Autodesk offers rental plans as well as perpetual licenses for several of its design and modeling programs.

Autodesk offers rental plans as well as perpetual licenses for several of its design and modeling programs.

Credit: Courtesy Autodesk

The jury is still out on whether design professionals benefit from Adobe Systems’ decision last year to switch from offering its Creative Suite software with the traditional perpetual license to the subscription-based Creative Cloud service. However, one thing is clear: more software providers are leveraging the cloud to give users access to their products as well as tools designed to improve the user experience.

Two major players in the architecture, engineering, and construction software market recently announced cloud-based products of their own. In September, Autodesk began offering monthly, quarterly, and annual rental plans for several of its products, including the AutoCAD Design Suite, Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Maya, and Autodesk Maya LT. Subscribers will also get access to Autodesk 360, the company’s cloud-based platform that gives users online storage and shared-computing power. Rental plans vary in price by program and subscription term. For example, a monthly subscription to the AutoCAD Design Suite will cost $285 per month, while an annual subscription will cost $2,265. A single-user perpetual license—which, unlike Adobe, Autodesk still offers—will cost $4,525. The difference in upfront cost may entice buy-in from designers who need access to programs only for a specific duration, say a particular project’s shelf life, or can’t commit to the full price immediately.

Similar to a perpetual license holder who has also bought into an Autodesk Subscription, users who are renting the licenses will automatically receive software updates. Unlike the former, they don’t have access rights to previous versions of the programs. However, they will be able to install and use the Autodesk product from multiple locations because access is based on an individual’s unique Autodesk ID.

Looking up at the Hilton Metropole, in London, where Bentley Systems' Year in Infrastructure 2013 conference took place.

Looking up at the Hilton Metropole, in London, where Bentley Systems' Year in Infrastructure 2013 conference took place.

Credit: Courtesy Bentley Systems

Meanwhile, at its October Year in Infrastructure 2013 conference, Bentley Systems announced the launch of Bentley Connect Services. Scheduled to be released incrementally in 2014, the collection of cloud-based services and access to apps will allow subscribers to exchange information across project team participants, firewalls, and different vendors’ software packages. It will also sync information across Bentley’s modeling applications and ProjectWise servers, which teams currently use to share and store information on-premise. Bentley is using Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Azure platform to run Connect Services due its security capabilities, analytical tools, and ability to replicate and synchronize data created on- and offline. The platform also supports a hybrid computing environment that can be run in the cloud and on-premise.

Connect Services will be free to users who hold a Bentley Connections Passport, which will costs $72 per year. Some advanced services will require users to purchase a Bentley Connect Visa. Existing AssetWise or ProjectWise passports will automatically convert to Connections passports.

Beyond providing information exchange and storage, the cloud is proving useful for the software companies to ping their users in other ways. Bentley is also launching Select Open Access and ManageServices. Select Open Access is a free, opt-in program for subscribers to Bentley’s existing Select program, which gives users software updates, customer support, and flexibility in license pooling. Select Open Access will grant users unrestricted access to Bentley’s information modeling software programs as needed, and quarterly licenses for usage exceeding the subscribers’ perpetual license pools. ManageServices is a customer support program to help Bentley software users set up, deploy, and maintain its ProjectWise collaborative work-sharing services and AssetWise operations management software.