However, it does a lot more than just 'store' stuff. It handles users and permissions in an efficient yet elegant manner, and guess what... because your cloud family library is now globally accessible, you can share it with project team members inside and outside of your domain or organization. You can set up different "libraries" based on their purpose (for example, the standard Revit Imperial/ Metric content can live in one library, while your "Essential" company content may be another, Healthcare families in another library and so forth). Tags can be applied to families, and the search function actually has learning algorithms, so it gets smarter as your team uses it.
What about different Revit versions, you say? Well, after you upload a Revit family from a given version (say 2012), the Unifi servers will automatically create 2013 and 2014 versions for you (automatic upgrading). In this way, there is a single point-of-truth for each family - you don't get file folders full of different family versions with different functionality (a problem that BIM managers have been dealing with for years).
How many family professionals are in your team or company? Usually there are one or two users who are really at the top of the family tree, and they do your family development, content creation and the like. How can you quickly connect these highly skilled users with the actual day-to-day BIM technicians in your office? Unifi handles that too. Any user can "request" a new family if one doesn't exist for a particular purpose, and this request is automatically passed onto the family creation people (by Unifi). When they login, they see a list of content requests, and can then handle them in a logical and methodical way. They make the family, upload it, and then the entire team has access to the new content.
Unifi is what Revit content management has needed for some time, in my opinion. You can easily download the trial, upload your content and see if you like it. Many Revit teams are struggling with a core set of challenges when it comes to content; Unifi provides solid answers to many of these questions.
I spent some time with Steve Germano (Director of Product Development) this week, and I was excited to hear about the plans to expand and upgrade the already-compelling feature set of Unifi (including branching out into the Sketchup realm). The development team over there clearly has a good view of what Revit users need, and they are already well on track to provide a solution that could easily become a key part of the Revit content management system in your organization. Additionally, they are listening to the current user base, and continuing to build the feature set with each new update.
If it sounds like these Unifi folk know what they are doing, it might because INVIEW labs is behind Unifi. And INVIEW labs does lots of Revit content development for Autodesk Seek. Are you getting the picture? (This is one of those times that you probably could just stop reading and go get the trial... or) Read on for a brief summary:
Unique, powerful features of Unifi:
- your folder structure is automatically tagged onto your content when you Batch Upload it
- batch user creation (is very fast!)
- tracking of content requests - content creation can be centralised and distributed to key users
- Shared Search Keywords (learning algorithm)
- Smart Folders / Saved Searches
- automatic upgrading of uploaded content (single point of truth for each family)
- automatic versioning of changes to families (backup / rollback abilities)
- extract any Revit System Family Type from an existing Revit Project and store them in the Unifi cloud - Wall Types etc (this includes complete MEP systems with required supporting families from Routing Preferences)
A few thoughts on the UX:
- interface is very clean and smooth, and it fits the Windows 8 "style" of frameless dialogs etc
- simple deployment - you don't have to set up new local database instances or deal with local domain / file permission problems
- auto updating feature works seamlessly and quickly
- the Unifi pane can detect which Revit version is running and adapt to the current environment
Case study link
Some final points of a somewhat geeky nature:
- Steve mentioned that they have no server-side concerns with handling the bandwidth of company library uploads and downloads - the actual storage space is not an issue for them. Its interesting to consider really, because its something that might currently be a struggle for your company: trying to store and backup 100gb of Revit content on your local domain, and mirror that globally between offices, and keep it all in sync. That can be hard. But uploading it to Unifi and getting them to handle it all - much easier from an IT perspective.
- A number of large firms have already made a commitment to the Unifi system. If it makes $$$ sense for the big guys, I think it will make sense for SMBs too.
- There appears to be some validation in place, that will stop the upload of very bad Revit families (like the Room category family I made a while back) Video here.
- You can open the Unifi pane in headless mode (without Revit) by using the shortcut, which will likely be installed to this path:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\INVIEWlabs\Unifi\Unifi.exe"
This will allow you to drag and drop from Windows Explorer to directly batch upload to Unifi without opening Revit.
- There is some good Unifi overview at this link
Give it a go, and feel free to reply via comment to this post or tweet me @lukeyjohnson with your opinions!