Cloud is the future of business. With 2020 right around the corner, have you considered how accessing your BIM software from the cloud will take your firm to the next level?
The needs of the modern AEC firm are ever-evolving. As technology continues to become more sophisticated, it increasingly lends itself well to the collaborative and often geographically dispersed teams of the AEC industry.
I have the unique opportunity to work for a company that has over 75 clients ranging from just two employees to 1,000 solely within this unique industry. Because of this, I have had the privilege to assist in solving the technology challenges that firms face on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s DR and backup, data archiving, collaboration or BIM — my team and I have helped our valued AEC firms come up with the best IT solutions possible.
With that said, I have a unique perspective on technology as it relates to the AEC firm. From experience, I categorize technology for AEC into three main categories: Infrastructure, Design, and Knowledge Management.
Let’s take a look at what each category entails:
Infrastructure technology keeps you running day-to-day. This is the behind-the-scenes technology, the “plumbing” that supports daily operations. You never notice it (until it fails), but it is very important to the stability of your operations. Infrastructure technology supports system stability, remote access, mobility, collaboration, facility support, and sustainability. Infrastructure technologies RUN the business.
Examples of Infrastructure Technology:
- Desktops / Workstations
- Networking (Local Area and Wide Area)
- Remote access
- Video conferencing
- Mobile Devices
Design technologies are the tools used to manage and administer projects. BIM is the essential design technology.
Design technologies support mobility and collaboration. This includes the ability to work outside the office, the ability to connect to the network from anywhere, and the ability to collaborate and work with both internal and external project teams.
Design technologies author and document your projects. These tools also communicate design solutions to your clients. Design technologies GROW the business.
Examples of Design Technology:
- Authoring (Revit / AutoCAD)
- Project Information Management (PIM)
- Collaboration tools
- Analysis tools
- Visualization software
- QA / QC / risk management
- Quantity take-offs / estimating / commissioning
- Construction administration
Knowledge Management (KM) is a key business support technology for AEC. It defines what you do, how you work, how you stay productive, and how you promote innovation and creativity at your firm. Knowledge Management is recording, storing, and retrieving knowledge and information, and documenting and sharing best practices.
Knowledge Management technologies provide access to information. Web technologies such as blogs, intranets, wikis, and social media help build and market the collective knowledge of your firm. In addition, training is a key part of Knowledge Management. Your staff needs adequate training and more importantly the ability to save, seek, and find information.
Examples of Knowledge Management:
- Network folder organization
- Project information access
- Design and technical libraries
- Best practices and procedures
- Historical project data
- Business intelligence
- Collaboration and communication software
- Digital asset management
- Project process documentation
All of these KM technologies contribute to team and organizational knowledge flow, which is essentially the transition of the managed knowledge from where it’s stored, to where it needs to be applied. Naturally, knowledge must and does flow through the design process.
Here’s a look at the basic knowledge flow for collaborative AEC teams:
Knowledge Management technology can make your firm more competitive in the marketplace by increasing your expertise and providing better service to your clients. It’s safe to say that KM Technologies TRANSFORM the business and ensure every team member has the information, education, and overall knowledge to perform optimally.
The Technology Life-Cycle
Any of these technologies can provide a competitive advantage for your firm, but you must weigh each against the technology life-cycle (TLC).
Within each of these categories of technology there are new solutions and products that initially provide a competitive advantage. Early adopters and more tech-savvy firms take advantage of new technologies to gain a competitive edge over their peers. But they also accept the learning curve and higher costs associated with new technology adoption. Right now, AR and VR technologies are examples of competitive advantage technologies.
As technologies become generally accepted and widespread, their use instead becomes a competitive necessity. By this time, most firms have heard of or are already using these technologies and they are required if you intend to keep up with the competition. These technologies don’t provide a competitive advantage, but if you don’t use them you run the risk of falling behind the competition. CAD and BIM authoring tools are good examples of competitive necessity technology.
Finally, as technology ages and is replaced, it becomes a competitive disadvantage. If you continue to use older, outdated technologies, your company falls behind the mainstream, and you actually lose productivity by not replacing old technology. Are you still using AutoCAD 2004 on 10-year-old workstations and CRT monitors? Sure, you can, but you are paying a steep price in productivity and are at a competitive disadvantage to your peers.
