Photo courtesy of Autodesk
Balfour Beatty work crew with Vela Systems on an iPad

The acquisition by Autodesk of Vela Systems on June 8 pulls into Autodesk's orbit a company known for leveraging cloud computing and mobile devices to link building information modeling with the physical activities of construction.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Jim Lynch, vice president of Autodesk's Building & Strategic Technology Group, says after three years of partnering and working together, Autodesk approached Vela with the proposal and they came to terms quickly.  

"We signed and closed the acquisition in one day," Lynch says. "We fast-tracked this one. Vela is part of Autodesk today; we will begin integrating next week. It's job one."

In a half-hour conference-call interview, Lynch, Nicholas Magnon, Autodesk's senior director for the building business line, and Vela co-founder Joshua Kanner, who now has the Autodesk title of senior industry strategy manager, threw out the words "exciting" and "accelerate" freely.   

"We are so damn excited about this thing," said Lynch. "It is so aligned with our strategy, both from a technical perspective and an industry perspective, with our move into construction."

"From an industry perspective, we have really been expanding BIM across the lifecycle, starting with architects when we first moved Revit, and then with the engineering disciplines, and now we are pushing out from the design disciplines into construction with the MEP fabrication application MAP that we acquired last year," Lynch said.

"And from a technology standpoint," Lynch continued, "Autodesk is very clear about our direction to increase the services we deliver through the cloud, through infinite computing and mobility. Vela is all cloud based and runs on mobile devices and is tightly aligned with our focus on mobility to the cloud."

"It's a partnership that has now taken the next step in its evolution," added Kanner. "It has been great the way it has developed over the years, but we are really excited about what could be; that by leveraging this confluence of BIM, the cloud and mobility, we have a chance to change the way the industry is working."

In a follow-up comment, Kanner added that both companies will help each other in the mobility and cloud revolution under way in construction. "The companies complement each other. Vela has a cloud platform and mobile applications for construction execution and oversight, and Autodesk has ever increasing cloud BIM collaboration and mobile offerings for design, coordination, document control and field revision, like Navisworks, Buzzsaw mobile and AutoCAD WS." 

"I guess a simple way for me to say it is that cloud, mobile and BIM are key technology enablers in A/E/C and the acquisition brings more parts of a complete solution together for contractors, owners, architects and engineers," Kanner said.

Magnon noted that Autodesk's marketing strategy over the last three years has also been targeting construction companies, and that many of them have been using the economic downturn as a time to retool their systems and processes, including the adoption of BIM.

"A large portion of the top companies are implementing BIM tools," Magnon said. "This is going to be huge news for them," he added, because it will show Autodesk's commitment to consolidating BIM-related web services "to take information modeling from the desktop to the cloud."

Lynch says one advantage to customers, as the integration with Vela develops, will include single-sign-on to all of the services, and the relative simplicity of dealing with one vendor instead of two.

But in the short term, Lynch says, as the companies merge sales teams and develop marketing strategy at Autodesk's Waltham, Mass., East Coast headquarters, customers should see no changes "in terms of what they can expect from their Vela relationship. They will continue to get software updates and the excellent services they are accustomed to. We have no intention of changing that."

Vela had been headquartered only a few miles away, in Burlington, Mass. It will relocate to the Autodesk facility.