Cautious welcome for Autodesk and Nemetschek interoperability deal

Image representing interoperability and Autodesk and Nemetschek
Image: Funtap P |

The GIIG (formerly the Government & Industry Interoperability Group, now part of nima) has given a cautious welcome to the recent announcement by Autodesk and Nemetschek that the two software giants have entered an interoperability agreement.

The interoperability agreement between Autodesk and Nemetschek means they will provide mutual access to their APIs and industry clouds. It gives developer access to Autodesk solutions, including AutoCAD, Revit, 3ds Max and Maya, as well as Autodesk Forma and Autodesk Construction Cloud, and access to Nemetschek solutions including Allplan, Archicad, Bluebeam, Maxon One, and Vectorworks, as well as Nemetschek’s relevant cloud platforms.

“Autodesk is firmly committed to building open, integrated, cloud-powered solutions for our customers that unlock data and connect project teams,” said Amy Bunszel, executive vice-president, architecture, engineering and construction solutions at Autodesk. “Interoperability is a huge step towards optimising our customers’ workflows and helping them generate better project outcomes.”  

Autodesk said the interoperability agreement “demonstrates an ongoing commitment to integration and open industry standards, such as openBIM by buildingSmart, which extends the benefits of BIM by improving the accessibility, usability, management and sustainability of digital data in the built asset industry”.

Marc Nézet, chief strategy officer of Nemetschek Group, said: “Our interoperability agreement with Autodesk is a historic move to give customers the ability to work in any project environment and with any software ecosystem, ultimately resulting in a better-built world.”

Mixed reception

Many digital construction professionals welcomed the announcement on social media, but others were less than impressed, their critical views born of experience.

To seek a balanced view, BIMplus turned to GIIG consultant and nima vice-chair Paul Wilkinson for the group’s considered reaction.

Just over a year ago, GIIG launched the Interoperability Code of Practice for Technologies, which supports the whole-life information needs of industry clients. It also aims to enable the wider supply chain to manage their contractual information exchanges.

Wilkinson said: “The interesting thing about Autodesk making an announcement like this is that it’s not the first time they’ve done so. And I think that came out in some of the social media comments. They did, for example, announce an agreement with Bentley in 2008. And there was another one with Trimble about eight years later, and eight years further on we’ve seen this announcement with Nemetschek.

“From what I can see, they have been promoting Autodesk Platform Services, which is a set of tools that Autodesk uses to help create connected and open data models, helping businesses move away from documents and proprietary formats to make data more open, accessible and interoperable. So that’s obviously to be welcomed.”

He noted Autodesk’s mention of openBIM: “Also the announcement talked about their ongoing commitment to open industry standards, such as openBIM by buildingSmart International. Nima incorporates the UK and Ireland chapter of buildingSmart International, so there’s a good crossover with our ongoing activity there.”

Evolving landscape

The Autodesk/Nemetschek announcement comes at a time when the landscape around information management is evolving. Nima chair Dr Anne Kemp OBE is leading the task group that is consulting on and drafting the revised information management mandate. Meanwhile, the earliest 19650 standards are set to be reviewed. The UK BIM Framework is also set to evolve in tandem with these developments.

In light of these, Wilkinson said: “We would love Autodesk and Nemetschek to have inputs to that mandate process, perhaps, to get engaged in a workshop with the interoperability code of practice community. That way we could we could find out the extent to which the two firms’ agreement supports the principles of the code of practice and its definition of interoperability.

“It would also give them an opportunity to explain how their initiative helps them achieve some of the technical requirements relating to the principles. The code has underpinning principles: longevity, security, information value, information ownership, and competition.

“It would be interesting, for example, to understand how Autodesk and Nemetschek envision their initiative meeting the code requirements for open APIs (that’s one of the technical requirements of the code of practice) and how far the initiative enables competition between vendors, including those outside such agreements. That’s an area where we’d welcome a bit of enlightenment from Autodesk and Nemetschek.”  

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  1. I guess it depends on how much access their API gives!?
    But alot of the issues we face are not technological. When will we see the COBie solutions from GEIG that were promised 3 years ago to solve the many issues found and still exist today? The work was done, paid for but never published. How can these softwares produce good outputs when their is ambiguity on the outputs themselves?

  2. Well said and agreed Kirsty. Historically the circle come’s around again. Was it not Autocad’s intention in 1995 to enable interoperability through the use of the then International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI) and the development of .ifc ??.

  3. Interesting comments. So much seems to be happening in the background that isnt talked about. It does appear we are giving these software vendors mixed messages through poor standards and lack of direction. I would like to see this work done around COBie as its still a problem for me and Autodesk it seems as I still cant get a COBie output from Revit that passes checks.

  4. What about Adobe software interoperability (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and others). They can be uploaded to ACC, but you can only edit these file types directly via ADC. Yet PDF files are fine, which would indicate Autodesk/Adobe already have some agreements in place.
    Generally though, interoperability has been discussed as a key requirement for the construction industry right back to the headdy IT days of the early 1980’s when I started out in this industry, but little has happened in real terms. OK, we can import/export different file types and even some non-graphic data, but we are a still a long, long way of the IoT interoperability needs. We still have difficulty getting data from CAPEX into OPEX because of proprietary formats and APIs. But then that’s the vested interests of each software developer to make money, and we all know how much money Autodesk makes out of us don’t we? Moreover, Autodesk can’t even make ACC interoperable as it’s not possible to easily transfer BIM360 projects to ACC and you can’t tranfer your tenant from the US data centre to the EU data centre either – and Autodesk wants to charge you twice if you want to run tenants on both data centres! Go figure…

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