In today’s technologically-driven world, it’s no secret that technology adds value to your products, provides additional marketable services, supports decision making, increases productivity, and provides timely financial data. This demonstrates to your clients a leadership role in the use of technology applied in the design profession.
The three categories of technologies featured in this article — infrastructure, design, and knowledge management — form the basis for understanding the IT needs of an AEC firm. Any experienced IT firm, like Advance2000, will work with you within this framework to build a comprehensive IT strategy to run your IT operations, and, in turn, keep your entire business operating efficiently.
With over 75 AEC clients ranging in size from 2 to 1,200, Advance2000 understands the unique technology needs of AEC. Whether it’s backup, DR, data archiving, collaboration, or BIM, we have experience solving the technology challenges facing your firm. We work with Autodesk, Bentley, Dassault, Deltek, Newforma, Primavera and many other AEC-specific vendors.
Ready to explore how we can help you strategically run, grow, and transform your practice?
Hello everyone, this is Chris France with Advance2000. I wanted to share this short video with you today so that you can see what you would experience should you request your own Virtual Desktop to test your design applications.
- First look at local laptop and see how you will connect into your Design Workstation
- In this Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), we have our “middle of the road” system with 32gb of RAM, 2gb graphics, and 4 CPU’s. We can add computing resources depending on your application needs.
- In my local home office, I have broadband from Time Warner Cable, 50×5 mbps service. This is plenty of bandwidth to run a VDI from our datacenter. In the datacenter, the VDI is also connected to the internet. You’ll see my speedtest in the video that shows I have 200mb down and approx. 320mb upload from my VDI. Your mileage will vary depending on the bandwidth your business has deployed.
- Catia – I have an x-wing fighter sample file that I pan/zoom/orbit in real time.
- Navisworks – sample file where I pan/zoom/orbit
- Revit – You can imagine how a team of Revit designers, each with their own VDI, can work on a project like they are all sitting in the same room. And they can physically be located anywhere in North America and some International locations. Some of our current clients used the free demo we provide to test this collaboration themselves. We supplied two demo workstations so they could test collaboration on a single model from two separate locations.If you’d like to try this out yourself, reach out to us and we’ll get you set up with a FREE DEMO.
Benchmarking is a way to compare the performance of one device versus another using a standardized test. Benchmarking applications eliminate the human factor to measure only the performance of a device or application running on that device.
Benchmarking is strictly a device or application measurement. It measures performance of the hardware or an application on that hardware. It allows us to compare the relative performance of one hardware platform versus another. We can measure whether one platform performs better or worse than another. We can also use a benchmark to compare the performance of old versus new technology.
Benchmarking does not allow you to predict how well a person will perform using a particular piece of hardware. A talented employee might still work faster and accomplish more on a slower piece of hardware than another less skilled employee. One thing for certain is that giving the most talented most productive users better equipment will boost their performance even more. When the performance difference between old and new technology becomes too great then it is time to replace older equipment to regain the competitive edge. Benchmarks can be used to measure application performance and help us judge how well an application will perform on a specific platform. It will also allow us to compare the performance of the application between competing platforms. Benchmarks do a good job of eliminating the human factor which is hard to control.
While testing new technologies, and developing new ways to work, we constantly benchmark new products and new technologies. We measure overall performance as well as price/performance. We use benchmarks to give us an objective way to compare technologies and to give us an indication of how the technology will perform in the real world compared to what we are currently using.
What DOES A BENCHMARK measure?
There are many things we can benchmark. We can benchmark
- Application performance
- Storage speed
- RAM speed
- CPU performance
- GPU performance
There are many commercial applications available that we can use to benchmark desktops and compare relative performance. Here are some we use:
- PCMark 8
- 3DMark 11
- Revit RFO Benchmark – application benchmark
- Cadalyst CAD Benchmark – application benchmark
Keep in mind that a benchmark does not precisely reflect real life usage. But it does give an indication of how well the same person will perform on one workstation versus another. In real life, you can never realize 100% of the speed difference between competing platforms. But you can be reasonably sure the same person working on a faster workstation will be faster. Even if the difference is minutes over the course of the day, time savings adds up over the weeks and months to yield real dollar benefits.
An application benchmark is used to compare application performance on one workstation versus another and eliminates the human factor. However, a person cannot work like a benchmark, so things that affect a benchmark might never affect the live performance of a person. There is always going to be a human factor, but an automated application benchmark can demonstrate and measure the true device performance difference.
