Autodesk joins Open Design Alliance — with a catch

Autodesk announced today it is becoming a member of the Open Design Alliance, the non-profit consortium a previous Autodesk CEO characterized as “the arms merchant to my enemies.”

But there is a catch: Autodesk is only joining to participate in interoperability related to the BIM neutral data standard IFC (Industry Foundation Classes); it won’t be participating in using or improving the DWG format — which was the original purpose behind the founding of ODA and still the largest part of its current operations.   

In response to a direct question about the terms of Autodesk’s new membership, an Autodesk representative said, “Autodesk signed a Corporate BIM Agreement. At the moment, Autodesk is not sharing specifics of the membership beyond that and what’s contained in the post.” Normally, when a company joins ODA, they agree to share any code they have created that directly affects the DWG format. Those changes often end up in the official ODA SDKs supporting the full membership. 

ODA was created to provide a reverse-engineering version of the DWG format used by Autodesk AutoCAD. For years, the “relationship” between the two was more like two angry children on the playground than any sort of meaningful co-existence. Except these children had lawyers. 

Amy Bunszel is Autodesk’s Senior VP for Design and Creation Software and the company’s official voice about the new membership. In a recent series of blog posts, she has agreed with customer criticisms that the company is not doing enough to improve interoperability in AEC. Today Bunzel writes: 

“In one of my recent posts responding to some of the constructive criticism we’ve received from our architecture customers, we promised to do a better job of listening to our customers, engage in an open dialogue, and do better where we’ve fallen short. One of the areas highlighted was progress with our products on international data exchange standards, specifically the need to better support IFC, an open file format increasingly used by our AEC customers. With Autodesk’s membership in the ODA, we will accelerate our progress toward supporting this need. Those of you who know the history between Autodesk and the ODA will understand the importance we put on getting this functionality to our customers at an accelerated pace.”

ODA President Neil Peterson provided a quote for Bunszel’s article: “ODA welcomes Autodesk as its newest member. Our tools will allow Autodesk to provide long-term support for IFC, and we look forward to working closely together to ensure the highest standards of quality are maintained.”

Bunszel has praise for the support ODA is providing IFC: “ODA’s IFC toolkit provides complete and flexible IFC interoperability for any desktop or web-based application. The toolkit, along with ODA’s commitment to supporting new IFC standards, means we can readily integrate new versions as they become ratified, ensuring more consistent data flow and a faster, more streamlined experience.”


Autodesk Joins the Open Design Alliance:

ODA Releases Developer Tools to Access Navisworks Data: 

DWG is Post-Proprietary: 

ODA is the DWG Thought Leader:

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