting this because I like to be negative. I have a lot of respect for the guys in Budapest. I just want BIM that really works and vendors that develop for Mac to go beyond mere porting. I could level the same criticisms on Adobe. Just look at Acrobat Pro.

  4. […] Today I had the opportunity to watch one of the first webinars from Graphisoft introducing some of the new features in Archicad 13.  As mentioned in a recent post, this latest version “will introduce the Graphisoft BIM Server” which will “run an all-new, highly optimized and highly granular relational-database.”  The one-hour webinar was not nearly enough time to review all the new features, but I was able to get a glimpse into some of the new Teamwork 2.0 functionality.  (A more in-depth article covering the so-called “Delta Server” can be found on Architosh.) […]

  5. Geoff,

    Thanks for posting your feedback. While I will abstain from defending my reporting of the announcement, I do acknowledge your concerns. If ArchiCAD 13 is installed correctly and a BIM server is setup somewhere in the world and you know its IP address the process of connecting to it should be straight forward.

    More importantly, it should be clarified that ArchiCAD for the Mac is no “port” of the version for Windows. The program’s legacy is on the Mac and the code base, from what I have been told, bears witness to that. Over the last several years Graphisoft has had to contend with the fact that most of their Mac code base is written for Apple’s legacy Carbon APIs (application programming interfaces) rather than newer and more modern Cocoa APIs.

    Our article(s) point this out in regard to the Mac version NOT being 64-bit yet. The company has been re-writing Carbon code to Cocoa…a big process in itself as Adobe would attest.

  6. Posted by:
    koolhaas
    September 14, 2009 02:56 pm EST

    anthony:

    IMHO christiaan is totally right – AC needs a huge UI overhaul. especially on the Mac. it still bears a set of dubious ‘windowze’ icons, an overly complicated procedural chain of command, a very lame library panel, a bit useless curtain wall tool, no terrain integration, no free form modeler, the forced option of a ray tracer with fake radiosity, a HW key and a price tag of $4500…

    the BIM server is wonderful, but there are quite a few more urgent points to bring the app into the 2nd decade of the 21st century, besides attempting to attract large firms… cool, functional and professional UI/graphic design would be a good staring point 😉

    as for cocoa – it has been around for a while – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa_(API); converting to it on time is perhaps a matter of smart development…

  7. There is no doubt much that can be done with the UI in ArchiCAD. Many of the CAD and 3D stalwarts in the Mac world have OS 9 era user interface designs…that is why I asked the question about “proper” UI.

    UI design is tricky business. If developers can continue to follow Apple’s lead more that can help; and if developers can seriously invest resources in properly testing out UI ideas that do not stem from Apple’s UI guidelines that too can help.

    Some of the cooler and more functional UI designs I’ve seen recently are in apps like modo, Cinema 4D and Apple’s Aperture and its many other pro apps. Thanks for the wonderful feedback in this post. 🙂

  8. […] on the biggest thing to hit ArchiCAD since Teamwork … Teamwork 2 – an Architosh Indepth and various ArchiCAD-Talk discussions here, here […]

  9. […] Today I had the opportunity to watch one of the first webinars from Graphisoft introducing some of the new features in Archicad 13.  As mentioned in a recent post, this latest version “will introduce the Graphisoft BIM Server” which will “run an all-new, highly optimized and highly granular relational-database.”  The one-hour webinar was not nearly enough time to review all the new features, but I was able to get a glimpse into some of the new Teamwork 2.0 functionality.  (A more in-depth article covering the so-called “Delta Server” can be found on Architosh.) […]

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