USING BENCHMARKS TO SHOW ROI
For example, I evaluated a new workstation for my company that benchmarked 20% faster than my existing workstations. The new workstation was expensive at about $4500 each. Is it worth it? How long until I see a payback on my investment?
I calculated productivity first. I thought my staff might see 10% improvement in speed using the new workstation, about half the benchmarked speed difference of 20%. I knew a human could never capture 100% of the difference in speed.
480 min / day (8 hours/day x 60 min/hour)
x 95% billable time target (allow for 24 minutes of wasted time/day, bathroom, water cooler etc.)
= 456 billable minutes / day
45.6 minutes / day saved (10% savings)
x $1.67 / minute ($100 /hour average staff billable rate)
$76.15 estimated savings per day per person in gained productivity by using a 20% faster workstation
Next I looked at the cost of the workstation and payback / break even calculation.
New Workstation Cost
$4,300 new workstation cost
$195 labor to install / swap out (3 hours @ $65/hour)
=$4,495 total new workstation cost
$76.15 savings / user / day
about 60 days to break even ($4,495 / $76.15/day)
So in about 3 months (20 work days / month) I could recover the cost of the new workstation paid by the gains in staff productivity. Even if I estimated incorrectly and my productivity gains were only half what I thought (5% versus 10%), I would still break even in about 6 months. If each machine had a usable life of 3 years (conservatively) then buying the faster workstation was a no brainer. I presented this calculation to management, got the ok, ordered the new machines and our productivity shot off the charts, not to mention everyone loved me for giving them a newer faster workstation.
VDI versus Desktop PC
Advance2000 specializes in providing Cloud Based Virtual Desktops or VDIs (Desktops as a Service) to the AEC industry. Can a VDI show comparable performance to a physical high powered workstation? Can it really compete with hardware sitting under your desk?
Using benchmarks, we can demonstrate that a VDI workstation can go head to head in performance with a physical workstation. And, along with matching performance you also gain all the other benefits of a VDI, such as lower maintenance costs, faster to deploy, BYOD, and complete mobility. Is it time to rethink your hardware strategy and consider going 100% cloud based virtual workstations for your workstation needs?
Let’s take a closer look…
How does a virtual workstation (VDI) compare to a physical workstation in terms of performance?
In the last 3 years, VDI performance has improved for several reasons.
- The first and most significant change was the development of vGPU or virtual graphics card. This allowed a VDI to use a physical graphics card shared among several VDIs. Using a real graphics card instead of a virtualized GPU in our VDI, we can greatly enhance graphics performance and eliminate the cursor lag that was characteristic of remote and virtual technologies for so long.
- The second development was the constant improvement in the quality and availability of bandwidth. Bandwidth costs continue to drop and bandwidth speeds continue to improve with offerings like Google Fiber and Verizon FIOS. This allows companies to buy more and better quality bandwidth for the same or lower cost. Good bandwidth is essential to a good VDI experience.
- Finally, hyper converged infrastructure, that is storage, computing, networking, and virtualization all on a single physical host greatly improves VDI performance by eliminating the network hop and also helps to control costs.
These factors have improved VDI performance making it competitive with physical workstations.
Next, let’s look at some benchmark numbers and see how they compare.
I will share the benchmarks of some of the newest VDIs we provide for our clients. You can run the same benchmarks on the hardware at your own company and see how you compare.
For this comparison, I ran the RFO Revit Benchmark v2.1. This is a benchmark provided by RevitForum.org. It is available here. http://www.revitforum.org/hardware-infrastructure/26519-rfo-benchmark-v2.html
This benchmark uses a script to run Revit 2016 (or 2017), a popular design authoring tool used by architects and engineers. Lower numbers are FASTER and BETTER.
|Workstation Type||RFO Revit Benchmark 2016 Standard|
|Standard Test Set||Rendering Test|
|Lenovo P50 Workstation* (32GB Physical Laptop Workstation 2016)||200.83||105.42|
|Entry Designer VDI (16 GB)||193.55||163.05|
|Designer VDI (32 GB)||191.34||182.21|
|Cloud 3.0 VDI (32 GB)||160.63||103.75|
|Cloud 4.0 VDI (our latest 32 GB)||138.37||66.88|
*Lenovo P50 is a mobile workstation class computer.
