I’m catching up on the news and materials from Autodesk University 2022, which took place after the two years break in person in New Orleans. If you’ve been lucky to attend in person, I’m sure you enjoyed it a lot. AU was one of my favorite events for many years. I was not able to make it live this year, but thanks to all modern communication methods you can catch up on materials and sessions live. I found the following Autodesk blog gives you a great set of links to sessions, materials, top news, and other publications. Check this out – Catch up on AU 2022 Digital Experience with latest Autodesk news. The top news is forming 3 clouds – Autodesk Forma (former Autodesk construction cloud), and Autodesk Fusion (for design and engineering data management capabilities). In my blog today, I’d like to discuss how Autodesk’s strategy fits modern digital transformation and solve today’s pressing challenges for industrial companies for the organization of digital thread.
New Autodesk PLM Is Forging?
For the last decade, Autodesk took multiple steps in building its product lifecycle management systems. While the starting point was on-premise Autodesk Vault, multiple acquisitions were made by Autodesk to bring pieces to the Autodesk PLM puzzle. The last one was Upchain. Read more about it here – Why did Autodesk acquire another cloud PLM vendor?
While Autodesk was combing multiple elements of PLM solutions together, the vision of Autodesk was that PLM is not a magic app, but more a set of services. Here is a passage from one of my earlier blogs – Autodesk Data Management and PLM transformation.
Autodesk put a focus on data management and inner development of the Autodesk Forge platform The power of the Autodesk Forge platform combined with Fusion360 and other tools integrated together is a strong foundation for PLM-related development at Autodesk. Placing the data in the center can create a strong differentiation for future product data management development at Autodesk. According to Autodesk CEO, Andrew Anagnost, back at AU2018, PLM is more a production information model and not an application add-on on top of the cloud.
The idea of data services is getting stronger and with many additional acquisitions made by Autodesk, they look at Autodesk Fusion to become a center of cloud data gravity providing a space to move from file-based workflow to cloud-based information model. Here is a passage from CIMdata notes.
While the new and renamed platform offerings were the highlight, it is about more than just the ASP. There is a cloud information model underlying their platforms. Mr. Anagnost stated that files are a “dead thing working.” File formats are not the future. Granular data stored in the cloud that can be mixed and matched is. That is why Autodesk Fusion is farther ahead than Forma and Flow. They have been working on that part of the cloud information model for about 12 years stated Mr. Anagnost. Using this approach, Fusion has absorbed a lot of capabilities, from electronic computer-aided design (ECAD) from their Eagle CAD acquisition, to Delcam technology integrated with Fusion 360.
Learn New Name – Autodesk Platform Services (APS)
APS is a new big rename announcement that came at AU 2022. However, with a new name, it is the same Autodesk Forge platform that was developed by Autodesk for the last 10 years. There are two core elements of APS: (1) unified database storage and (2) a set of services previously known as Forge. The set of services provides different capabilities that are interoperable and provides building blocks to build applications- eg. Viewer, Translation, etc. Autodesk continuously moves new and existing applications to work on top of APS. As an example, Fusion 360 started as a hybrid design application with cloud storage to use more new services and application capabilities from the platform.
APS is a great strategy, but it has two interesting aspects. The application transformation takes time and, at the same time, customers demand connected information workflows to be supported by applications.
Autodesk Fusion Cloud
The New Autodesk Fusion cloud is a re-branded Autodesk Fusion 360 suite of tools and applications built around the Fusion360 design and manufacturing environment. Fusion360 itself provides a set of rich functionality – design, manufacturing, simulation, CNC, etc. Combined with acquired Eagle PCB tools it provides a multi-disciplinary design, engineering environment, CAM tools, and other functions.
PLM side of Fusion 360 is represented by the acquired a decade ago PLM 360 (aka Datastay), which transformed into Fusion Managed and newly acquired Upchain. While the Manage extension is integrated with Fusion360 to provide release management capabilities, the integration of Upchain was acquired a year ago is still undergoing and we will see what is coming there later.
What is my conclusion?
Autodesk is making steps towards transformation from a file-based platform to a cloud-based platform. It is an important strategy that should provide essential CAD tools combined with new services to support the entire data management and process workflow. The move is hard and takes a long time. The first step in the move was to switch Autodesk’s business to a subscription business model, which was done already. Now, the next step is to create a data foundation that can hold SaaS applications and support fully digital workflow. It is a complex and ambitious undertaking. The biggest challenge in this work is how to keep the platform robust, seamlessly integrated, and at the same time open. This can make it different from some other PLM platforms in the market that provide great vertical integration and a poor level of openness. As Andrew Anagnost, said a few years ago, there is no silver bullet application in the PLM space. Therefore providing a set of granular SaaS applications connected by a common Autodesk Platform Services can be a winning path to get more market share during the time when industrial companies will be looking at how to replace their legacy file-based tools with cloud-native applications. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital cloud-native PDM & PLM platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.