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At the end of the day, no cloud application is an island in itself. For it to be worth building in the first place, a cloud app must be able to consume and share data with other apps.

With that goal in mind, Autodesk has made available several application programming interface (API) extensions to the Autodesk Forge Platform it offers as a cloud service.

Autodesk also is making investments in three application providers that have agreed to host their apps on the Autodesk Forge Platform. They are 3D Robotics, a maker of drones used in industrial apps; MakeTime, an online market for manufacturers; and Seebo, a provider of a software-as-a-service application for managing devices connected to the Internet of things.

In addition to making those investments, Autodesk is looking to expand the size and scope of the ecosystem surrounding its cloud platform, said Scott Reese, Autodesk vice president of cloud products. “We’re looking for more partners. We need developers, integrators and traditional resellers.”

In effect, Autodesk is trying to replicate in the cloud the channel business model that led it to become one of the most widely used engineering apps on the desktop, Reese said. Naturally, many of existing partners will leverage the Autodesk cloud to extend the reach and scope of their own businesses, but Reese expects also to see a new generation of cloud native partners participating.

Jeff Kaplan, managing director for THINKstrategies, which focuses on business consulting for cloud vendors, said partners would be well-advised to appreciate the critical role engineering documents now play within business processes.

“Engineering documents are now a standard part of the customer support experience,” said Kaplan. “People need to be able to see how a product was actually intended to function.”

As a result, enterprises with extended supply chains need to be able to access a cloud service that employs APIs to make engineering documents more widely available, he said.

Ultimately, cloud computing is not just another IT deployment model. It creates an opportunity for solution providers to change business processes in ways that will make broad swaths of data more accessible. The Autodesk Forge Platform is only the latest in a series of such opportunities that prior to the existence of cloud computing would simply have not been feasible, even to contemplate.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.