CAD Manager's Newsletter (#394)

24 Oct, 2017 By: Robert Green

Don't Be Penny Wise and Workstation Foolish, Part 2

Now that you've determined how time savings can pay for the cost of new workstations, take a look at configurations suited to various workloads.

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we made the case that suffering along with outdated computers actually costs money (due to wasted employee time) and that new workstations can pay for themselves. (If you've not had a chance to read through Part 1, you should do so now so you'll have the proper context.)

Here in Part 2, we'll explore workstation technologies and configuration advice for various CAD tasking workloads, so you'll know what kind of new workstations to ask for. Here goes.

Workstation Components

Let's take a few moments to acquaint ourselves with the latest in component technology, so we can know how to configure workstations for various computing scenarios. We'll start with the processor, then dive into each piece of supporting technology.

Processors: The heart of the workstation is its processor. And since the processor is the only component in the workstation that can't be updated down the line, it pays to get the highest-performance processor you can afford. The latest Intel i7 and Xeon processors range from 4-core units (fine for most general 2D/3D CAD applications) to 28-core monsters that can tackle high-end analysis or video workflows. For most CAD users, the processor frequency (base speed) and boosted frequency (Turbo Boost speed) are of primary concern, since faster speed means faster CAD. With base frequencies now hovering around 4 GHz and boosted frequencies approaching 4.5 GHz, the speed of the latest Skylake technology processors is worth it even if you have to spend more.

Recommendation: Buy the fastest processor you can afford!

Mechanical Hard Drive

Memory: To support the processor, you need plenty of fast random-access memory (RAM). The latest Intel processors support anywhere from 8 to 256 GB of DDR4 RAM, running at frequencies from 2,133 to 2,666 MT/s. These amounts and speeds far exceed consumer-level RAM availability, and are in large measure why workstation processors can perform better than nonprofessional computers.

Recommendation: Buy the fastest RAM your processor will support, and be sure to fill all memory slots with the same type and size of RAM.

Solid-state drives (SSDs): CAD models are large, and they must be loaded from a disk before your processor and RAM can do anything. They must also be saved back to that disk frequently. The trusty old mechanical hard drives we've all used in the past simply pale in comparison to available SSD technologies. Just how much faster are SSDs? Well, consider that the most modern NVMe technology SSD drives operate at about 14x the speed of the fastest hard drives, and even old SATA technology SSD drives yield a 4x improvement. Simply put, you're wasting money on a fast processor and lots of RAM if you continue using old-style hard drives that create bottlenecks.

Recommendation: Do not buy a new workstation without an SSD.Read more »

Tools and Resources

From 2D CAD to 3D Modeling: Your Guide to the Transition
Whether you've already begun switching from 2D to 3D software or you're still considering your options, this free guide by CAD management guru and industry expert Robert Green will help you draft a plan, gather resources, and manage expectations. This eight-page white paper provides advice about choosing a trial project, training users to become productive with the new software, and more.

What's New at

AutoCAD Video Tips: Working with Navisworks Files
Have you ever been asked to coordinate your AutoCAD drawings with a Navisworks file? Join Lynn Allen as she shows you how easy it is to bring a Navisworks file into AutoCAD and draw objects within the file (and avoid clashes!). Watch the video »

CAD in the Cloud Is Coming — Eventually
Jon Peddie Research and Business Advantage find that many CAD users aren't interested in cloud-based CAD yet — but the shift has begun. Read more »

Year in Infrastructure 2017:
Bentley Systems Seeks to Ditch Dark Data with New Take on iModels

By moving beyond information containers to timelines, the company hopes to give infrastructure professionals a better handle on the constant in AEC projects: change. Read more »

Sponsored: How Your Business Can Benefit from an AutoCAD-to-MicroStation Transition
From Bentley Systems: From more flexible licensing options to increased competitive advantage, the payoffs are many for a company considering this major software move. Read more »


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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