Innovators in Architecture:
Weber Thompson: Accelerating Your Digital Transformation While Cutting the Cord on Traditional IT.
In 2020, Weber Thompson, a prominent and award-winning Seattle architecture firm, was facing considerable IT challenges. Their IT leadership was in a transitionary period just as the organization was preparing to move to their newly designed “Watershed” office. They were presented with a quandary of how to replace their IT staff and how to move their IT infrastructure, while at the same time minimizing impact to their employees during this transitionary period.
The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic had also changed basic operating principles, and like many companies, Weber Thompson was trying to find the best catalysts to enable their employees to work from anywhere.
At that presentation, Approach Technology (ATI) demonstrated a cloud-based IT strategy that enabled powerful 3D design applications (such as Revit and Navisworks) to be delivered via cloud workstations.
Instead of pushing large files and modeling data across the Internet (like traditional IT strategies), the ATI cloud model transmits just the pixels of the screen down to the end user while the modeling data remains secure in the datacenter. Given that model sizes continue to grow ever larger, this pixel pushing strategy enables teammates to work quickly and seamlessly on even the largest and most demanding of projects.
By leveraging these fully managed, custom built, cloud desktops, no additional IT management, servers, storage, or data center facilities were needed at the new office and Weber Thompson was able to cut the cord on its legacy IT infrastructure. ATI project managed the transition to the cloud and the secure removal of the legacy IT equipment.
- The ATI cloud model empowers each team member to do design work from virtually any modern PC, Mac or tablet device, bringing professional access to those needing to work at home, or on leave, or those who just want to embrace the ability to work from anywhere.
- The ATI cloud model provides Weber Thompson the flexibility to scale their IT with changing business conditions. They use only what they need, saving power and reducing hardware churn and waste. Since the processing is in the cloud, existing devices can last for longer periods of time, slowing the constant refresh cycle for hardware replacement and upgrades.
- This platform grants teammates access to powerful datacenter class hardware for BIM\CAD and other 3D rendering workloads. Graphics cards with NVIDIA's powerful ray-tracing RTX cores can be paired with workstations using 256GBs of RAM (or more) for even the most demanding rendering workloads.
- Eliminated the need for additional IT management and personnel, data center facilities at the corporate office, onsite servers, onsite storage, backup responsibilities and allowed Weber Thompson to transition into a fully managed cloud model.
- Allows management to focus on architecture, design, and serving their clients and communities, not on IT management.
"I remember going into the office at one point and seeing all the computers on the floor unplugged and that was a physical reminder of what we had done. The entire office was working at full capacity while the office was completely dismantled and taken apart."
Sam Castro, Registered Architect, Weber Thompson
What was the transition process like?
Sam Castro - Their (Approach Technology) project management during the move allowed us to strategically think through all the pieces that needed to be in place for the team to be up and running when we made the transition.
Because ATI was able to move our computing services to the cloud prior to the physical move, this enabled us to decouple the physical move from the move of the computing equipment.
I remember going into the office at one point and seeing all the computers on the floor unplugged and that was a physical reminder of what we had done. The entire office was working at full capacity while the office was completely dismantled and taken apart.
What architecture software are you now running from the cloud?
Sam Castro - With architects, interior designers and landscape architects, as well as graphic designers, we use Autodesk and Adobe products on a daily basis.
Revit is our primary tool for delivering projects in a BIM environment, which is used by all of our design disciplines: architecture, interiors and landscape.
We also use Enscape, as well as SketchUp and Revit, for visualization capabilities and Adobe Suite for graphic design.
How is this model more environmentally friendly?
Sam Castro - Reducing waste is a key component to achieving environmentally responsible goals. We are looking for ways to reduce the waste of materials, reduce the waste of energy, and reduce the waste of people’s time. Cloud computing has given us ways to address all of those aspects by moving compute energy offsite to a managed solution, by extending the life of hardware. Because we no longer rely on the desktops we are sitting in front of, and our true power is in the cloud.
Also, by moving to cloud computing, computing is happening in a managed environment at the data center, where they are managing the needs of energy usage. Energy usage is tuned only to the hours when we are using the computers. This frees up the computers to be used by others when they are not needed by our staff.
By being able to extend hardware life we are able to hang on to computers and use them for a longer period of time.
In your opinion, what does the future of office look like?
Sam Castro - The future of office is flexible, it’s interoperable, it requires robust data sharing and collaboration.
The industry is facing a challenge on how to provide this robust flexible interoperability. Working with ATI to transition to the cloud has given us a unique way approach how to address this challenge.