All of these benefits are driving the PC market to embrace 64-bit operating systems like never before. Last year the Windows Blog reported the installed was approaching 50% and NPD recently reported that over 75% of computer systems on retail shelves were being sold with some flavor of Windows 7 64-bit pre-installed. All of this makes it clear that the 32-bit OS is a thing of the past and prime for extinction soon.
The best way to future-proof that Civil 3D workstation for tomorrow is to recognize this trend and migrate to 64-bit today!
Benefits versus Costs
Since almost any new CAD system you order from a big manufacturer will come preloaded with Windows 7 64-bit, the real decision lies in updating your old systems. Costs for licenses will vary depending on your software source and your licensing relationship with Microsoft. But it is safe to assume that the change will cost a few hundred dollars to install Windows 7 64-bit on each machine.
While that may seem like a hard pill to swallow consider this: Assume a man year is over 2000 hours. Billing at an average rate of $60/hour, if your employees could improve renderings, processing, and files open/save procedures to save just one minute per hour that would equate to $2000 of billable time a year! That means your 64-bit investment would pay for itself in a single year! Now those are numbers worth taking to the boss.
If after all of this you are still set on keeping your old, tired 32-bit system, we understand. Change is scary. Drop us an email and let us know how things are back in the 1990s. You can address it to “the future of Civil 3D.” We’d love to hear from you.
Author: Curt Moreno
We’ve been discussing Civil 3D and other CAD applications up to this point. But the average CAD workstation has to do so much more than CAD. Well if you are running a 64-bit operating system you are going to see benefits in these non-CAD tasks also.
Thanks to the aforementioned improvements in memory and computational management, even the most boring tasks will be improved. For instance Microsoft Office Excel will be able to open massive workbook faster and easier since it no longer has to break the data into “manageable” 2GB chunks. Microsoft Project will handle huge projects with greater ease and fewer stalls/crashes when multiple sub-projects are involved. Adobe Photoshop will render and perform file open/save functions much faster. And that is just to name a few of the great things that 64-bit operating systems can do.
But if CAD is really all you are concerned with then here is the best news of all. Many modern CAD applications are available in native 64-bit versions. These newly improved releases sport better reliability, data management, and memory utilization. What does that all mean? It means you will be rocking you CAD drawings at maximum velocity!
Next, we’ll sell it to your boss.
Author: Curt Moreno
Like the idea, but need a bit more information? Good. No one likes a sheep unless you need a sweater or are making kabobs. Let’s look at some reasons why Win7 64-bit is the way to go if you are doing some serious Civil 3D work.
We can separate the big boys from the posers with one question: Do you want to get as much value as possible from your workstation investment? If the answer is yes, then you have to take a serious look at Win7 64-bit. Civil 3D workstations are capable of some amazing things with new releases of software becoming more and more powerful. But if you want those point clouds and massive topo surfaces to render as quickly as possible, you need to give your workstation room to work. That means bringing as much RAM to the table as possible.
Old-fashioned 32-bit systems (even Win7 32-bit) have a measly 4GB maximum of possible RAM and only a little of 3GB of that will be available to Civil 3D! This creates a processing bottleneck that will slow down your system and make you wonder why you even upgraded your Civil 3D. Modern 64-bit systems operate with a MINIMUM 4GB requirement and go upwards of 128GB and more, depending on your OS choice! The processing difference between 4GB on 32-bit and, say, 16GB on 64-bit is like night and day. This will give you more value from the same hardware investment.
Each new release of Civil 3D and most CAD applications bring new and improved capabilities. From grater surface detail to larger and larger point clouds, all of these features are welcome with open arms by users. But these great new features also bring more processing overhead to CAD workstations that may already struggling. Older systems running 32-bit operating systems will show their age as these new features require greater amounts of memory, faster processing and longer rendering times.
By contrast, CAD workstations sporting modern 64-bit operating systems are ready for these challenges. As mentioned before, a 64-bit operating systems is nearly limitless in the amount of RAM it can apply to complicated tasks. But in addition to raw RAM, a 64-bit operating system using RAM more efficiently in its memory allocation and computational processing. This means that meg for meg, a 64-bit workstation manages its processor and RAM more efficiently than its older 32-bit counterpart!
Wait, there’s more. Upgrading to a 64-bit operating system affects your non-CAD tasks as well. We’ll talk about that topic next time!
