Bowman, Foster & Associates’ in house Microsoft System Administrator has been custom building our high-end 3D Modeling (BIM) REVIT, AutoCAD and load calculation machines for the past 2 years. Why build over buy?
- Machines can be customized for best performance to complete the task at hand.
- Provide superior performance over out of the box at a fraction of the price.
- Multiple machines can be built for the same price of a single new Dell Workstation which allows BFA to provide staff with new high performance machines more frequently.
- Generic parts can be purchased locally within an hour to repair the machine instead of waiting for next business day support from a “big-box vendor”.
- Machines are easily upgraded when application requirements require more power.
While our IT Manager typically builds the machines with proper ventilation, wiring management and care; however, for the sake of experimentation we have built one machine with the quality and attention of our standard builds and the other… well, not.
These two AutoDesk Revit (3D BIM) machines were built with the following parts:
- AMD FX-8320 FX-Series 8-Core Black Edition CPU (Cache: 8/8MB (L2/L3)
- AMD FirePro W5100 (4GB GDDR5, 1.43 TFLOPS single precision floating point performance)
- 16GB of DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800, Timing 9-9-9)
- 120GB SSD Hard Drive (450 MB/s read/write, 85,000 IOPS read/write)
- ASUS M5A97 R2.0 AM3+ Motherboard (SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0, AMD 970 Northbridge)
- Cooler Master Elite 350 Computer Case
- 120mm fan rear exhaust and 80mm side exhaust fans (negative pressure in the case)
- CAPSTONE-450 450W (Continuous @ 50°C, 80 PLUS GOLD certified)
- 2x ViewSonic 24-Inch LED-Lit LCD Monitor (Full HD 1080p, Display-Port)
If you’re a fan of powerful systems, like our IT Manager is, you’re probably excited about this parts list. The build provides enough power for present and future versions of AutoDesk Revit—while being easily upgradable to go even further. Let’s start with the basics and take a look inside the machines:
Can you see a difference? That poor build on the right looks quite “messy”, and actually let’s call it that. Not only are the cables going to block what little airflow there is in the case but also catch and drag dust to critical components. Now, let’s run the machines and execute a workstation load bearing test (via HeavyLoad v3.3) and compare the temperatures:
Yikes. This test has only been running for about an hour. The negative pressure ventilation system and clean environment on the Bowman, Foster & Associates “standard” build was able to keep our system well within the complaint operating temperatures for all critical components (55°C recommended max for CPU). Our “messy” build forcefully shut down due to exceeding the heat limits of the CPU! That’s right… temperatures on the “messy” machine were actually higher than shown in the picture at one point in time (machine forcefully cuts off at 61°C to avoid damage). Obviously, this ends the temperature testing as the max safe CPU temperature is 62°C.
Based on the information gathered from this small experiment I think it’s clear that we will continue to use a “standard” build level of quality. It will continue to provide Bowman, Foster & Associates with cleaner, more efficient, and clearly more reliable (thus cheaper) machines for our staff to provide our clients with quality deliverables. And frankly, it’s a lot easier to work on.