Photo by Tom Sawyer for ENR
Founder and CTO Keith Bentley spoke at the software company's user conference this week in London.

Bentley Systems has taken the wraps off a major upgrade for all of its many project lines, including a total remake of its MicroStation design platform and ProjectWise collaboration tools.

The new capabilities, especially with data integration and extensibility, reach across all of its product lines but still function in a so-called hybrid environment that honors some customers' traditional desktop modeling applications and investments. At the same time, the applications offer more integration with cloud services, on-premise servers and mobile apps in new ways.

"It's not just a new piece of software," says Huw Roberts, vice president of platforms for Bentley. "In essence, it's a new generation of software and, in some ways, a new company that we're announcing."

The new versions, collectively known as "Connect" editions, function as an integrated mix of software, services and managed hosting that work with Microsoft's Azure cloud services.

"The connected launch—the next new generation of Bentley's software—and our approach to the software, threads through everything we're doing," Roberts adds.

Bentley calls the products "software at your service," which is a new twist on the "software as a service" or SaaS trend that evolved over the past decade to reflect the distributed nature of today's computing systems. Now, the trend is to offer a "platform as a service," with managed hosting.

It's In There

Like a well-seasoned gumbo dish, Bentley’s new lineup offers a mix of products that integrate with each other, and other vendors' product lines.

The mix includes software and platforms that offer an extensibility with a model's core data, which allows project teams to extend that design data across a project's ecosystem. They can then deploy engineering content management systems across far-flung teams using cloud services to create construction plans off the core data model. Bentley has also been offering customers unique subscription models that enable smaller firms to test-drive some software systems without having to make major investments in hardware and support.

But fundamentally, the shift is about offering customers a common data environment that extends to any platform or form factor: desktop, mobile devices out in the field, and then round-tripping project field data back to a project's main office.

"Information mobility can increase information complexity," adds Bhupinder Singh, senior vice president of Bentley Software. "This [launch] aims to reduce the complexities.”

Adds CEO Greg Bentley, the new platforms "leverage Microsoft Azure to connect everyone to a common data environment. It enables instant-on ProjectWise for everyone and includes all of your devices that you will use within the same day." In addition, he says, the upgrade "extends the number of compute nodes to near infinity to respond to optioneering demands."

The announcements, which unfolded throughout Bentley's annual "Year in Infrastructure" conference in London this week, reflect the quickening pace of change within the software industry. Driven by the advance of graphical engines embedded in today's processors that can render larger and more complex files on smaller devices, untethered from traditional desktops, software vendors are evolving the way they architect their systems to leverage those changes.

"We're at the cusp of a new and exciting new hardware revolution," which means a lot for how Bentley's products are architected and brought to market, noted Keith Bentley, one of the company’s founders and its chief technology officer, during a keynote address marking highlights in Bentley's 30-year operating history.

Innovation happens in waves, he added, "and this will be a big one."



This story was updated to clarify the difference between a well-seasoned ragout dish and spaghetti sauce.