Cloud computing technology continues to be a boom market across the world. Analyst firm, IDC, recently released a new study, “Worldwide Enterprise Server Cloud Computing 2011-2015 Forecast,” indicating that the total revenue for public and private cloud server deployment will hit $9.4 billion by 2015.

“Both public and private cloud will grow in the server market through 2015,” said Katherine Broderick, senior research analyst, IDC’s Enterprise Servers and Datacenter Trends. “Cloud will grow from a $5.2 billion opportunity in 2011, representing almost 885,000 units, to a $9.4 billion market in 2015, with over 1.8 million units.”

The rapid growth of the cloud reflects its ability to offer compelling benefits to organisations large and small, particularly in the current economic climate when many businesses are focused on optimising existing resources. Unlike traditional IT configurations which feature high-spec PCs and servers installed in-house, cloud applications can be made available through straightforward web browsers.

This allows companies to significantly cut upfront expenditure on new equipment while at the same time slashing maintenance costs. Working in the cloud also promotes collaboration because information can be stored centrally and accessed remotely by all users.

Finding a Route through the Clouds

Today, designers stand to reap the rewards of the cloud computing revolution. Their interest has been fuelled by the growing sophistication of the technology and the increasingly rich functionality of the latest breed of cloud applications.

Cloud-based services are bringing greater access for designers and engineers to sophisticated high performance rendering, design optimisation, simulation and collaboration tools – all of which were previously only within the reach of organisations with local, high-end computing resources.

Using the cloud to extend the bandwidth of computing resources, manufacturers, engineering businesses, construction companies and a range of other design-based organisations now have the potential to bring ideas to market much faster – and at radically less cost – than was ever previously imaginable.

Sharing Information

Several other key industry developments make this move to the cloud particularly timely for design-based organisations.

In today’s fast-paced business world, the requirement for flexible and collaborative working has become increasingly important. Yet the necessity to adapt everyday practices comes at a difficult time for many firms with the global economy, particularly in the developed western world, still largely stagnant.

Linked to this, the rapid adoption rate of tablets and other mobile devices is starting to significantly change the way people communicate and consume content, as well as further driving the requirement for accessible design. Increasingly, organisations across all market sectors are beginning to realise the potential of these portable platforms to extend the sales reach of a new design by presenting ideas to clients and prospects in a more accessible way.

As the onward march of globalisation continues, servicing remote markets is also of key importance, for many design-based businesses – including SMEs. This brings with it a greater requirement for enhanced mobility. In facilitating access to high-performance design optimisation, visualisation and collaboration, the cloud is central to meeting these changing requirements by enabling users to store, view and share work through web browsers or mobile devices, anywhere and at any time – and unlocking far greater flexibility in design software.

Faster Realisation

While the obvious advantages of greater cloud computing capacity lie in the increased accessibility it brings, the scope and functionality has shown to go well beyond what some may view as simply having the option to put jobs in the cloud.

In this way, the cloud also has the potential to dramatically improve on the overall design and creative process through faster design renderings, the creation of more design iterations with less time and resources as well as the possibility for seamless collaboration.

For example, in recent trials, the cloud rendering services enabled beta testers to render jobs three to five times faster than they could manage locally, while the ability to run multiple jobs in parallel in the cloud meant they could render ten visualisations as quickly as one. Anecdotal evidence even suggests that rendering can actually be achieved at least six times as quickly in the cloud than locally.

The potential for these powerful rendering capabilities is, therefore, incredibly exciting; supporting users in producing compelling, photorealistic visualisations in the cloud, increase the number of renderings they can create, and reduce hardware investments for the business. Crucially, the functionality also exists to test multiple design options and create more sustainable designs and higher-quality products while reducing material, transportation and energy costs.

In addition, users can extend design beyond the desktop with powerful cloud-based energy analysis capabilities, helping them to quickly gain insight into energy consumption, building the energy costs of early design concepts from within the design application.

Today, the cloud will undoubtedly herald new possibilities for design engineers. And whether it’s used to solve tough operating or design challenges, for the smaller manufacturer in particular, the reach and possibilities now exist to accelerate innovation and drive competitive advantage.

The technology also supports streamlined working practices. The fact that information is stored centrally and accessed remotely by all users means that collaboration is far more simply achieved. Equally, there is little chance of file duplication or important data being trapped in desktop silos and acting as a brake on business efficiency.