CAD Manager's Q&A: Do I Need New Hardware?

13 Dec, 2006 By: Robert Green

Are the new multicore processors and the upcoming Windows Vista operating system really going to run 3D application software better, or should I wait and purchase new hardware later?

Robert Green replies: As with most complex technical questions, the answer is "it depends." While there will unquestionably be much greater performance on dual/quad-core processing platforms, it will happen only with the right software. Therefore, whether you'll see the benefit -- and whether you should buy now -- really depend on the software you're running and how you run it.

Generally speaking, the more programs you run at once the better off you'll be. And in cases where your design software is optimized to offload analytical tasks (think MCAD spawning analysis modules or BIM spawning visualization and/or rendering processes) you'll definitely get the benefit of more processors accessing the pool of RAM, no matter what operating system you're using. 

One thing I would like to point out (which doesn't seem to get much press) is that all the processors, 64-bit operating systems and RAM in the world mean nothing without high-performance disk systems. Sooner or later you'll hit the point of memory saturation and the processors will have no choice but to spill over to disk. In these cases, high-RPM RAID-style disk subsystems will be able to spread the disk demand around and not slow down the multiprocessor core.

A good rule of thumb is that going to multicore processing will probably bump your hard drive budget up $300 to $500 in current hardware terms. If you can afford it, you're going to like the results!

Author's note: I've been getting a bunch of 3D questions lately and will use the next few Q&A spots in the CAD Manager's Newsletter to expand on today's topic and others of general 3D interest.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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