Hard drives, and SA-SCSI drives especially, face growing competition from a new breed of storage device: the solid-state drive (SSD).
An SSD stores data in solid-state memory — that is, SRAM chips — rather than on conventional hard disk platters. Today’s SSDs are large enough to be useful, and although not exactly economical, have come down enough in price that they can enter the conversation when it comes to outfitting a new workstation.
The advantage of SSDs? There are several, including less noise and better reliability in the face of environmental issues like vibration. Unlike the HDD, the SSD has no moving parts. But the real motivation to choose SSD is performance. More specifically, it’s about much lower latency, the time that lapses between asking the drive for data and receiving it. The SSD doesn’t necessarily offer a big benefit over hard drives in bandwidth — how quickly the data comes once it starts coming — but it eliminates the seek time for the hard drive’s head, delivering an indisputable advantage in access time. The downside is a glaring one: price.
Given the pluses and minuses, CAD users who have a slightly higher but not unlimited budget can entertain the option of SSDs in one of two ways. A combination of HDDs and SSDs in multiple drive bays — in particular, a smaller SSD with your OS installed paired with a large conventional disk drive for data — is very practical. Or choose a hybrid drive that combines the best of both worlds. This emerging technology is effectively a two-tiered memory device that implements its bulk storage on the cost-effective hard disk while implementing a much smaller, but much lower-latency cache on SSD. For frequently accessing reasonably sized chunks of data, you get the speed benefit of SSD without breaking the bank. Whereas an SSD currently commands ten times the price (or more) per gigabyte of a conventional 7,200-RPM HDD, the hybrid drive is a relative bargain at approximately twice the price (although the premium and the performance boost will vary by model).
The bottom line on selecting storage: Buy a lot more than you think you need, especially if you’ve chosen a system that limits you to one or two drive bays.
- Enable planners, engineers, and designers to model existing infrastructure and import detailed models in order to create realistic 3D models of the environment;
- Sketch early-stage designs directly into 3D models;
- Create and manage multiple alternatives;
- Communicate visually rich infrastructure proposals; and generate preliminary design models which can be used to create submittal documentation in civil engineering software, such as AutoCAD Civil 3D.
In the following post we’ll describe how to use existing information to create compelling 3D design visualizations with MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) requirements in mind.
If you are installing Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler for the first time, review the hardware requirements to ensure your hardware will run the software efficiently. (For more advice on the best hardware configuration for Autodesk software, review our series on AutoCAD 2013. Much of the same advice applies to other Autodesk products.)
Once installed, to create a realistic 3D model using Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler:
- Start Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler and click new from the start page.
- Choose a directory and name for your project. If you know the extents of your project you can also enter them in here.
- With the project started, data is imported and used as the basis for your 3D model. Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler allows you to combine 3D and 2D data in order to create a full 3D scene. For this post, we will use a terrain model (DEM) as our base 3D layer, and all of the other contextual data, like imagery, roads, and buildings come in 2D formats. Click on ‘Data Sources’ from the ribbon; on the ‘add file data sources’ dropdown, select ‘Raster’. After import this data source shows up in the ‘Data Sources’ panel. Double-clicking the data source allows you to modify the viewing properties of this data source. Click the ‘Close & Refresh’ button at the bottom of the configuration window to generate a 3D visualization in Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler.
- Add imagery using the same procedure.
- Use the same process to add roads, but use SHP as the Source Type. In this example, roads are stored in a 2D Shapefile. After import, double-click on the newly imported data source to configure it. Select ‘Roads’ as the ‘Type’ in the dropdown list. With ‘Roads’ selected you can now configure the roads style and other properties based on the metadata that comes with the Shapefile. For instance, you can choose a style rule to match the 3D road style (striping, sidewalks, median, number of lanes, etc.) based on existing metadata. Click the ‘Close & Refresh’ button on again to generate the 3D visualization.
- Lastly, we’ll add buildings to our scenes using the same procedure outlined in step 5. Select ‘Buildings’ as the ‘Type’ in the dropdown list. Since the buildings in this case are 2D footprints, we’ll select an attribute with a Z-value (elevation or height) from the ‘roof height’ dropdown. Once again click the ‘Close & Refresh’ button.
Voila! You have just created a 3D model using Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler. You can use this model to sketch preliminary designs of new infrastructure which includes roads, railways, city furniture, water areas, and even buildings. You can also exchange information with Civil 3D – using the IMX file type – to maintain consistent data and context as the project is further developed. This 3D model-based approach enables you to deliver on MAP-21 requirements for 3D modeling and visualization, on infrastructure projects of varying scales.
Author: Justin Lokitz, Senior Product Manager, Autodesk.
The longtime, tried-and-true hard drive remains the backbone of a workstation’s storage subsystem, but a new breed of solid-state technology is pushing its limits. Although they share the same basic technology as their ancestors, today’s drives are much bigger, faster, and cheaper. Traditional workstation hard-disk drives (HDDs) primarily come in a 3.5″ form factor, supporting SATA or SA-SCSI standards.
Essentially the same models that ship in corporate and consumer branded PCs, SATA drives are less expensive, sometimes dramatically so. (A terabyte for $50, anyone?) Pricing increases with drive capacity and RPM, an indication of how quickly the mechanical platter can spin within the drive and therefore how fast the drive can read and write data. The least-expensive SATA drives support 7,200-RPM speeds, while the highest-performance options jump to 10,000 RPM.
The second HDD option, the SA-SCSI drive, requires a motherboard interface that is also compatible with SATA drives (whereas a SATA interface will not support an SA-SCSI drive). With SA-SCSI, you’ll get the option to move up to 15,000 RPM, but you’ll sacrifice capacity and cash.
The Choice Between Speed and Capacity
Whether you choose a SATA or SA-SCSI drive, you will generally face a trade-off between paying for more RPMs or paying for more capacity, because buying both can be costly. Most CAD professionals would opt for capacity and costeffectiveness, because running out of space or money is usually a more glaring roadblock than facing modest shortages of access speed and disk bandwidth. Many of us are paranoid about running out of disk space — and we all should be to some degree, because data piles up faster than we think it will. If this describes you, consider purchasing extra drive bays that bring more room to add drive capacity later — although you can always fall back on external drives to shore up capacity down the road.