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CADspeed -- Optimizing Hardware for CAD Software

A CAD Manager's Guide to Hardware Upgrades, Part 1

Posted by cadhardware

Jun 16, 2011 1:14:56 AM

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.

Next we will talk about prioritizing upgrades.

Author: Curt Moreno

Topics: Dell Business Workstation, Workstations, RAM, Hardware, Graphics Card, Hard Drive, Processors, Memory, Upgrade, Video Cards, Operating System, Windows, CAD

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