December 04, 2006
ISD Report from Autodesk University 2006
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor: ISD Report from Autodesk University 2006

Welcome to GISWeekly! This year's AU showcased the creativity of users and showed how various products could be used together, in some cases, using the same data, to solve real world problems. Read about what's going on in the Infrastructure Solutions Division in this week's Industry News.

For a full report on the Opening General Session at AU, please see this week's

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Top News of the Week, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Financials, Contracts, People, New Products, Around the Web and Events Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at 

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

ISD Report from Autodesk University 2006

by Susan Smith

This year's AU showcased the creativity of users and showed how various products could be used together, in some cases, using the same data, to solve real world problems. Nowhere was this more apparent than in a press conference with Jonathan Pickus, manager, AM/FM/GIS division, of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, J.R. Smith of the City of Tacoma and Chris Bradshaw, VP of the Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD).

J.R. Smith of the City of Tacoma, said that in their organization, they are bringing CAD users to GIS using Autodesk Map. They moved to the Oracle database, enabling instant access through MapGuide on ESRI products. This is useful for occasional users as well as GIS technicians.

When asked what the key benefits of this system are, Smith recounted, "We're not just doing engineering records, we can leverage geospatial technologies also. We also have automated vehicle locations and customer relations using MapGuide applications."

"People can go to the portal and see information relevant to our business processes, and we have an integrated spatial store with our PeopleSoft database." Smith went on to add that customer service is one of the biggest users of their system, and that geospatial is now "involved in most aspects of the business."

Pickus said that what they wanted their system to be was "live but also coming alive." What he meant by that is that prior to having a portal, the organization talked vertically but not horizontally. "Now policemen can see the same information as the code enforcer," explained Pickus. "The community demanded demographics, housing information and other data, and the site came alive."

Just when a plateau is reached where certain services have been fulfilled, people ask for more. What would add value to the portal: asset management. "We have 42,000 miles of pipeline and we want to do forecast and protection, plan for expenses, create statistical models," said Pickus. "Our design doesn't yet support that. We're going through the analysis of how our database can support this."

Smith believes that 3D is a part of GIS that can be exploited in many different ways. An example is a railroad owned by the City of Tacoma runs from the city to Mount Rainier. The city would like to make it into a tourist attraction, which Smith said could be done by promoting the rail with 3D real-time visuals interfaced with MapGuide.

Pickus said that in their organization, people are using two or three systems. As engineers, they create all their own systems, including CRM. "We have such trust within the IT environment, and people are empowered using GIS technology," he said. "They don't know how much technology they're using."

Another benefit is that PeopleSoft has let Las Vegas Valley Water have access to their data model, and Hansen has also allowed access to their data model. PeopleSoft is a $30 million implementation, for which they use MapGuide to view it. "We built the field deployment for Hansen, and all logic is in the Hansen application," said Pickus. "We are able to respond to organizational needs because of trust. We have effectively broken down barriers between IT and GIS folks."

The implementation of Topobase has saved the company 20% in productivity, as they can now use the extra workforce for other tasks. Aimed at medium sized utilities and based on Oracle Spatial, Topobase allows users to edit data either thru Map or MapGuide, only writing the application once.  "Topobase has been a huge advancement for us," said Pickus. "It simplifies the issues of managing spatial information. We also built the interface between ArcSDE and Oracle as we didn't know which database we were going to use yet."

Bradshaw said that last year ISD brought in $175 million in revenue. The total ISD market is estimated at $2 billion worldwide. "A lot of that $2 billion is in fragmented, disparate organizations." Bradshaw pointed out that most organizations are at level 1 in their adoption rate, in spite of the fact that the Opening General Session examples depicted organizations using geospatial solutions at around level 4 or 5.

But even Bradshaw admits that these figures are sketchy because the lines are blurring between what is considered geospatial and what is not. Autodesk generally considers "infrastructure" to include geospatial, survey and civil. "CRM - is that geospatial?" queried Bradshaw. "Where do we draw the line? There is no consistent definition." It's unclear whether analysts such as IDC and Daratech include in their research revenue from Microsoft and Google, RFIDs and FM. Further, spatial data is becoming just another data type that IT must account for.

The positive side of all this is the growth toward using the same data to solve multiple problems. The iMOUT demonstration during the keynote highlighted the convergence of architectural, civil and geospatial technologies. A lot of technology was used to see inside the building, outside the building for geospatial and to go underground to see pipes. The demonstration made use of Revit, Civil 3D, Map 3D, all very sophisticated technology that could be made accessible to many in times of need.

Open Source

In a conversation with director of technology, Geoff Zeiss, he discussed Autodesk's Open Source strategy. MapGuide Open Source is based on Apache. "If there's one person who made Open Source happen, it's Gary Lang, VP of engineering for ISD. He is an agent of change and getting a bunch of software developers to change is a challenge."

People dealing with a closed vendor don't realize how Open Source changes the entire process of adding features to a project or product, said Zeiss. Open Source "dramatically empowers people to do customizations and they don't have to wait for a regular product cycle."

Where do you see Open Source going? "I think that there are some things Open Source is good at.  I think you have to have both models. There are people who believe it is the panacea for everything. My perspective is if you find a segment of IT that is being commoditized, that is good for Open Source."

The Apache Foundation was formed in 1995, by a group from the National Semiconductor Foundation. All the web servers were run by this group, who called themselves the Apache group because they were patching the Http server. IBM was faced with making the decision of whether to maintain their own web server or get something else.

Zeiss pointed out that there are well defined standards for what a web server does: http, and html. IBM was having difficulty differentiating itself from Sun or HP, so it made more sense to work out an arrangement with Apache and use their web server. IBM then agreed to use the web server, but asked that there be a legal organization formed for this purpose, and so formed the Apache Foundation. The Foundation's steering committee is comprised of numerous companies, and IBM has been shipping the Apache web server since.

Looking at commoditization, OGC, WFS, WMS and Google are close to commodity. MapServer, developed at the University of Minnesota, has half the world on its web server, according to Zeiss.

Web mapping is ripe for commoditization, according to Zeiss. "Autodesk donated MapGuide so MapGuide is a 2.0 web application. This is designed for people to edit spatial data with a web interface.  There are more of that kind of user than the kind that sit down to draft on AutoCAD, but there are a lot of people who need to edit spatial data." Autodesk's market strategy is that MapGuide can address potential non-CAD users. 45 million people use Autodesk products, and 8 million pay for it. Market development for Open Source is free. Zeiss pointed out that Red Hat is now worth $4.3 billion in services alone.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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