Dear Fusion 360 Community,
It’s been a while since we’ve spoken about data, but I am sure it is something that is top of mind for a lot of you. As we’re forced to work remotely, data and its management have become a genuine concern. For those of you who have been using private servers and cloud computing for some time, this workflow is nothing new, but our relationship to our data sources has evolved. Let’s talk about what we’re doing with data in Fusion 360, how we’re planning to future proof your ways of working, and the emerging methods of data management.
I’m Stephen Hooper, VP of Fusion 360, and I want to address data management and development with you directly.
To understand where we’re going, we should make sure we all understand Fusion 360’s roots. It has always been built with the cloud in mind. This was one of the anchors we wanted to bring to the product before even the first line of code was written. In 2013, we were able to be the first in the industry to deliver cloud-based CAD.
What does this actually mean?
Well, your data is stored persistently in the cloud, and we do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, collaboration, with data stored in the cloud, multiple users can connect and work concurrently: it facilitates collaboration. Secondly, it lowers the computing barrier for users, enabling server-side computations. Things like simulations, generative design, and rendering can be run at speeds that would typically cost a user somewhere in the region of $8-18K to do locally. With the move to the cloud, translations of data, and automation of activities, these can be done independently of the client (you), which leads to a more scalable workflow.
In the current Fusion 360 experience, saving changes you’ve made to your Fusion 360 designs still require you to explicitly click the save icon for the save to occur. This was the conventional way of desktop computing, but 21st-century data management should be instantaneous. It should be seamless, always consolidating changes, always there for you. That’s why we’re currently working on a project we are calling the Fusion 360 Product Information Model (PIM). It is the foundation of cloud data for Fusion 360 moving forward and runs on Forge, the Autodesk cloud developer platform. We recently highlighted a few data management projects in our roadmap update blog post, and they are all intertwined with PIM, contributing to it as well as benefiting from the fruits of this strategy.
So why did we elect for a PIM strategy for Fusion 360?
We’ve already seen how the permeance of cloud has changed our relationship to our data, “backing up” has all but shed its physical media roots. With each generation of professionals coming into the industry, we see a democratization of cloud-based data. Just like products such as Microsoft 365 and Google Docs, granular changes are continuously uploaded and synchronized to the cloud, which is what enables teams that are not physically in the same place to remain effective and efficient.
Fusion 360 is being architected like this to help achieve the end goal of true design collaboration and a seamless data management experience. PIM enables multiple people to work across designs and manufacturing data simultaneously, knowing exactly who is working on what, without any risk of stepping on each other’s toes. We haven’t yet exposed the full range of capabilities that PIM supports, as the Fusion 360 data model evolves rapidly, but we are continually migrating more and more of the information needed to make your data run smoothly in a PIM.
Data management will only get better from here.
The notion of needing to invoke the save icon will eventually be a thing of the past. Instead, the information will be constantly passed between the client and cloud as we store more and more aspects of your design and manufacturing data in the PIM. As a result, it won’t be possible to locally archive data and restore it in the way a traditional file-based system does. Why? Because conventional local data archival will hold you back, perpetuating the pain-points of multi-user change control and proper design versioning.
In the future, you will instead see this level of granularity work in a real-time manner, enabling every change to be communicated to everyone, without delays. We hope to lead our data to a future where save and load become antiquated concepts, there only exists the data, and its state through time, moving from a milestone method to treating your data as more of an organic entity.
These advancements aren’t a long term vision that will take five years to implement; they’re actively in development. We will be rolling the first of these enhancements out soon, hopefully before the year is over. We understand change can be both extremely exciting, and also a source of concern, but we remain confident that the benefits of PIM will yield a significant improvement in your user experience, boost your ability to collaborate, and open an entirely new world of data integrations previously never dreamed of.
Fusion 360 has and will continue to evolve with our community, and as always, I welcome you to give us feedback and your thoughts on anything we are developing.