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Autodesk adds cloud services for subscription customers

The company says the offerings make the subscription selling model more attractive, but limited storage may limit opportunity for some partners

Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) has added new cloud computing services to its design software portfolio in an attempt to make its subscription sales model more attractive for customers, and an easier sell for partners. 

Autodesk Cloud is a collection about a dozen Web-based products and services with new sharing and mobility capabilities. All subscription customers will have 3GB of storage for each seat of software on subscription and 100 “cloud units” to spend on other cloud services that aren’t already included with their current software subscriptions.

“Our customers are so remote and mobile,” said Shanna Tellerman, product line manager for the cloud platform at Autodesk.

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The company has added Autodesk cloud documents, a DropBox or Google Docs type of application, along with mobile apps to cater to all of its customers who work from various locations. The Design Review mobile app for viewing, reviewing and marking-up design files and AutoCAD WS design editor are available through Apple’s iOS App Store.

The company has also added other capabilities exclusively for subscription customers. Autodesk has had cloud-based services for more than a decade, through its Buzzsaw software-as-a-service offering, Tellerman said. But now, the company is pushing heavy desktop processes into the cloud. “The cloud right now is really focused on extending the design workflow for our customers,” Tellerman said.

Autodesk Cloud rendering allows Design Suite or Building Design Suite customers to render photorealistic visualizations in the cloud, aimed at reducing time.

“Rendering is generally one of those processes that … takes hours and hours to complete,” Tellerman said. By doing it in the cloud, workflow can continue without tying up hardware and the customer will receive an e-mail when rendering is complete.

The new cloud services also include a simulation tool, or Autodesk Inventor optimization for customers to simulate designs. For Autodesk Revit customers, the cloud offering includes a conceptual energy analysis stool. Autodesk Green Building Studio, a Web-based energy analysis software allows for energy analysis across multiple building design iterations.

“For channel partners, this doesn’t change their model at all,” she said. Rather, it enhances what a subscription service means, making it a stronger sell. “We’ve really enhanced what subscription actually means.”

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For Sylvain Plourde, president and sales manager at Montreal-based 3Vis, the cloud additions won’t add much to his portfolio yet.  “I don’t see it as being much of an impact in the short term,” he said, since the reseller is more focused on the media and entertainment space, where customers require far more storage space in the cloud than what Autodesk is currently offering, he said. According to Tellerman, Autodesk hasn’t yet implemented a way for customers to buy more cloud storage and are restricted to the cap that comes with their subscription.

But for resellers more focused on the manufacturing sector, cloud services will add to what subscription means, he said. Right now, the subscription model’s only real benefit is customers’ ability to upgrade to different editions of the various software, Plourde said. “They want to make the subscription more appealing to the customer and I think it makes a lot of sense,” he said.