Collaborating on a massive scale

Collaborating on a massive scale

Asite’s cloud-based collaboration platform offers savings and security for huge building projects.

Terminal 5 of London’s Heathrow Airport is the largest freestanding structure in the United Kingdom, with a floor area of 4 million square feet. It cost £4 billion to build, and over the life of the project, 60,000 people worked on it. Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd. (HAL) spends £400 million each year in ongoing development projects, so if an online collaboration solution can save 2 percent of that development cost, that’s £8 million a year.

Adoddle, by London-based Asite, did exactly that.

  • The company was rewarded with a framework deal to provide cloud-based collaboration support to the airport authority.
  • That has led to similar deals with other big projects, including Dubai International Airport, Crossrail, and Aviva Stadium in Dublin, to name just a few.

“We tend to go after large-scale projects,” says Asite CEO Tony Ryan. When Ryan took over as CEO in 2006, Asite was focused on construction procurement applications, but was struggling to hit revenue targets. Under Ryan, the company expanded the scope of Adoddle’s offerings in the areas of document management, project management, sourcing, and collaborative building information modeling (cBIM).

“It captures everything from a sketch on a napkin to handover of the finished asset and beyond into facilities management,” Ryan says, which he describes as “concept to completion and beyond.”

Built for the cloud
Asite also went all-in on a cloud computing model when most companies hadn’t even considered it. Asite’s existing platform had been built on a self-managed, set-up-your-own, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.

“It was very, very costly, and it wasn’t up-to-scratch on the speed our clients needed,” Ryan says. Asite rebuilt Adoddle from the ground up as a cloud-based offering.

“We believe our clients have a day job to do, and it’s not managing their entire supply chain’s data and IT,” Ryan says. “Clients have to be free to focus on cleaner, safer, more cost-efficient buildings.”

  • Asite chose Cisco Powered partner Dimension Data to host its applications in the cloud.
  • Beginning with a single production site in the U.K. and backed up by a disaster recovery site in the United States, Asite has since added a second production site in the United States and a third in Australia.
  • Asite now serves just shy of 200,000 end users for 4500 clients.

Dimension Data’s built-in WAN acceleration technology optimizes data transfer to deliver the speed and replication needed among the production servers. Ryan counts a tenfold increase in data transfer speeds in the new architecture. That makes applications like cBIM possible in the cloud.

  • BIM systems bring together all the architectural elements of a building design, from plumbing to ventilation to cabling, into a unified model for revision before finalizing the plans.
  • Licenses for standalone software are expensive, and many users only need to view and comment on those files; few need to actually make changes.
  • In Adoddle, the cost to make those files available to all users is included in the subscription charge.

“That’s a huge cost savings,” Ryan says.

Security and compliance
But security is possibly the primary consideration for Asite’s architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) customers.

“You simply cannot compromise the data of something like Terminal 5 at Heathrow,” Ryan says. ”The security of the hosted model is one of our most compelling features.”

  • Asite and the companies that use its collaboration solution are also held to strict compliance requirements under regulations including SSAE 16, Sarbanes-Oxley, Safe Harbor, and the like.
  • As new accreditations become necessary, they’re handled by Dimension Data.
  • Asite doesn’t have to spend money chasing after regulatory compliance.
  • Ryan estimates the hosting solution has saved Asite about 30 percent on its delivery costs, while positioning the company for additional growth and international expansion. 
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