Recent improvements in VDI design have really pushed the performance of virtual machines to the point they can completely replace or even outperform a traditional physical desktop. At Advance2000, we think the physical PC is obsolete and the future of computing is virtual desktops (VDI). What do you think?
Contact Us for a free VDI demo and try it for yourself.
PennFIRST has successfully implemented an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) Project using Advance2000’s Project Cloud Technology.
Penn Medicine’s newest facility will be delivered through an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) process. IPD is a highly collaborative project process that achieves better outcomes and reduces waste throughout the design and construction phases.
Collaboration is difficult to achieve and essential to project success. A borderless collaborative way to work promotes productivity and innovation. Projects need a way to facilitate work sharing between multiple firms to enhance communication and collaboration for its project.
IPD requires teams to work differently. For an IPD project to be successful the Building Design Team cannot work in isolation any longer. Teams that don’t work together don’t succeed. IPD is teams working together and communicating. How do multiple firms designing a hospital work together?
Advance2000 helps firms collaborate, innovate and promote the use of BIM and IPD. Advance2000’s Project Cloud creates a “Virtual Colocation” that allows real time collaboration with multiple firms. Advance2000’s Private Cloud solution is the engine to drive project collaboration and efficiency.
Advance2000 BIM Cloud provides a high performance solution for your graphical work stations. The collaborative nature of the Advance2000 BIM Cloud improves collaboration between designers, architects, and contractors. Our experience providing Private Cloud Solutions to the AEC market has led us to evolve and grow the Advance2000 BIM Cloud to better serve your needs. Here are some Q & A’s about the Advance2000 BIM Cloud Computing.
Q: How does the Cloud affect rendering performance?
A: Rendering is all about having enough CPU to churn through the calculations. Clients that do a lot of rendering will have dedicated remote nodes. If you want to render on the workstation you also design on, there are ways to keep the rendering programs at a lower priority so that when a worker needs the computer, they get it.
Q: How does the Cloud affect the ability to use third party applications, such as Revit add-on apps?
A: So, long as the third-party app will technically run over a Cloud connection and the third-party EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) allows you to do that, then there is no difference. Advance2000’s Private Cloud is just like having your own IT infrastructure. Whatever you can do in your office, you can do in the Cloud.
Q: What is the pricing model for Advance2000 BIM Cloud?
A: Since Advance2000 offers a “Private Cloud” using standard building blocks, your BIM Cloud Solution will be unique to your company. As such, the prices will vary greatly depending on the capabilities, size, storage, circuits, phones, applications, etc. It is difficult to compare apples to apples at the component level, but you will see significant cost savings while increasing your capabilities by consolidating your IT.
Q: Is a network license needed?
A: You have to look at the EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) from the software manufacturer that you want to run in the Cloud. Some of the EULA’s are OK with this, others are not. They want to make sure you don’t buy one license and then have 10 people use it. If you are asking about Autodesk’s Revit, then yes, their EULA requires a firm to have their Revit licenses on a network licensing model. They can track usage this way and don’t really care where you actually run Revit. Related to this question is location-based software that requires some sort of HW key. Assuming the EULA is OK, then we have various ways to pass HW (USB usually) keys to a remote desktop but we’d have to test it. The license server can be in our Cloud or at your office. Your Cloud workstations just need to be able to “see” the license server either via a private circuit or VPN.
Q: How does printing back at the local office that is connecting to the datacenter work? The plotter in all cases would reside in the local office.
A: Advance2000 does this all the time. The print server in the Cloud spools to your local plotter, printers or multi-function copiers. Going from Cloud workstation to Cloud print server is fast (just like being in a local office). Our “Clouded” offices only have a Cloud access device (like a laptop, desktop, or iPad), network switch, maybe a router, printers, and a phone handset.
Advance2000 is proud to support the RocCity Revit User Group!
The RocCity Revit User Group was created to provide a venue to discuss, learn and contribute knowledge about BIM technology, specifically the Autodesk Revit technology (all disciplines) in Rochester, NY and the surrounding areas. Each meeting offers a chance to network with other users and learn more about this parametric technology and how to use it effectively for Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operations. At the RocCity-RUG meetings topics range from business issues to production; allowing experts and those just getting started to learn and contribute in a focused environment. The meetings bring timely, valuable, practical information about Revit with a real world focus.
For more information about The RocCity Revit User Group’s calendar, discussion forums, member registration, photo gallery and more, visit: Meetup: The RocCity Revit User Group.