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Conversations with Customers: It’s a New World for CAD & BIM Power Users

My blog last week focused on the challenges faced by architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms from the perspective of the IT team. IT leaders are strategic partners in the business, and the technology choices they and their teams make really, really matter when it comes to supporting the growth objectives of the firm. In fact, IT executives who are unwilling to modernize their technology infrastructure risk not only inhibiting growth for the firm but also losing talent to firms that have taken the leap to cloud computing. That’s how powerful a cloud workstation solution can be. We are at the point where IT personnel and power users alike should not have to waste time worrying about app performance, outdated GPUs, hardware refreshes, or IP security. For that matter, you should not have to worry about whether you can make your kid’s soccer game or piano recital either. Let’s explore how we can take all those worries off the table.

This week I want to take a deeper dive from the perspective of end users: CAD engineers, BIM (Building Information Modeling) managers and other power users whose work relies on high-end GPU workstations. What do they need to be happy and successful? During Autodesk University 2018 we had the opportunity to ask this question many times and we heard the same answers over and over from attendees. For these valuable experts, when we’re talking about the technology used to get their work done, there are three primary considerations. First is performance. Speed is everything, and there can be no compromises. Next is the ability to collaborate effectively both within the firm and among partners working together on a project. Finally, there is a strong desire for having the flexibility to work remotely, whether that’s from home, a hotel, or a job site. Let’s take a closer look at each and see if these conversations resonate with you as well.

The Need for Speed

There’s no doubt that physical GPU workstations deliver excellent performance to power users. They are accustomed to having a deskside workstation, along with two to four monitors. Running Revit/AutoCAD and other design apps alongside Skype and Outlook is very common. Anyone who uses two or more monitors knows how powerful this is for productivity – everything is in front of you, and it’s instantly actionable as you look across your screens. This office work environment for AEC firms has been the norm for a very long time, and performance is good from the perspective of individual users. It’s when you go beyond the speeds and feeds of GPUs and walk in the shoes of a CAD engineer that the challenges around physical workstations become clear. There’s quite a bit of downtime involved when project teams need to work together to revise and share files. It slows everyone down waiting for file uploads and downloads with every revision. It’s frustrating for users, costly for the business and can affect outcomes for the client as well. So as you can see, when we start talking about a CAD engineer’s or a BIM manager’s need for speed, the conversation turns quickly to the need for effective collaboration; it just cannot be at the price of slower workstation speed. That’s why traditional VDI has almost always failed in AEC firms; power users get really unhappy when the firm attempts to centralize and virtualize their GPUs on shared resources in an on-prem data center to improve collaboration, but it ends up being at the cost of diminished performance. Turns out, this trade-off doesn’t serve the business well either. One of our customers told us that their CAD engineers were 15-20% less productive with virtualized workstations using on-premises VDI. While VDI seems like a good idea from a business strategy perspective, that productivity hit is exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve! The bottom line is that app performance and the speed of work cannot be traded for perceived business benefits. Why? Because gaining one benefit will mitigate another, and because now, with Workspot Workstation Cloud, you don’t have to make those trade-offs anymore!

Collaboration is Everything

If you’re a BIM manager, architect, or design engineer you’re likely part of one or more project teams. Whether you’re creating 2D/3D models using CAD apps or you’re analyzing and visualizing 3D models, you’re dealing with enormous amounts of graphics-intensive data. You’re tackling large, complex projects and probably working with other people who are scattered across a region or even across the globe, and that requires close collaboration. If your firm is like most, sharing and synchronizing heavy data sets is typically achieved by replicating data in each region in multiple, physical branch offices. And that’s where things get tricky, complicated and expensive! Now if your firm is in the majority and works with partners on projects, you have to figure out how to collaborate effectively outside the firm too, across multiple partners that comprise a joint venture. Effective collaboration and dynamically scaling compute resources in a joint venture scenario is just unattainable in most cases, and that means that you’re probably waiting around for files to be endlessly uploaded and downloaded while your IT team struggles to keep up with the technology requirements of the project. How frustrating! Making collaboration insanely simple is one of the most powerful ways that Workstation Cloud can transform AEC firms (and change a CAD engineer’s life!).

Feeling Left Out?

Speaking of life-changing technology, why is it that the rest of the world works remotely a growing percentage of the time, while CAD and BIM folks are still tethered to their desks? The answer is obvious – it’s difficult to convince the boss you need a $10,000 workstation at home, and performance would degrade anyway, so you might as well go to the office. However, many of the people I spoke with at AU 2018 were commuting three and four hours every day to get to there! That is really tough on people as you may know from first-hand experience. Almost every CAD engineer we talked with said they would work at home one or more days per week given the opportunity. Well, now you have it! We live in a world where inspiration happens around the clock, and with the right technology, you can respond to it wherever you happen to be, from any device. Cloud workstations really can change your life, because now you can work in a flexible way that utilizes your time well, maximizes creativity and productivity, and allows you to take care of work and personal needs instead of commuting for hours every day.  Our customers tell us that giving their valuable employees this flexibility is really gratifying because employees are just happier. However, none of this would be possible unless they were also seeing performance that is as good and often better than physical workstations. With Workstation Cloud performance is that good; everything else is a non-starter.

As you can see, Workspot Workstation Cloud on Microsoft Azure brings tidings of good cheer to AEC firms, in the form of simplified management and greater business agility for achieving business goals, while CAD engineers and BIM managers get flexibility, amazing performance and extra time back from those long commutes. While you’re relaxing around the holidays you can watch the on-demand webinar to hear CIOs Andy Knauf and Eric Quinn discuss how Workspot Workstation Cloud is helping them accelerate growth and keep power users happy! If your office holiday party is coming up, encourage your IT folks to watch the webinar, then they can schedule a live demo to see how it all works.

Happy Holidays from the Workspot Team!