In my 20-plus years of working in the high-tech industry, I’ve attended hundreds of tradeshows and industry events. One of the most common questions that comes up is, “What hardware do I need to successfully run a professional engineering or design application?”
I’m always happy to provide suggestions based on user needs, and I always recommend that you purchase the best workstation you can afford. But instead of waiting until the next industry tradeshow, I thought I’d share a few tips on how to purchase the right workstation. Obviously, I can’t tell you what system to purchase in this blog, not knowing your specific needs. But I’ll provide some general advice on items to consider when purchasing a workstation.
First and foremost, invest in the best workstation you can afford based on total cost. According to industry surveys, the average fully loaded cost of an engineer is about $100,000 per year. So a small investment in a better workstation that could increase productivity by 10 percent would essentially save $10,000 per year in labor costs. As you can see, this is a tremendous savings and doesn’t even consider the other benefits of better product quality, faster time to market, and reduced cost due to fewer physical prototypes.
- Build a balanced system that will give you the best overall performance, including processors, RAM, graphics, and storage. Don’t skimp on one to the detriment of the system. Intel® Xeon® or Intel® Core™ i7 processors are recommended.
- Consider all software applications that you will be running on your workstation.
- Build the system to meet the most demanding application and use cases.
- Remember that you may be running multiple applications simultaneously.
- Consider components that help meet your future requirements (the average workstation has a three-year replacement cycle).
- Consider both interactive and batch job performance requirements. Many workstations are used for interactive sessions that do design work such as a CAD application and batch job processing for analysis and simulation.
Here are some basic guidelines:
- Minimum of four-core CPU from the Intel® Xeon® processor family. Even though most CAD applications are single threaded, a typical user will have more than one application running even if it’s an office productivity tool or browser. Also, the operating system will require some CPU cycles.
- RAM is fairly inexpensive, so purchase the right amount for all applications. Not doing so can dramatically decrease performance. For most CAD applications, I suggest starting at 8 Gbytes of RAM and 32 Gbytes or more for simulation and analysis.
- The right certified professional graphics card can provide optimum interactive performance and extreme performance benefits for GPU accelerated analysis applications. Recommendations are: 2D CAD = entry-level graphics; 3D CAD = midrange graphics; and advanced 3D = high-end graphics card.
For more detailed information see the Dell Precision Product website.
Intel, the Intel logo, Xeon, and Xeon Inside are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation in the US and/or other countries.