CAD Tech News (#68)

19 Jul, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Herrera on Hardware: Harnessing the Cloud for CAD — The Case for Virtual Workstations, Part 2

Understand the difference between the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), private cloud, and public cloud models.

By Alex Herrera

Summer on the Cloud

Hosting CAD workstations in a virtualized central datacenter opens up a wide range of benefits — benefits that traditional physical workstations simply cannot deliver. The first installment of "Harnessing the Cloud for CAD: The Case for Virtual Workstations" highlighted those advantages and provided guidelines to help navigate the decision on whether to adopt virtual workstations, stay with physical, or implement some combination of the two. But that decision is only the first of several choices that CAD IT managers need to make. Once the commitment to go virtual is made, the next issue to tackle is the type of virtual workstation solution to deploy. Today, the vast majority are being built around one — or a combination — of two fundamental models: virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and cloud.

Early incarnations of virtual workstations have followed the model established and proven over the past decade: VDI. It is a perfectly logical path to pursue, since the virtual workstation is, in essence, a natural evolution of VDI-based PCs that millions of office and productivity users already rely on. In the PC model, businesses outfit their own on-premises servers and datacenters with enabling software (from vendors such as VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft) to host virtual desktops supporting their corporate clients. VDI-based virtual workstations follow the same approach, and leverage much of the same hardware and software infrastructure, with one critical exception: they leverage and rely on workstation-caliber GPUs and drivers, physically housed in the host server. Without that GPU, the virtual machine couldn't hope to handle the workloads presented by any remotely demanding CAD workflow.

Now, the advent of the cloud is providing another way to host virtual workstations. While both cloud-hosted and VDI-based environments work in basically the same manner, the cloud approach eliminates the need for any business-owned servers or datacenter at all. Rather, the virtual workstation machines are hosted on the infrastructure of a third party, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure. The business and users don't know where their workstations are hosted — and they don't necessarily need to.

Comparing the Virtual Workstation Choices: VDI vs. Cloud

Although two basic models work in fundamentally the same way, there are significant differences in the appeal, implementation, usage, and management — differences that can be illustrated by an analogy about housing choices. VDI is like buying a house. You fund it, furnish it — mostly without limits — and maintain it. You can customize it just about any way you want, but there's a long lead time, lengthy commitment, and hefty capital expense and overhead. The size and capacity are fixed, so you can't expand easily if you need to, and you pay for all the space, even during the times that you don't need it all. Read more »

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

▶ Real-Time Rendering Promises Unreal Level of Control over Visualizations

Epic Games' Unreal Engine and immersive virtual reality solutions help the Soluis Group visualization company narrow the gap between client expectations and reality.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

The digital design world relies on a pair of scrying tools to see into the future: simulation, to predict performance, and rendering, to visualize how a product or structure will look. Rendering's crystal ball helps answer design questions ranging from "Which of these materials should we use for the seat upholstery?" to "Does the color scheme of this housing support the maker's brand styling?" to "How will this new housing project integrate with the surrounding historic neighborhood?"

While visual considerations may be an afterthought — or completely unnecessary — in some cases, in others they are an essential part of the success of the design. Appearances were a top priority in the creation of Radisson RED, an image-conscious brand of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group billed as "a new hotel philosophy that connects with an ageless millennial mindset through art, music, and fashion."

Soluis Group, an architecture visualization company based in Glasgow, Scotland, collaborated with Glasgow design studio Graven Images to create renderings of the first Radisson RED hotel for Carlson Rezidor. While Soluis has worked on Radisson projects for years, creating images and movies to help both internally, with exploration of concepts, and externally, with sales, the visualization team was usually tasked with adding a new element to an existing brand. "RED was a bit different — it was an entirely new brand," noted Martin McDonnell, chairman of Soluis Group. The first Radisson RED opened in Brussels, Belgium, last year.

The Soluis team worked with hand-drawn sketches and conceptual design ideas from Graven, transforming them into realistic renderings of the Brussels hotel. Even in the age of digital conceptual design tools, many architects prefer to sketch with pens and pencils, McDonnell explained: "That's the first expression of their intent."

The Soluis team would bypass CAD in this process, going straight from the sketches into Autodesk 3ds Max. It was an unusual workflow, but also very efficient, said McDonnell. Even so, it was time-consuming: rendering could take three to six hours for a still image, and an entire weekend or longer for a movie. Read more »

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's editor in chief.


CAD Manager Column: Decision-Making Metrics for Cloud-Based CAD
Determining whether cloud-based resources are right for your company can be confusing. For greater clarity, start your evaluation with this checklist. Read more »

AutoCAD Video Tips: The Fastest Way to Remove a Polyline Segment
Are you working too hard — are you using PEDIT to remove a segment from a polyline? Join Autodesk Evangelist Lynn Allen as she shows you a super speedy technique to easily remove one or more polyline segments without needing to explode the polyline. Watch the video »

Autodesk Announces Its First Commercial Generative Design Product
Scheduled for launch in Netfabb 2018, Autodesk Generative Design seeks to help product designers by boosting the "computer-aided" part of CAD. Read more »

Herrera on Hardware: Harnessing the Cloud for CAD — The Case for Virtual Workstations
The demands of CAD-heavy workflows in manufacturing, design, architecture, and construction are growing. Some companies are looking beyond their local machines, and implementing virtual computing options to augment or replace traditional deskside and laptop workstations. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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