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10 Mar 2020

Open Design Alliance: Towards Supporting Universal Workflows for CAD and BIM Data

At the end of this February, Neil Peterson, the President of Open Design Alliance (ODA), together with his colleagues visited Novosibirsk. During this visit we asked Neil to answer several question for and now are ready to present you this interview.
1. Thanks to a lot of press-releases from ODA, we know about your developments on a broad range of important software products. Among those developments, could you highlight a couple of key achievements of 2019?
Our new partnership with buildingSMART International stands out as a key achievement in 2019. As part of this cooperation, we released our new IFC SDK last year. ODA will be implementing new versions and experimental features for IFC in real-time, as soon as these items are released as candidates and before they are submitted for ISO approval. Early access to a professional-grade solution for new IFC features will speed up the development and adoption cycle for this important technology. Weíre offering a full solution that includes professional grade visualization in addition to read/write support, including support for implicit geometry and b-reps. And our IFC SDK is included in an ODA membership at no additional cost, making it an economical solution even for small companies.
BuildingSMART Intnl

Another key achievement for 2019 is the advancement of our cloud technology, which was rebranded as Open Cloud mid-year. We established a partnership with Microsoft and adapted the technology to work on Azure. Open Cloud allows companies to set up their own cloud-based services for CAD and BIM models. It supports visualization, data access and automation. Itís flexible, scalable and economical. Weíre seeing strong interest in this technology from a variety of sectors right now, and not just from software vendors, but strong interest coming from engineering firms who are looking to build web services to manage their own CAD and BIM data.

ODA Microsoft DevCon Milan 2019

Diego Tamburini and Ercenk Keresteci, Microsoft, present Azure for hosting Open Cloud applications

2. Which projects will be the main focus of ODA in 2020? Can we expect some new projects, so far not announced?
We have 2 main focal points in 2020. First is improving our toolsets for various engineering formats including Drawings/DWG, BimRv/Revit and IFC. Second is building out our set of common technologies for working with engineering data. These include Visualize, Open Cloud and our new Solid Modeler. These 2 sets of technologies are integrated with each other to support universal workflows for CAD and BIM data, for example visualization and markup editing of any format in a single application. We also provide a new Common Data Access API that supports model hierarchy and element property inspection for all of our supported formats through a common API. We previewed this new technology at our annual DevCon event in Milan last year, and it resonated strongly with attendees. Companies are looking for powerful tools with a simple API, that work in a common way with a wide range of engineering formats, and thatís what we are providing.

The only major new product in the works for 2020 is a solution for STEP, but the timeline for STEP is not clear yet.

3. Two years ago you made a decisive rebranding including an impressive slogan which positioned ODA as the Equalizer for CAD Development. Are you satisfied today with that rebranding? Do you have in mind some optimization of the ODA mission?
Our 2018 rebranding and new messaging has been well received, both from existing ODA members and the broader industry. I would say it has been a strong success. This year we are planning to update our public website with some new messaging, but things are still in progress so I would prefer not to discuss the details right now.
4. Which role do the ODA annual conferences play in the activity of the Alliance? Could you indicate some trends in attendance and emphasis? Taking into account multi-vendor nature of ODA, perhaps your conferences could replace COFES which disappeared this year. When and where the 2020 event will be held?
Our annual DevCon event includes an intense showcase of our technological advancements from the previous year. We are working on a lot of new things, and last year there was a feeling of awe coming from many attendees after seeing the breadth and depth of our latest product line.

ODA DevCon is a valuable networking opportunity for ODA members and the broader industry. With COFES now defunct, ODAís annual conference is one of the few major events that draws independent vendors from a wide range of industries, a group of competitors with common problems and common needs who all have a strong interest in ODA technology. Most other conferences are more narrowly focused on end users for a particular product line. We are very interested in strengthening this aspect of the event.

The event includes a full day of one-on-one meetings with our development teams and management. ODA members are able to sit down and talk about real problems face to face with key ODA personnel. Itís getting more challenging each year to manage this part of the event as more and more people are attending, but itís an incredibly valuable opportunity for all parties and one that we intend to continue.

Attendance has been steadily increasing. In 2019 we had a 50% increase in member attendees compared to 2018, and more than 150 attendees overall. The 2020 event will be held September 8/9 at the BMW Welt in Munich.

Neil Peterson at DevCon 2019

Neil Peterson at DevCon 2019

The focus every year is on technologies that are relevant to members in solving their priority issues. Recently this has included cloud, BIM, and the need for simple solutions for working with a growing set of complex engineering formats. Our new universal viewing and markup editing frameworks were well received last year, as they provide an answer for companies who are looking to build tools that interact with multiple formats through a common interface. Lots of companies are looking to build common data environments, and our tools were designed with this in mind.


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