This is a departure from the usual “business” apps that IT folks are familiar with. But this is by no means less important. I’m talking about BIM – Building Information Model, prevalent in building construction life cycles. It is the construction industry’s very own digital transformation effort, if I may call it such.

What is BIM, really? BIM is an end-to-end lifecycle of how building designs are created, assessed, documented, constructed, operated and maintained, and finally renovated or demolished. Now, this lifecycle is not new to the construction industry. However, the digitization of that lifecycle is new. It’s transformative. It’s a change driven by the need to have a more cost effective construction process. The defining characteristics that differentiate BIM from the traditional building process is : a single source of building model and collaboration across the value chain.

So, should BIM be run from public clouds? Well the question came about when I was working on a project somewhere in the region. And my conclusion – it depends. It makes perfect sense to do so if it was subscribed from a pure-bred BIM SaaS provider. SaaS providers allow construction companies to focus purely on the BIM functionality, workflow and data ubiquity (which is the main reason for BIM). By nature of SaaS, web access masks the underlying data transportation transparently. There are no hidden infrastructure costs (network, compute) that may surprise subscribers.

What happens when it is BIM Application + public IaaS? This was the situation in the project, where the client selected a customized BIM provider and was planning to run it on Azure.

So, here’s Mike’s Take on running BIM on hybrid cloud instead of public IaaS.

  1. Since most BIM roles and processes involve internal staff, it will be appropriate to have the primary computing reside in-house. This is to avoid unnecessary network traffic between the internal users (on prem) and the public cloud. This helps a customer avoid a heavy network costs. It is therefore key to understand how the application traffic and workflow will be prior to selecting a cloud.
  2. Hosting the custom-built BIM in-house allows a customer to select from a broader set of supporting software : OS, development language and NoSQL databases that are widely adopted in the market. Why is this important? It avoids a lock-in to the underlying infrastructure. It avoids having to migrate if changes are needed.
  3. An on-prem hybrid cloud will allow the client to centralize identity and access control in-house. This includes leveraging with existing IAM.
  4. A customer should leverage the scale and tenure (beyond BIM) of the infrastructure setup to support other systems besides BIM – other core systems that are mission critical and that will scale. This will centralize IT services under an umbrella hybrid ITaaS.
  5. As mentioned earlier, BIM in public clouds are often deployed as SaaS so that the client can focus on the process and UI/UX. An Azure implementation is merely an app+IaaS implementation, where a customer has to keep tabs on the cost of VMs, cost of storage, cost of networking, cost of availability zones, cost of protection, etc that can quickly grow out of proportion. A customer will be better off having full control of in-house IaaS leveraging the vast procurement leverage to drive costs down.
  6. Finally, these days, you can get an engineered hybrid cloud that can be setup and spins up IaaS and PaaS just as fast as a public cloud.

I think the points above makes sense for any enterprise apps too. Let me know your thoughts!