Author: Curt Moreno
One of the most common questions our tech staff gets from customers is “What is the best hardware config for ArchiCAD?” It’s easy to go overboard and buy the most expensive of everything, but many times less expensive components are almost just as good. The “optimal” configuration is almost as fast as the “best” configuration, with a more attractive price tag.
Let’s review the priorities:
The processor is still the most important component of your config. Since ArchiCAD supports multiprocessing, we recommend 4-core processors. 6 and 8 cores are significantly more expensive while providing little benefit, so 4-core is the most optimal choice. Pick something from the middle range — prices rise exponentially with performance.
ArchiCAD supports 64-bit. To see the benefits of this, you need at least 8GB of physical RAM. While most of the times ArchiCAD will use significantly less than this, since RAM is now cheap there is really no reason to economize here. There are times when you will run multiple copies of ArchiCAD or run other applications simultaneously.
ArchiCAD stores cached data while it operates, so there is a lot of file I/O going on while working in ArchiCAD — not just when saving files. Therefore hard drives are a key — and often overlooked — speed factor. With the price of solid state drives coming down considerably in the past year, they might be a sensible investment. You don’t need a huge SSD. You are better off with a smaller (say 128GB) SSD combined with a large conventional hard drive. You will install the system and ArchiCAD on the SSD, but you will store files on the conventional drive.
ArchiCAD uses hardware acceleration in both 2D and 3D. That said, while the importance of hard drives is often underrated, video cards are often overrated. In general we can say that it is more important to have a recent video card than a particularly high-end video card. It’s not a bad practice to replace the video card at the half of your computer’s lifespan.
When you buy a new card, it’s important to have enough video RAM. We currently recommend 1GB. Drivers are key for optimal performance. If you want to have a peace of mind about drivers, you might consider going with a “professional series” video card — at a much heftier price. You can find a list of recommended cards in our knowledge base.
Screen real estate is a huge productivity factor. Here we have only one recommendation: The bigger the better. You can also hook up two monitors, if your video card supports that.
Author: Gergely (Greg) Kmethy, Team Leader, Technical Support, Graphisoft
What goes into improving SolidWorks performance? Way too much. Really, programs, CAD software should be more simple. Hardware should be more simple, but for the very reason that software and hardware are not developed together, we’re faced with attempting to optimize both and you… are faced with this article.
You can break all the aspects of performance and what goes into optimizing your system into four practical approaches. You can apply these to a large company, small company or an individual. You can use it as a checklist or give it to IT and tell them to get their act together.
SolidWorks is a strange beast. You’ll get optimal performance one time and then something changes to totally confuse you. How you create your model — keeping files together, reducing external references, optimizing relations — helps. These are all things that a bit of training and a solid slap can solve. Beyond that, you can improve performance by going into the SolidWorks options and turning off the SolidWorks news feed, reducing level of detail and setting the search to index only when idle. RealView adds more realistic visuals for material and environments. If you notice lag, try toggling it off under View / Display / RealView. All good things to know, but none of this will matter as much if you have optimized hardware.
For best performance with SolidWorks, it’s always best to start with hardware. You’ll find better performance with SolidWorks with a faster CPU. Max that sucker out. Multiple CPUs, even better. Recommended RAM for current SolidWorks versions is 6GB. It’s cheap, toss it in. A 1GB graphics card will provide smoother visuals. Turn off visual effects for Windows. Go to Performance Info and Tools in the Windows Control Panel and adjust for best performance. Keep your computer clean. Use programs like Speccy to monitor your system, Defraggler to keep your system defragged and CCleaner to keep that registry and program list optimized.
Software Life Cycle
Keeping software updated can be challenging, particularly when new versions of software that are used together come out at different times throughout the year. For best performance increases and time to allow testing of new functionality, I suggest a 14-18 month update cycle. This allows for at least one Service Pack (point release) of SolidWorks and provides time for a soft roll-out of the update.
Hardware Life Cycle
I list this last because it’s often the coldest piece of cod to swallow. Hardware is expensive. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for the necessary upgrades that you will need over the years, especially in light of SolidWorks software updates and the need to keep employees or yourself super efficient. 2-year hardware cycles are often ideal for three reasons. It keeps you apprised of the technology, improves power efficiencies/capabilities and you get a better tax break for donating the old stuff to charity.
We view performance as software that doesn’t crash and hardware that doesn’t make us wait around. There’s always something you can do to make it all run a little better. The bottom line is this: Keep on a clear update cycle for software and hardware. Deal with hardware performance first, maxing out CPU speed, then deal with the intricacies of the software itself. You’ll have a smoother running system and you’ll be a much happier SolidWorks user.
