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What’s Beyond Revit — Anagnost on Autodesk AEC Futures

Autodesk’s CEO looks beyond the controversy and aims to foster confidence in its long-term vision for architects. 

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Revit Futures

But there is more to the future of Revit today than how Fusion may inform as a development template for not-yet-announced AEC tools that work with Revit. Another Autodesk app that may serve as a development guide to Revit is AutoCAD. If that sounds shocking, let me remind readers that when AutoCAD was announced for the Mac nearly a decade ago, (see: Architosh, “Exclusive: AutoCAD’s Fateful Return to the Mac,” 17 Dec 2010) the company embarked on a substantial recoding of the world’s most famous CAD application. Along the way, in many of our AutoCAD reviews, we have made note that many new features in AutoCAD first appeared on the Mac version and were carried over to the Windows version. This fact indexed just how transformed the code base of AutoCAD had become.

In mentioning the significance of AutoCAD, Anagnost says, “It’s got a true web version, it has a true mobile version, a true Mac version, and a true Windows version. All of those things talk to each other beautifully through a single data backbone.” AutoCAD today, the modern state-of-the-art app that exists today, took over a decade of effort to get it where it is. Anagnost mentions that making those decisions to provide this incredibly modern version of AutoCAD that works on any device and utilizes the cloud took years of work. “And it did disappoint customers with their wish-lists,” he adds. Does that mean sometimes developers must ignore some wish-list items to do the work to get applications ready for the next era of computing? Yes. Does it mean that Revit has fallen behind on architecture development because it is going through a similar transformation? Not precisely, but perhaps a bit.

 

 

I want to caution you that everything we have done with AutoCAD we might not do with Revit. There may be more of a Fusion-like approach with Revit.

 

 

Anagnost admits that not a lot of functionality [for architects] has come out and predates his administration. “But Revit has not been sitting idle,” he contends. “Developers have been in there in the guts getting ready for structural work, retooling many things.” He reminds me that Revit is a 20-year code base built monolithically on a Windows stack. It wasn’t constructed natively for multi-threading or created for any of the modern ways apps today can move across platforms and devices and talk to the cloud. “It wasn’t built for any of those things,” he says, “so they are going to continue to replumb that in Revit.”

Does this plumbing mean that the work done with AutoCAD that took a decade to complete is underway with Revit? “I want to caution you that everything we have done with AutoCAD we might not do with Revit,” he says. “There may be more of a Fusion-like approach with Revit.”

“I’m not saying that we won’t do some of the things we did with AutoCAD with Revit,” he adds. “It might not be the most efficient way to solve the problems.”

So the big takeaway is this. Both AutoCAD and Fusion form essential guides and templates for how Revit and future Autodesk AEC solutions evolve to tap into both Revit and BIM 360. This represents a complex set of decisions—which parts of Revit’s future needs get addressed by the “thick-client” approach of Fusion versus which elements get addressed by recoding the guts of Revit in the style of modern AutoCAD.

We have a lot more to share with you on that—including the multi-platform nature of modern app development and the possibility of Revit on the Mac—in our follow-up feature. Those who signed the letter ought to know now that Revit is getting more attention to architects’ needs and getting serious under-the-hood recoding to address performance.

Open Letter and Licensing

As for the open letter’s licensing issue, Anagnost says all matters communicated in the open letter will get resolved in the fullness of time. Part of the problem has been the difficulty in transitioning to the subscription models amongst a myriad of other perpetual license types. “We are in a betweener-state,” says Anagnost, “not that I want to have empathy for Autodesk, but there is a catch-twenty two we have where we have to deprecate the old system to get us into the new system. I wish we could do it more quickly and seamlessly, but it’s hard stuff.”

 

 

We have a model for pay-for-use but what is going to be different about this new model is you have an active directory where you name everybody.

 

 

In Architosh’s discussions with firms who signed the letter, the multi-user licensing going away was a big concern for them. Large firms, in particular, have dozens of users who touch BIM very lightly. Should they be charged full price for occasional use? “We have a model for pay-for-use but what is going to be different about this new model is you have an active directory where you name everybody,” he says.

Named licenses are here to stay, but Autodesk will have a system where a firm pays for a certain amount of capacity. You debit against that capacity when somebody uses the Revit application. He notes, “It is the same thing when we at Autodesk consume things like SalesForce, for example.”

AEC Futures at Autodesk

The open letter movement marks a critical inflection point in the history of AEC digital tools for architects. The letter came about in the year when it has become abundantly clear that the future of software in AEC will broadly reflect and conform to the overall software industry’s key trends. We are long past the era of desktop apps; we are long past the document file era as the thing that gets passed around to collaborate. We are firmly now in the era of the API.

With the API era before us, the AEC industry is also facing transformational forces in the way we manufacture, construct, and operate all manner of the things humans make. Buildings and cities are the last significant industrial spheres that have not gone through a dramatic digital and workflow transformation, and Anagnost is keenly aware of that.

 

 

It’s going to be harder in AEC, but it is going to be more impactful, because of the size of the AEC ecosystem, because of the potential productivity gains that can be envisioned.

 

 

“My big platform when I took over—and frankly it’s what I said to the [Autodesk] board when I was under consideration for the CEO job—is that I think the AEC industry is ready for this kind of revolution that the manufacturing industry already had,” says Anagnost.

“It’s going to be harder in AEC, but it is going to be more impactful,” he adds, “because of the size of the AEC ecosystem, because of the potential productivity gains that can be envisioned. The cloud is going to be very good to AEC, and the things that are associated with it are going to be very good for AEC.”

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The Revit Open Letter moment has presented Autodesk with a self-inflicted optics problem—a sort of “Revit-gate” without the notion of impropriety—a kind of crisis of confidence in the world’s most used BIM platform by a strategically organized vocal minority in a market with competent competitors. Anagnost and his team have moved swiftly to stress that they are listening and do care. Just as we were wrapping up this article, the Open Design Alliance and Autodesk announced that Autodesk would be joining the ODA.

MORE: Autodesk Joins ODA to Fast Track Improvements to Interoperability

Given the history between these two organizations, the news is a real surprise. Amy Bunszel of Autodesk shares that while Autodesk had been researching an improved IFC development toolkit and has been in conversation with the ODA for some time about membership, she acknowledges that joining was accelerated by the desire to listen to “the constructive criticism” received by their customers, particularly around better international data exchange standards.

This announcement should provide hopeful optimism throughout the broader AEC industry while also addressing significant near-term pain-points in the workflows of the signatories of the open letter. And with AU 2020 fast approaching, I expect more announcements that will begin to fill in the details of the longer future of Revit and Autodesk’s AEC strategy in general.

Next Page:  Synergy and Alignment — The APIs Democratizing Role


Image Credits

Format equates to “party with copyright” / “party with reserved rights of use.” (eg: image: ARP Stuttgart / Architosh. All rights reserved.)  Non-credited images are copyrighted to Architosh.
Title Credit:  Andrew Anagnost on stage at AU 2019.  (Image:  Autodesk / Architosh. All rights reserved.)

 

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