Our Tech Stack | Autodesk Forge
Our technology stack & Autodesk Forge
This week I'm going in a slightly different direction while discussing our technical stack. We've discussed jHipster and Spring / Spring Boot which are both widely used in many different industries and domains. I'll narrow the focus today with a tool that makes our organization a bit different than many other outside consulting firms that develop software: Autodesk Forge.
First, what is Autodesk Forge?
To understand what Forge is, first you need a bit of background on Autodesk. Autodesk is a multi-national software company based out of California that is most known for their AutoCad and Revit platforms. AutoCad has been around for years and is used by anyone and everyone to create 2D drawings. You can think of Revit as it's 3D sibling used to create models. If you know anything about Autodesk, then you know that I am glossing over alot. It's difficult to write just a couple sentences about a company with a market cap over $50 billion and over 10,000 employees worldwide.
Autodesk Forge is a platform of web service APIs and SDKs (software developer toolkits) that allow you to push and pull design and engineering data from other Autodesk applications into each-other, or into 3rd party applications. Traditionally, engineering and design data was used specifically for just that: engineering and design. Once the plans are agreed upon, signed, and stamped you build. Then you put the drawings away for future reference somewhere.
Today, that information created during design can be leveraged and used again. For instance, it might be useful to take the 3D model you created of a new university campus and use it for a 3D map to show viewers where they are, or where things are located. There are safety applications where you can take your models and superimpose hazardous areas so that workers know to use abundant caution when they are near a danger zone. As a former WeWork employee, I could spend all day writing about how you can leverage BIM data across your entire operation. My point is, it starts with the connections between your data.
Those connections are why Autodesk created Forge. The platform consists today of 9 APIs with different functionalities. I won't overview them in depth here, but will highlight them all:
- Data Management
- Model Derivative
- Data Visualization
- Design Automation
Some are more or less what they sound like. The Data Management API allows the developer to manage files across the Autodesk ecosystem. The Forge Viewer allows one to open a drawing or model without the software it was created in. Webhooks allow you to send alerts to other applications. *Note if you are looking for a deeper dive on Forge, you can join our Forge WebCast that will review what each API does, and gives some use case examples.
Why do we use Forge?
1. The Right Tool
In software development there are lots of ways to accomplish the same goals. One of the keys to becoming a good software developer is to pick the right tool for the job. Forge is created and maintained by Autodesk, it has a robust user community, and it natively works with Autodesk applications such as Revit. That means that it receives updates as the other Autodesk products do, and has a large technical community behind it if you need to ask questions.
2. Ease data sharing burdens
One criticism of design software is that it can be expensive and typically has a steep learning curve. The Forge ecosystem is well thought out and solves this issue by making design data easy to access. For instance, models and drawings are important to project stakeholders who aren't modelers or drafters, why should they be forced to get a Revit or AutoCad license? Forge's Model Derivative and Viewer can pull information and present it in the way they need via a webapp or in another software tool.
3. Industry Acceptance
Most organizations do not want to be a beta tester for a new idea. The Forge platform is already accepted in most industries and there are many people who know how to work with it. That means regardless of who builds a solution, another developer can come in and work on your code later on. Remember, the more custom you go with software the higher the burden long term to keep it up to date.
Want to learn more about Autodesk Forge?
Join our Webcast February 23rd at 1pm EST to learn more about the Forge APIs and get a quick intro to how you can get started building applications with Forge.