Join Josh Mings for a TwitterChat on Thursday, July 28 at 4 p.m. ET. We’ll be talking about performance on SolidWorks. Follow the conversation at #dellcad and jump in! Click for more information.
Josh Mings is a mechanical engineer in the aircraft interiors industry. He is a CSWP with certified training and support for SolidWorks. He is editor of SolidSmack.com covering CAD, design and technology and is co-host of Engineer vs. Designer at evd1.tv. Follow him on Twitter@joshmings and @solidsmack or find him at LinkedIn or Google+.
Many AutoCAD Civil 3D users are aware that upgrading to a 64-bit operating system, preferably Windows 7 and Windows Vista (in that order), will give the biggest return on investment when looking at improving performance. Other opportunities to improve performance also exist.
One is multiple or multi-core processors. For the most part, AutoCAD Civil 3D runs as a single process, which means it will not utilize more than one processor, even if they are available. The exception to this is rendering, where multiple or multi-core processors can result in as much as a 250% decrease in render time. Though Civil 3D does not take advantage of multi-core processing, having multiple processors can still be beneficial since it enables you to run processes, such as anti-virus and firewall software, as well as other applications—such as Outlook—on separate processors and provide a more dedicated processor for AutoCAD Civil 3D. If you are a user who multitasks throughout the day and runs several applications at the same time, you may see added benefits in multiple or multi-core processors.
When contemplating hard drives, you should consider the data transfer rate. Faster data transfer rates will help decrease the time it takes to open Civil 3D, as well as load and save drawings that are stored locally. In addition, a faster transfer rate can increase performance when utilizing the hard drive for virtual memory, especially with 32-bit operating systems.
Beyond hardware and operating system changes, there are tactics you can implement to improve the performance of your day-to-day work in Civil 3D. These include
- Using code set styles with no fill or a solid fill. Stay away from hatch patterns.
- Avoid using the option to grid clip profile views until producing construction documents. When working with pipe networks, turn off hatching, pipe cleanup and masking until producing construction documents. Using the option ‘Display as boundary’ is also optimal.
- Use single-label components versus multiples.
- When working with surfaces use 1) external point files versus COGO points, 2) surface snapshots when possible, and 3) Level of Detail (LOD) display
- When working with corridors, turn off rebuild automatically and don’t display regions you aren’t working with. Additionally, create cross sections in a separate drawing.
This combination of operating system, hardware, and workflow adjustments can help to optimize your experience working with AutoCAD Civil 3D.
Authors: Karen Weiss, Transportation and Land Infrastructure Industry Marketing Manager, Autodesk; Jason Hickey, Senior Support Specialist, Autodesk
The first post in this series discussed upgrade procedures under various organizational structures. Now, we dive into prioritizing upgrades. One thing is certain: as long as CAD software increases in power there will always be a need for upgrading and replacing CAD workstations.
While some companies have a policy of replacing all of the CAD workstations simultaneously, others provide workstations based on workload. “Typically I have prioritized computer upgrades in offices in a method similar to a nurse’s triage at a hospital,” Chris Currie wrote in the Cadalyst LinkedIn group.
Currie’s practice is certainly not unusual in the CAD world. With any one office participating in several disciplines or practices, it is very common for users in the same office or department to have differing needs. That is to say that the entry level CAD professional may not be doing the more complex, intense work of a senior employee.
Reusing Hardware Based on Functionality
Often companies seek cost savings in the area of hardware by moving workstations down. Drafters performing complex work may receive new workstations while more junior drafters receive the workstation being replaced. In effect, everyone gets a “newer,” more powerful workstation while providing a cost savings to the company.
Standardizing the Process
CAD software becoming increasingly powerful each year and the need for upgraded hardware does not look to end any time soon. It would help any CAD manager to standardize the process for upgrades to make the process less difficult. Take the lessons learned from this year’s hardware upgrade and document them to help you during future upgrades.
Whether your hardware upgrade procedure is well defined or a haphazard per event trial, leave us a comment below and tell us about it. CADspeed would love to hear from you whatever your process for requesting and providing new hardware may be.
Author: Curt Moreno
Previously on CADspeed, we’ve talked about upgrading CAD hardware from the IT perspective. Now let’s talk about the same subject, but from the perspective of the CAD manager’s desk.
