Autodesk Beyond Desktop CAD & BIM

or: How they Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Internet

It is my opinion that Autodesk is in the early stages of implementing a bold Internet-centric strategy that if successful will position it as the Software + Services giant within the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry. Excluding the spin-off and re-purchase of Buzzsaw during the Dot-com bubble one could say Autodesk's attitude towards the Web, like the rest of the AEC industry, has been tepid at the best. In a similar manner to Microsoft, the historical and financial foundations of Autodesk lie in the traditional, desktop software market. Here its catalogue of heavy-weight tools compete for domination of the competitive CAD, BIM, animation and rendering markets. Unlike Microsoft vs Google, Autodesk and its competitors (such as Bentley Systems) have yet to face serious competition from an Internet savvy, AEC software heavy-weight. Rather than waiting for such a competitor to emerge Mike Haley, Jeff Wright and the rest of Autodesk's Content division are building it 'in-house'.

A great podcast on Amazon's new Web Services

IT Conversations is running a great podcast entitled 'Technometria: Amazon Web Services'. It features Jeff Barr from Amazon and Doug Kaye of Gigovox Media who discuss three of Amazon's most interesting and powerful Web Services: Simple Storage Service, Simple Message Queue Service and the Elastic Compute Cloud.

Doug Kaye has put together a really interesting application based entirely on these Amazon services which will enable Gigovox Media to scale out their podcasting services. As you can see from the diagram below the architecture is not simple and is highly distributed to enable extreme scalability. This scalability is enabled through Amazon's messaging service which manages the flow of messaging data within the different elastic compute cloud (essentially Web Service enabled Xen instances).

Gigovox Architecture
GigaVox’s new GigaVox Audio Lite architecture

The podcast also alludes to some of the current shortcomings of Amazon's service such as its inability to run SQL style databases and the fact there is essentially no quality of service guarantees from Amazon. From the tone of the conversation I would not be surprised if with we see these issues get cleared up as the services mature during the year.

The other interesting issue raised was the question of service provider interoperability or portability. Currently Amazon is the only major player offering such services but undoubtedly Google and Microsoft will one day offer the same. When this becomes a reality how easy will it to move your application from one service provider to another or mix service providers for the best deal? Arguably we could see a time where we interact with applications running on Amazon servers, storing files on Microsoft disk and persisting data to a Google database but whether these parties let this sort of thing happen is another question altogether.

Werner Vogels of talks about Scalability

A recent podcast on the IT Conversations network is very interesting. It is a speach given by Werner Vogels, CTO of on the difficulties and potential for scalability. In the speach he states an interesting fact about Amazon's internal service orientated architecture:

"It's not a matter of buying bigger databases... If you go to a page in Amazon it will go out to about one hundred to one hundred and fifty different services and build the page out of that."

Wener Vogels - Scalability, IT Conversations, 12:40 to 13:00 into the podcast

Searching across websites with OpenSearch

Providing search services that span a number of disparate websites is a challenging problem that in the past has been left to the big-boys such as Google. However Amazon's OpenSearch RSS format is changing this reality and providing a means for effective multiple website search to be deployed at low cost by small development teams.


Most organisations comprise of a number of different interest groups (I like to think of them as factions) and when it comes to external and internal websites it proves far more efficient to let these groups build and maintain their own independent sites rather than combine them under a single unified banner and management structure. The reasons for this are pragmatic rather than technical, in fact from a purely technical perspective it is far easier to concentrate on building a single massive website as this means one architecture, one management group and a homogonised user base.

S3 meets Java meets WebDAV

The s3DAV looks like an interesting project. It is written in Java and exposes the Amazon S3 online storage service via WebDAV. It is promising because it looks like it can seamlessly expose S3 storage to users via most operating system's native WebDAV support. This will make using S3 as simple as using a network drive. Being Java it can run on just about any platform and either operate at the server or client level. If I had the time I would like to add authentication code to the project, it authentication to OpenLDAP/eDirectory and SQL databases would be a very handy feature to have if you wanted to expose the service to a number of users.

S3 provides unlimited cheap online storage

It has been a while since I last posted, mainly because I have been very busy working on Reasonate, going to Japan and doing end of year taxes...

Anyway one thing that really blew my mind the other day was Amazon's new S3 service. On the surface it seems really simple, a basic web service that provides cheap online storage (US$0.15 per Gigabyte for storage per month). What is exciting is the ramifications, if somebody (like you or I) want to store a lot of information for ourselves or others online there is no need to invest in big servers and fat Internet connections to serve that data. It also means that by design your web applications will scale effortlessly at least in the sense of the data storage mechanism assuming Amazon's server farm is up to the task. I have signed up for an account and read through the documentation and some of the features are pretty nice (access control lists, time sensitive url's and a lot more). There has been very good things said about it on TechCrunch and other places, plus some criticisim for not supporting the very simple XML-RPC protocol (which would have been very nice to have in simple applications).