CAD Management Predictions for 201612 Jan, 2016 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager Column: Which trends should you keep an eye on in the coming year, and how should you adapt to them?
BIM Continues to Solidify
BIM continues to see wider use among firms that are executing large design projects, but that’s been the case for several years now. What is changing is the percentage of smaller firms and subcontracting suppliers that are adopting BIM to some degree to participate in those larger projects.
Whether it be using Revit with supplied families of components, coordinating discipline-specific BIM models via Navisworks, exporting design information to BIM models, or simply being able to read in BIM models to obtain project data, more small firms are having to take the BIM plunge. Just as small firms had to adopt CAD 25 years ago, smaller architectural/engineering firms and equipment suppliers now have to get with the BIM program. This trend will simply continue to accelerate in 2016.
Hardware Storage Speeds Jump
That computers keep getting faster isn’t surprising — it has always been so. What has changed in the just the past few months is the degree to which the speed has increased for storage devices in CAD workstations. Huge strides have been made in solid-state drive (SSD) technology. Samsung’s NVMe M.2 drives, for example, have accelerated read/write speeds to more than 2 MB/second — roughly four times more than the SATA-based SSD drives on the market just 18 months ago. For CAD users who must have fast disk access to process their work, the SSD speed boom is a huge advancement.
So while new Intel processor technology continues to deliver higher clock rates and support for more/faster RAM, the big difference is now the SSD speed. If you don’t believe these new SSDs can make a big difference, try running a 3D CAD application on a conventional hard disk–based workstation, then contrast it with a new NVMe SSD–equipped workstation. The difference really is like night and day.
Interestingly enough, as the industry tries to push us toward software in the cloud (that relies on Internet access speeds that are much slower than a local mechanical hard drive), the speed of these new SSD drives will become all the more apparent. After all, why do something slow via the Internet that you can do at lightning speed on your own workstation?
For all the reasons I’ve stated, 2016 should become the year of the high-speed SSD and blazing-fast local workstations. Do not buy a new workstation without a high-speed SSD!
CAD Upgrades Become Sluggish
With BIM becoming more the norm, 2D CAD becoming less used, and mechanical CAD being well established, will 2016 be the year when companies choose to sit out the upgrade process? Perhaps the better question is, Will licensing policy changes pushing more software toward a rental/cloud-based model make companies nervous enough to forgo upgrades?
Either way, it seems that unless your company can really leverage new features contained in a specific software upgrade, 2016 may be the year to focus on upgrading hardware and security while users continue to utilize software they already know how to use.
If enough companies stay away from upgrades, might we see some incentives from software companies to change licensing policies? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question, but 2016 may be the year that forces the issue.
Optimization Is Key
Taking all these trends into account, I’ve come to the conclusion that 2016 will be a year where software remains stable, security is even more important, and hardware performance will allow great tasks to be completed on local workstations. To me, it all points to making existing software work optimally inside your local office and worrying less about how external connectivity technologies — such as the cloud — could impact your business.
I view this as great news for CAD managers, because optimizing is what we do best.
It is my hope that awareness of these trends may help you plan your year a little better and be ready for the types of concerns your management teams may bring up. After all, it’s never too early to worry about future trends!
What do you see as trends for 2016? Please email me your thoughts at email@example.com if you’d like to share.