We’re All Getting Twitchy

Warning: I’m a geek.  A pretty big one.  I try to keep these posts to be on the low end of the geeky spectrum and relatively accessible to those of us in the design industry who like and use technology.  This post may…scratch that… this post will leak far over onto the geek end of the spectrum.  You have been warned.

So, we’ve all seen Twitch now.  Or we’ve read about it.  Only those that live on the west coast, or apparently somewhere in the Pacific can actually test it out.  No.  Not the islands.  Actually physically in the Pacific.  This is what I saw when I tried:


Do you have a boat out there running Revit?  Neither do I.

But I digress!  Basically, it’s remote processing and hosted computing for some of Autodesk’s apps.

And it’s about damn time.

I don’t know when the guys at Autodesk Labs first started thinking about this, but my brain started getting tickled to the idea as a possibility several months back when I heard about the announcement of the OnLive video game service.  If these guys have actually worked out a way to avoid the latency and possible speed hiccups of the Internet, and push really really high end video games to my screen, then there is absolutely no reason it can’t be done with high end BIM and modelling software.

High end PCs to run Revit and other apps are expensive.  I could argue that in the business world, aside from these production workstations, there isn’t much need for the typical user to have a PC that costs more than $500.  Our typical workstation runs us about $2500-$3000, and we don’t even get the uber high end stuff.

But if Revit could move to the hosted model, businesses could keep their hardware costs down.  IT departments wouldn’t have to waste time deploying and maintaining software on hundreads of PCs and could focus on what they are really good at (namely, napping and drinking Mountain Dew).

And Autodesk would benefit as well.  Piracy would be a thing of the past.  The subscription model that is the Holy Grail for all software companies would be a given.  They could start charging per hour for little spurts of licenses needed, like in the summer when we always get a bunch of interns, and then proceed to run out of licenses on our FlexLM server.

And for the really big firms that don’t want to share the time?  Autodesk partners with a hardware company, and rents out a Revit Rack.  A preconfigured, preinstalled series of rack servers that the local network users login to.  IT does a quick setup for IP address and the like through a nice web interface, then the Rack gets monitored and maintained and supported remotely by Autodesk.

Can you tell how giddy I am?  I am giddy.

If the latency issues and file sharing questions are resolved, then performance for the end user could be better as well.  If the virtualization for servers movement has shown us anything it’s that PCs and servers are wasted power.  For the majority of time, your PC sits there and twiddles its thumbs.  We spend the big bucks for gobs of RAM for the 15 minutes a day that your PC has to think really hard.  Aggregating the hardware resources into a shared server means more power for everyone.  Chances are you are not going to be rotating that 350,000 sf model in 3d view the same time that someone else is.  So for that minute, you get more RAM and horsepower from the shared resources.  And if more people come on board, you don’t need to spend $3000 in hardware and unknown costs in IT setup time, you just need to spend a couple hundred bucks to add some more RAM and maybe another hard drive to the server that hosts the application.  Oh, and you want to work on your model on the road or from home?  Piece of cake.  You just need an Internet connection.

This makes so much sense.  This SCREAMS it makes sense so much.  It’s good for firms, it’s good for Autodesk, it’s good for users.  It’s not often that everyone wins.

The Autodesk Labs guys are pretty darn smart, but they hit it out of the park with this.  I have no idea if anyone from Autodesk reads this blog (I bet “no”), but I hope that the business side of the company realizes that this is the future and they need to make it happen.

/nerd hat off


3 thoughts on “We’re All Getting Twitchy

  1. Robin Capper says:

    It’s interesting but I wonder about the cost aspect you mention.

    “But if Revit could move to the hosted model, businesses could keep their hardware costs down”

    Surely, the hardware required will be the same (the way it’s delivered may not with processor spread etc) to perform a given task in the app and you’ll be paying service costs to get at it. I see a real need for cloud based computing when the task is massive (real time render etc), or local app servers like Blade, but wonder if remote apps will really mean lower cost.

    * From experience you’d be amazed where a blog gets read 🙂

  2. jkunkel says:

    You are correct of course. The hosting company will need to charge to offset their hardware expenses. Perhaps my enthusiasm got the best of me? Added to that the extra expense of higher bandwidth needed. I was hooked on the idea of not needing to buy another $3000 workstation directly. Hard to tell at what point the hosted model makes sense moneywise without knowing any real figures.
    I do know that in our server room, consolidation of physical servers to VM servers makes an awful lot of financial sense, not only for the shared expense of hardware, but the increased uptime and easier support.

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