Home > Workstations > Is Your Hardware Preventing Your CAD Software from Reaching Its Potential?

Is Your Hardware Preventing Your CAD Software from Reaching Its Potential?

Let’s play a simple mental game. I promise, it won’t take long at all.

I want you to pretend that I gave you two objects. One is a gallon container of milk. The other is a 3 ounce Dixie Cup. Next I will ask you a question “Is it possible for that cup to hold the entire contents of that container of milk?” Naturally you would look at me like I was an idiot. “No, of course not” would be the answer.

See that didn’t take very long and it was a pretty simple premise. It’s just common sense that a 3 ounce cup cannot hold a gallon of anything. Along those lines it is also common sense that you cannot fit an elephant on a dime, land a passenger jet on a stamp or even fit an eggroll into a keyhole. We all know that these things are nuts. Or do we?

New Software is Not the Only Cost of Doing Business

Every year in offices all over the world design professionals rejoice when the newest release of their chosen program arrives. There are new bells and even some new whistles. The glossy box is covered in slick graphics and promises of “faster rendering,” “improved materials editors” and whatever else it is that excites you. Of course the only reason this new software release is even in the office is because the boss wrote a check.

Why shouldn’t he? New software is pricey, but it’s the cost of doing business. Software improves every year (in some cases) and those improvements will help employees be more productive. The new bell will improve rendering and the new whistle promises to edit materials faster than last year’s release. Obviously it is a smart move to invest in the tools that a company provides its employees so they may be more productive. This, hopefully, will result in the company being more efficient and thus profitable.

And that is all fine and dandy.

However, too often it seems that those same bosses, those members of management that believe that annual software upgrades are a MUST, believe hardware lasts forever. Hmm … how is it that we have come to such an impasse? Why is it commonly accepted that yearly software upgrades are “the cost of doing business” but hardware should be permanent?

Better Software Requires Better Hardware

Every year developers work feverishly to release software that outperforms, outshines, and pushes out the previous releases. The claims that the features are greater in number and efficiency are normally true. These new releases are bigger, badder and make the last release seem slow and clunky. But there is a price to pay for those improvements in the form of greater demands on hardware. What does that mean to the end user? Basically it means you need better hardware to get the most out of better software.

Well that makes sense … in theory. But in practice the boss is griping that the company just bought ALL that expensive software. Thousands of dollars were spent, now we need new hardware? Last year the new software upgrades worked on the current machines. Unfortunately those machines were already a year or two old. Now they are even older! And now the software demands even MORE hardware power. Why are you trying to fit a gallon of milk into a 3 ounce Dixie cup?!?!

Hardware does not last into perpetuity. Upgrades in hardware must accompany upgrades in software in order to get the MOST benefit out of the investment in the new software. More capable software hobbled by inadequate hardware isn’t a case of “Oh well, it’s slow.” It is wasted company capital! That is money that is just thrown to the winds! In an age of difficult economic times, this is not acceptable.

Like anyone, companies have budgets and there may only be X dollars for upgrades this year. Well if X is all you have and the software on the current workstations is already not working to its fullest positional DON’T invest the budget into more software that will not perform to its limits! Use that money and upgrade the hardware!

Minimum Hardware Requirements Can Minimize Your Return on Investment

I proffer that an application that is one or two years old will provide better efficiency and performance on new “overpowered” hardware than the opposite scenario. Installing new software on old, underpowered or “minimum system requirements” hardware is a disservice all around. The user is disappointed because there are frustrating slowdowns and crashes. The boss is disappointed because the invested dollars do not show the returns expected. But, maybe most of all, it is the developer that is disappointed because their product, their hard work, is misrepresented. Good software on old, underpowered hardware gets a bad name. It’s that simple. Even if that hardware does meet the “minimum system requirements.”

The only thing “minimum system requirements” will get you is “minimum system performance.” How does it makes sense to literally spend thousands of dollars per workstation for new software and not hundreds to get the most out of that investment?

I know that we all get excited about new software releases. Those sexy animations and ad campaigns beckon to us. Meanwhile our workstations sit under our desk, hidden in the dark, working away quietly. Our workstations, in most cases, are not dazzling or attention grabbing. But without them, no amount of new software features will ever improve performance.

 Author: Curt Moreno

  1. May 6, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Great article! I work with, consult and teach Cad software, this is always an issue.

  2. Jason
    May 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    The problem is you can’t easily just swap the money spent on software to the hardware. Most 3d cad programs have an annual subscription. If you elect to not pay it one year (to use on hardware instead), the following year it’s doubled. So in the end, you pay it anyway.

    • May 8, 2011 at 11:50 pm

      Christian – Thanks for your kind words.

      Jason – You certainly do have a great point. ::sigh:: Now matter how much you try, you just can’t fit everything into one posting! I do agree that the issue certainly isn’t an simple one and hardware and software budgets aren’t 1 to 1. However in the case of subscriptions, the annual cost is normally at a reduced cost versus new licenses. Hopefully this reduced cost would allow companies to invest in more frequent, but smaller hardware upgrade cycles.

      Thanks for commenting! The real meat of an article always happens after the post!

      – KFD –

  1. May 15, 2011 at 8:44 pm

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