MCAD Tech News (#366)

10 Jul, 2014 By: Cadalyst Staff

Herrera on Hardware: Is Cloud-Based CAD Ready for Prime Time? Part 2

Centralized, server-side graphical computing technology is on the upswing — but will it stay that way?

By Alex Herrera

Where should the concentration of power for high-performance computing reside? The first part of this series retraced the basic history of client/server computing, in which the prevailing wisdom at times pushed that concentration toward servers in the datacenter and at others swung it toward desktop workstations. Today, IT strategies are in flux again, with many headed in a very clear direction: toward server-based computing (SBC) models that pack not only computation and data on the server but — for the first time — high-performance graphics processing as well.

Manifested in a range of IT solutions tagged with hot buzzwords — such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), desktops as a service (DaaS), hosted virtual desktops (HVD), and, of course, cloud computing — SBC approaches the promised IT nirvana: anytime, anywhere access enabling across-the-globe collaboration, along with the ultimate in security and ease of management. By keeping models and databases resident in a central resource, IT managers are far better equipped to manage everything in this age of "big data." And most relevant to those relying on visually intensive CAD applications, this latest thrust in SBC is promising one more feature: interactive, high-performance 3D graphics.

Past Obstacles to SBC Viability

Despite an appealing list of advantages over traditional client-side solutions, including workstations, SBC approaches today are virtually nonexistent in CAD and other professional computing spaces — and for good reason. Previous attempts to centralize data, computation, and rendering have failed to deliver the workstation-caliber experience a CAD user demands. Rather, past SBC solutions have required an unworkable compromise: Secure the benefits of centralized computing or enjoy high-performance graphics computing, but not both.

While attractive in theory, it turns out delivering high-performance interactive graphics from a single, centralized computing resource to a remote client is anything but easy. Historically, two fundamental problems have stood in the way: excessive latency and a bandwidth paradigm particularly unsuited to remote visualization.

High-performance computer graphics processing is a notorious bandwidth hog, when it comes to both rendering and displaying the 3D image — and it's that attribute that has made SBC solutions a nonstarter for graphics-intensive computing. With a conventional client-side model, only model data is transmitted from server to client (and that perhaps happens infrequently, as a designer "checks out" a model from a project database). All pixel data stays local on the client. But in an SBC model, in contrast, the server performs rendering and transmits only the resulting pixel images to the client. Model data never leaves the server. Read more »

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Contributing editor Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Manage Files with Autodesk Vault Mirror

Use the Vault Mirror utility to retrieve files to a dedicated folder.

By Imran Bhutta

Manage Files with Autodesk Vault Mirror

This IMAGINiT Tricks tutorial demonstrates a utility called Vault Mirror, which retrieves the latest version of all files to a dedicated mirror folder while retaining the folder hierarchy. Watch the video »

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Imran Bhutta is a manufacturing solutions consultant and an Autodesk MSD-DM Certified Engineering Technologist (CET) at IMAGINiT Technologies.

Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events

Advanced Design and Manufacturing Impact Forum 2014
August 17–20, 2014
Buffalo, New York
This event will introduce a new ASME program focusing on the intersection of advanced design and advanced manufacturing in industrial and consumer applications. Read more »

Global Product Data Interoperability Summit 2014
September 8–11, 2014
Phoenix, Arizona
The Global Product Data Interoperability Summit (GPDIS) aims to assist industry principals to foster knowledge through the exchange of ideas, solutions, and methods and to build consensus for tool and process standards in the industry. Read more »

PLM Road Map 2014
October 2, 2014
Plymouth, Michigan
This annual event is hosted by CIMdata, a global product lifecycle management (PLM) consulting and research firm. Now in its twenty-first year, this event brings together CIMdata experts, key industry players, and front-line implementation experts who will explore end users' progress, opportunities, and roadblocks. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to

What’s New at

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Workstation Configurator by Intel
This online tool can help you determine what you need in your next workstation. Read more »

Break the Bottleneck
Diagnose where the bottlenecks are in your company's CAD workflow so your users can work more efficiently. Read more »

Long-Time Cadalyst Tip Contributor Dies at Age 66
Leonid "Len" Nemirovsky lived by his code that helping others is its own reward. Read more »

By the Revit Users, for the Revit Users, Part 2
The Revit Technology Conference showcases technologies and workflows that give AEC users a better look at their projects, both as they are now and as they will be in the future. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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