Examining the Cloud for Construction
June 19, 2012
With tight market conditions and a need for efficient project delivery methods, transitioning to the cloud has been a natural progression for many construction companies. But understanding what the cloud is and how each software provider is embracing the cloud is essential for contractors that are looking to make the switch—especially as many of the big software providers in construction now offer the cloud as a option.
Gartner, www.gartner.com, Stamford, Conn., says the trends related to technologies for cloud computing continue to change at a rapid pace—which can cause confusion, ambiguity, and uncertainty.
For starters, the term cloud computing is quite vague. Some interchange the word ‘cloud’ with Internet, which may not be a completely accurate exchange of words. Cloud computing, at its core, is the delivery of technology as a service—commonly via a network. It can be broken down even further to encompass IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), PaaS (platform-as-a-service), and SaaS (software-as-a-service).
For construction companies looking to make the leap into this technology-service world, there are a number of big-business considerations that need to be made first. Gartner says while cloud computing lowers overall cost and reduces complexities, it also creates a number of challenges and concerns surrounding security, transparency, integration, and performance and availability, which is why it becomes vital to partner with the right software providers.
As just one example, yesterday, Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., announced Autodesk BIM 360, which is a set of cloud services that will work with the Autodesk Building Design Suite and Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite, giving team members access to information throughout the project lifecycle.
The company initially launched its Autodesk 360 initiative in September 2011, and followed it up with a range of new Autodesk 360 services for Autodesk Design and Creation Suite customers and Autodesk PLM 360 lifecycle management software customers.
The launch of Autodesk BIM 360 gives geographically dispersed AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) teams access to information for design, proposals, and feasibility evaluations, among others.
As cloud computing grows, new trends emerge. One such trend is the hybrid-cloud model. This is the combination of external cloud-computing services and internal infrastructure or application services. Balfour Beatty, www.balfourbeattyus.com, Dallas, Texas, is one organization in the construction industry that is embracing this hybrid-cloud model.
Another growing trend is the need for assistance in managing cloud adoption. Cloud-services brokerage can play an intermediary role in cloud computing. Gartner says interest in this concept has increased in the past year and will continue to accelerate.
Many of the software providers serving the construction industry today offer solutions in the cloud. It began sweeping the construction industry in late 2008 and early 2009 and has only continued to gain momentum since that time.
Oracle’s, www.oracle.com, Redwood Shores, Calif., announcement last week about its new SPARC/Oracle Solaris option for its Oracle Optimized Solution for Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure offers its customers a new option to upgrade, consolidate, and virtualize existing SPARC-based infrastructure for private cloud-based services.
The technology provider says this can minimize total cost of ownership by up to 81% and enable faster time to service, reduced deployment time, and increased system utilization. Essentially, the Oracle Optimized Solution for Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure provides a means for moving SPARC and RISC-based services onto a private cloud infrastructure, according to Ganesh Ramamurthy, vice president of engineering, Oracle.
Many technology providers have taken to the cloud to give customers options. For construction companies, moving to the cloud can provide many benefits and seems to be the way of the future for technology adoption in the industry.
Just last month, Sage Construction and Real Estate, www.sagecre.com, Beaverton, Ore., moved to the cloud, giving contractors using the technology flexibility and versatility, as well as more options for mobility and collaboration.
Another area where cloud computing is gaining quite a bit of momentum is among technology providers that offer applications and software for work in the field. ToolWatch, www.toolwatch.com, Englewood, Colo., is a tech provider that is offering cloud services to customers. In this case, the tool and equipment data is stored in the cloud. As users change or update data in the desktop application, the information syncs with the cloud.
As the cloud becomes ubiquitous in construction, understanding the fundamentals and the key players involved can help spur market adoption forward.