It is that time of the year again when summer is in full effect and the fiscal year is well under way. The new releases of your favorite software programs are starting to roll in and you cannot wait to get them all installed. But, are you sure that your hardware is up to the task of all that new software? Will your current workstation have enough RAM? Will that old video card be enough to create the shiny 3D images on the developer’s website? As the CAD manager, these are all things that need consideration. So, exactly how do you go about the process of deciding what hardware needs to be replaced, who gets new workstations and what do you do with the old hardware?
The Responsibilities of IT Personnel vs. CAD Managers
We discussed hardware upgrades with several CAD professionals in the LinkedIn Cadalyst group to learn about their upgrade procedures. Some participants said their company has a dedicated IT professional who steps in to assist the CAD manager in hardware decisions. In some cases, the IT department had set schedule for hardware upgrades and cycling out workstations.
In other cases, IT would fulfill upgrade requests on an “as needed” basis. While this can be a real time saver for the CAD manager, it can easily turn into a difficult time sink. Difficulties can arise when IT does not fully understand the needs of the CAD department or its software.
Convincing the Decision Makers
One CAD manager said that his IT department did not fully understand the needs of modern CAD software. “I have a constant uphill struggle to convince the [IT] policy makers that CAD and GIS stations exist in much more demanding environment.” This type of situation results in hours and hours of research for CAD managers. Time is spent visiting developer and hardware maker websites and collecting data to convince the policy makers. All of which is needed because the IT department may have a standard, preapproved, specification for office computers. However, as most CAD professionals already know, the hardware needed to run Microsoft Word is very different from that needed to run GIS software. All too often, this situation resolves into an adversarial relationship between the CAD and IT departments.
On the other end of the spectrum is the CAD manager with little or no IT support. Whether or not there is a designated IT department in the company, these CAD managers are the main support for the CAD department. This creates a situation where the CAD manager has increased input on the need and specification for CAD hardware making for a Wild West tech situation. Of course, it is always nice to have more input on the hardware used every day, but this too can equate to a great deal of time and effort. In addition to researching and being aware of changing hardware needs, the CAD manager is now responsible for the success of that hardware and the reallocation of old hardware. That can be a good deal of unwanted pressure for any CAD manager.
Finally, somewhere between the above situations, is the mix of IT support and CAD manager input. This is probably the most common situation found in engineering and architecture offices everywhere. CAD managers and IT work together to create a specification that will suit the particular workflow. While IT may be key to acquiring, assembling and deploying hardware, it often falls to the CAD manager to recommend which users get the newest hardware.
Author: Curt Moreno
Since high performance, high scalability workstations can cost a bit more than traditional desktops or laptops, people should do some comparison shopping first. An entry-level desktop workstation can be both price competitive and still offer many features of traditionally higher priced workstations. So what should you look for when you are comparing hardware features?
Dual Core vs. Quad Core
One thing to consider is that CAD is still mostly a single-threaded application (yeah, there are some places it is not like rendering and FEA and it is slowly creeping into other aspects of CAD), but if you mainly do CAD modeling, max clock speed is the goal. On a desktop workstation, the quad core offers highest frequency (3.2 GHz) vs. the dual core (2.53 GHz). While six cores are not necessary for Solid Edge, you should consider what other applications you will be running, perhaps simultaneously, to determine the total number of cores you will need.
On a mobile workstation, however, both the quad core and dual core processors offer the same frequencies (max turbo), the quad core does so at a much higher price point. The base frequency on the quad core is lower (2.50 GHz).
Higher power graphics and more memory are both are important for CAD when loading complex models and assemblies and of course manipulating them fluidly. It is the workstation where the delineation between these components (memory, OpenGL graphics and CPU speed) and a normal desktop is most noticeable.
A couple folks on the Solid Edge forum pointed out they have gotten some good deals at the Dell Outlet store. These are not brand new systems and the inventory can fluctuate, but if you are on a tight budget this option may be for you. I’d hate to manage a CAD team where every designer has a different model, but for an individual or small shop, it might be worth considering.
Below are some sample configurations to help you in your research. These configurations were provided by Dell so Solid Edge users could have some comparisons during the Solid Edge ST4 Global Launch Event, held June 15-16, 2011, in Huntsville, Alabama.
Author: Mark Burhop – Programs Director, Velocity Technology Ecosystem – Siemens PLM.
Find Mark Burhop on Twitter http://twitter.com/burhop
This blog was developed by Longitude Media, publisher of Cadalyst.
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