CAD Tech News (#71)

6 Sep, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ New Intel Xeon W Has Arrived

The bottom line is, the 28-core Skylake processor is coming to the workstation market and things will never be the same.

By Jon Peddie

Intel has been powering the workstation CPU market for decades. Its previous processor generation, Broadwell, was a performance leader that pleased millions of workstation users. The company didn't stop with its processor developments and just recently introduced its newest generation of workstations processors: the Intel Xeon SP (Scalable processor, dual-socket capable) and the Intel Xeon W processor (single-socket capable). To differentiate the workstation-class Xeon processors from server-class processors, Intel for the first time has added the W designation to the name. Built on the Skylake architecture, these new processors deliver more cores, higher frequency, and more cache, plus expanded memory management and PCIe lanes.

Workstations come in desktop, mobile, and rack versions — some powerful enough to be considered small supercomputers. Intel has successfully exploited Moore's law for decades, and through it has developed the basic transistor miniaturization that enables processor advancements. But it's not just faster CPUs that are the result; the processors themselves get new features and functions with every generation. When Intel x86 processors were first deployed in a Windows-based workstation back in 1997, one of the salient features was an integrated floating-point processor. Since then expanded memory mangers, security, and communications have been added, and one 32-bit core grew to 28 64-bit cores plus a 512-bit SIMD processor and transcoder engines.

However, to offer such processors, the company first has to design them, and the current design is designated Skylake. That design will be used in several different processor forms, from laptops to supercomputers. The current-generation processors are used in a platform specifically designed for them; it includes supporting chips to provide USB 3.1 type A to C, Thunderbolt 3, gigabit Ethernet, SATA, and other ports. In the case of the Skylake platform, the supporting chip for the Intel Xeon SP is known as the Lewisberg PCH, and for the Intel Xeon W processor it is the Kaby Lake WS PCH. It can get confusing at times because various people use the different names interchangeably. It gets even more complicated because the processor, supporting chip, and platform, all have arcane part numbers too, which denote frequency, core count, and other esoteric elements. And, just to make you even crazier, things are expressed in acronyms.

Jon Peddie Research compared the new Skylake-based Xeon W to a four-year-old, Intel Xeon E5-1680v2, 3.9 GHz–based workstation; running a professional workstation workload, we found the Xeon W would provide an average of 87% more performance.

Comparison of four-year old workstation with a new Skylake workstation. (Courtesy of Jon Peddie Research.)

Comparison of four-year old workstation with a new Skylake workstation. (Courtesy of Jon Peddie Research.)
Comparison of four-year old workstation with a new Skylake workstation. (Courtesy of Jon Peddie Research.)

Read more »

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Jon Peddie is president of Jon Peddie Research, a consulting and market forecasting service.

▶ Mars Colony Competition Takes Crowdsourced Design to a New Frontier

HP and NVIDIA call on architects and engineers to envision a home for humankind on the Red Planet.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Online fundraisers that rely on help from the masses to pay for softball uniforms, business startup costs, or a much-needed surgery are commonplace today. Crowdsourcing of intellectual capital may not be as widespread, but it is becoming increasingly popular in the design community. The recent Project Soane rendering competition, for example, called on participants to recreate a long-lost architectural treasure — Sir Jon Soane's Bank of England — in digital form.

Now, HP and NVIDIA, along with Autodesk and other collaborators, have launched a more ambitious initiative. The Mars Urbanization Challenge, part of the HP Mars Home Planet initiative, will crowdsource design ideas, model the best of them, then use virtual reality (VR) to simulate what human life on the Red Planet might look like. Rather than imagining the experiences of a few explorers taking their first steps, the project seeks to depict the buildings, transportation systems, protective clothing, and other everyday elements needed for an entire community to thrive.

HP envisions augmented-reality applications for its Z VR Backpack G1 workstation, including product design. Image courtesy of HP.

"Our mission is to reinvent life on Mars," said Sean Young, HP's worldwide segment manager of product development and AEC, during a webinar on the subject. "We want to fast forward to … when there's going to be a million people, sometime in our future, living on Mars."

To better understand what that future might be like, HP is inviting architects, mechanical engineers, scientists, 3D artists, and other professionals, as well as students, to help create an immersive, interactive depiction of life on Mars, using VR. This is no far-fetched science fiction story, however. The Mars Home Planet initiative will address urbanization challenges that may become real-life concerns in less than 20 years: NASA has already begun work on its goal of sending humans to Mars in the early 2030s. Read more »

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

▶ Dell Expects Desktop Workstations to Endure, in Spite of Clouds Moving In

On its anniversary, Dell's Precision workstation business launches new models, looking to address machine learning, virtual reality, and other top trends.

By Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst: Summer on the CloudThis year marks the 20th anniversary of Dell's Precision workstation business. Much has changed in the past two decades, in terms of the affordability, portability, and capabilities of workstations. Rahul Tikoo, vice-president and general manager of Dell's Precision workstation products, spoke with Cadalyst about some of the important trends that have punctuated that time period, driving demand and development in workstations.

Mobility — the ability to take workstations on the road just like their less-powerful laptop computer kin — has been a notable trend. "We saw the writing on the wall … mobility has been a big trend for 10 years, and will continue to be a trend," Tikoo said. And going forward, Dell will continue to invest in and offer mobile workstation solutions, he noted, including a limited-edition anniversary model of the Dell Precision 5520 in a dark gray anodized-aluminum case (now available).

Desktop or Desk-not?

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in virtual workstations. (For more information on that technology, read Alex Herrera's series, "Harnessing the Cloud for CAD: The Case for Virtual Workstations.") With cloud-hosted workstation technology improving, it might seem that physical desktops will only be around for a short while longer. That's not the case, according to Tikoo. Read more »


Cloud Simulation Webinar Now Open for Registration
A September 13 webinar hosted by Cadalyst and sponsored by SimScale will demonstrate how cloud-based engineering simulation can help users improve designs - and entire design processes. SimScale's engineers will introduce attendees to cloud-based computational fluid design (CFD), finite-element analysis (FEA), and thermal simulation, and explain how to apply them to workflows. Learn more and register »

AutoCAD Video Tips: Master the Undo Command
So you think you can Undo? There's so much more to it than just using the simple U command. Join Lynn Allen as she shows you a few of the many options in AutoCAD's Undo command — and puts you on the road to instant productivity! Watch the video »

CAD Manager Column: The Cloud's Silver Lining for CAD
Private application clouds, rented virtual workstations, and remote server rentals are three cloud-enabled technologies that can make CAD managers' lives easier instead of more difficult. Read more »

Structured-Light Technology Expands 3D Scanning Options for AEC Applications
For users with less-stringent accuracy requirements, Matterport looks beyond lasers, capturing spaces with infrared instead. Read more »

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