Monday, June 13, 2011

STRATUS - Cloud Technology

Here is part of an article posted on
AEC Bytes that I think is well worth reposting.

The full article can be read

....Stephenson & Turner New Zealand Ltd have developed and implemented a Private Cloud-based technology named STRATUS for the delivery of Autodesk Revit as an online service. STRATUS has been operational for the past 12 months, with immediate and tangible benefits for the company and its clients. This article describes the background and rationale for S&T’s STRATUS development, and discusses additional details including the technology’s features and the benefits afforded by STRATUS to the firm.

The development of STRATUS can be traced back to 2006, when S&T successfully applied to the New Zealand government for a “Foundation for Research, Science and Technology” funding grant. This funding module enabled the company to embark upon a research program that was focused on supporting S&T’s implementation of BIM. This research included the evaluation of remote computing technologies to assist with the rapid deployment of Autodesk Revit over LAN and WAN connections. The company’s 2006 studies highlighted that 3D-Graphics remote computing was not a feasible option due to the relatively poor performance of remoting protocols available at that time. The company made the decision to shelve further research in this area until these technology barriers could be overcome at some point in the future.

In 2009, the company’s remote computing initiative was reinstated. Various emerging developments in 3D-Graphics remote computing technologies prompted this move, including developments by Calista Technologies (since acquired by Microsoft) and Teradici (now in a co-development agreement with VMware). The options explored included technology packages from VMware, Citrix, Quest, HP and Microsoft. The technology from Microsoft soon emerged as the leading contender and was promoted to the level of a proof-of-concept study, at the conclusion of which the firm’s owners decided to invest in the development of STRATUS to support the Revit team production environment.

Within a few weeks following the implementation of STRATUS, it was driving all of S&T’s active Revit projects. The STRATUS deployment quickly expanded to include a number of multi-office collaborative Revit-based projects being run over WAN links. Early 2011 saw a quadrupling of the company’s STRATUS capability in order to address the burgeoning increase in S&T’s demand for Revit-based remote computing.

Geographically distributed Revit user teams can easily and securely collaborate over the public Internet using the STRATUS Private Cloud. The available bandwidth and latency of a remote user’s WAN connection will dictate the number of concurrent STRATUS users at the remote office. S&T has found that 100-400 kbs of bandwidth is required for each connection depending upon the specific activity of the remote Revit user. Latency between the remote user’s office and the STRATUS data center should ideally be less than 50ms to ensure that the Revit remote-application response time remains unobtrusive to the remote user’s experience.

Australian-based STRATUS test sessions have been conducted back to the New Zealand-based STRATUS Cloud without any significant performance degradation. STRATUS has demonstrated the capability to deliver Revit modeling access to a geographically distributed and mobile Revit-based workforce.

With S&T’s STRATUS Cloud, the Revit application and the Revit files both reside in the STRATUS Cloud data center. Remote Revit users connect to the STRATUS Cloud to access their Revit applications and Revit files, irrespective of their physical location, assuming the minimum requirements for WAN bandwidth and latency are met. The STRATUS-based Revit applications consume the system resource of the STRATUS Cloud servers, which far exceed those of any typical personal computing hardware. The Revit files remain secure in one location, supported by a comprehensive disaster recovery plan with fully redundant failover systems.

In contrast, Autodesk’s newly introduced Revit Server uses Revit applications installed on the Revit user’s personal computer, consuming the relatively finite system resources of the user’s local machine. The Revit model files do not reside on one file server; rather, with Revit Server, several offices are connected together with Revit Server responsible for replicating central files to each office and keeping them coordinated.

Well before Autodesk released Revit Server, S&T had already deployed STRATUS Private Cloud for Revit. While S&T had 2 offices that needed to access the same Revit models, their needs had also evolved to remote and mobile access for S&T staff, consultant access, and several other situations where access to Revit files was needed by people in all kinds of locations. Now, any of S&T’s STRATUS users can access their Revit application and Revit models from any device that is connected to the Internet. The author has personally accessed 500+MB Revit models from a laptop, iPad and even an iPhone. The challenge is that the needs of S&T’s Revit users keep evolving, so the agile technology of the STRATUS Private Revit Cloud enabling a remote and mobile Revit workforce is a significant advantage.

Depending on your company’s situation, Autodesk’s Revit Server may very well cover your requirements. If your requirements go beyond Revit Server, then a Private Revit Cloud project like STRATUS might well be on your company’s IT strategy roadmap....

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