Before you get too excited, the implications for geospatial are apparently not great. I’m not aware of any geospatial press who were invited to listen to the conference call this afternoon. I’ll explain a bit more why the implications are not great after getting to the gist of the announcement.
Here’s what we do know from Autodesk’s PR firm and this PR:
Autodesk and Bentley will exchange software libraries, including Autodesk RealDWG, to improve the ability to read and write the companies’ respective DWG and DGN formats in mixed environments with greater fidelity. In addition, the two companies will facilitate work process interoperability between their AEC applications through supporting the reciprocal use of available Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
What all that says to me is: all the stuff we already can do, read each other’s file types, call each other’s APIs, we may do a bit better/more elegantly. File fidelity (not losing entities/features) may be better. We’ll use existing APIs to better connect our products, which I read as “there may be some scripts/tools to help link products that follow one another in the workflow.”
While this is all well and good and is apparently something both companies feel benefits them, it’s quite a bit different from the interoperability vision we have in geospatial - open standards any developer can support. Autodesk and Bentley are instead swapping proprietary libraries and promising to use already existing APIs. Both companies, BTW, are involved with OGC and support several different standards.
The reason I think this is not such a big deal for GIS is that CAD formats are just “not great” for storing geospatial data. You can do it, but it’s messy. Far better to store data in a dedicated geospatial form/encoding like SDF or GML rather than DWG. Besides, data interop for geospatial, so far as Autodesk is concerned, is a done deal with Feature Data Objects (FDO) now an open source project.
Ralph Grabowski, who was on the call notes that this deal makes Open Design Alliance (ODA) irrelevant (at least for these two):
Bentley confirms that the ODA is now irrelevent both ways: (1) Bentley will use Autodesk’s RealDWG instead of the Open Design Alliance’s OpenDWG libarry; (2) Bentley will no longer provide documentation and tech support to the ODA’s OpenDGN library for the DGN format that follow this year’s release of MicroStation.
Update: That last bit is incorrect per Bentley’s VP of Corporate marketing: “With respect to the ODA, Bentley will continue to provide the documentation and technical support to the ODA for the libraries the ODA creates.
However, we are under no obligation, nor do we have any intention, to deliver the new Bentley DGN Toolkit to or through the ODA.” He refers to the toolkit the company is sharing with Autodesk.
So, the big losers may in the long run be other vendors that use OpenDGN (I think ESRI does). Remember this deal is all about interop between Autodesk and Bentley, not any other players.