When in comes to infrastructure, at the desktop, in the server room, and the connections between, Revit is a very different animal from AutoCAD. Once upon a time AutoCAD required, or at least used, all the computing horsepower that could be thrown at it. But through the early to mid 2000′s AutoCAD was no longer a horsepower monger and a simple $500 desktop machine could be expected to adequately support AutoCAD for the majority of needs. Revit changes this picture, and again the AEC profession requires a “professional grade” workstation in order to get reasonable performance and efficiency from the software.
- Transitioning to Revit with CAD oriented infrastructure
- Seeking to maximize Revit efficiency and potential
- Beginning first large project in Revit
- Beginning to use Revit as a design tool
- Consultants are using Revit, requiring extensive linked models.
Workstation configuration: There is a definite hierarchy of importance wen it comes to workstation configurations. highest importance first, one should give consideration to…
- CPU – single threaded speed is the most important thing. At least a dual core CPU will facilitate the real world multi-tasking design professionals engage in. However, higher core counts will really only benefit rendering tasks and some third party engineering tools. However, the newer Intel Core architecture, in i5 and i7 flavors, offers the best of both worlds thru Turbo Boost. This allows multiple cores to work at a lower clock speed when a multi-threaded task demands it, but will shut down some cores and speed up the remainder when single threaded tasks call for it.
- RAM – enough is required, but more isn’t better. You will want enough RAM to support the size of your project files and all linked files, as well as whatever multi-tasking environment your users typical require, i.e. Exchange, Internet Explorer, iTunes, what have you. However, if your users typically need, say, 6 GB of RAM, giving them 16 will offer no benefit of any kind. Exactly how much RAM a particular office needs will depend on a great many variables, but a (very) rough guideline might be 4GB for single family residential work, 16 GB or more for very large or detailed projects, and 8 GB for the majority of projects in between. Ideally a machine should be purchased with empty RAM slots to faciliate additional RAM as needed without needing to replace the initially installed RAM. So, for the majority of offices, a good starting point is a machine with 4 RAM slots, and a pair of 4 GB sticks in the first two. This machine can then easily be upgraded to 16 GB later.
- GPU – Much has been written about the relative merits of different graphics card families, and both policy and habit will play into the decisions to be made. In my experience, the main key is that there is simply no need or value in “professional” grade cards like the Quadro and FireGl/FirePro series. These cards are tuned to OpenGL applications, and Revit is not an OpenGL application. As such, the GeForce and Radeon cards offer as much or more performance as much higher priced “pro” cards. This is changing however, with some Quadro cards coming down in price to the point where there may be no reason not to spec them. One area that has been slower to improve is with integrated laptop graphics. Only the new 4000 series IntelHD Integrated Graphics should be considered even minimally appropriate for Revit use, and then barely so. If at all possible find a laptop with discreet graphics.
- Hard drive/SSD – Hard drive speed has very little impact on Revit use. launching Revit, opening a local file, and saving a local file are really the only things impacted by the hard drive in the workstation. And even then, these tasks are much more constrained by CPU performance. For most users, a typical 7200 RPM drive will be adequate. That said, an SSD will offer a much improved user experience, and with SSD pricing coming down, the value of happy users should not be underestimated. Just be sure to get a sufficiently large drive if going the SSD route. For most offices a 128 GB SSD will tend to be too small, while a 256 GB SSD will likely suffice. However, issues like user use of Desktop and My Documents for massive file storage,personal video or music libraries, implementation of Folder Redirection for user Desktop & My Documents, etc will all impact SSD requirements.
- OS – In simple terms, only a 64 bit OS is appropriate for Revit. The RAM requirements are simply too high to consider a 32 bit OS “professional grade”. In addition, Windows 7 x64 has addressed the vast majority of driver and program support issues. For the next few years, Windows 7 x64 is a safe bet for all non tablet needs, especially for Revit use.
- Network- gigabit for everyone. For very small offices, under 10 Revit users, a 100 MB network might be adequate, but for shared projects over 50 MB file size, and teams larger than two or three, Gigabit Ethernet is a must. And given the low cost of entry for smaller gigabit switches, it is not unrealistic to simply consider gigabit ethernet the only appropriate network infrastructure for Revit use.
- Some savings can be realized by provisioning only certain machines with the RAM needed to open projects with the entire suite of linked models and DWGs loaded. This might play out as standard users getting 8GB of RAM, but Job Captains get 16 GB to facilitate model management and coordination. However, this also limits standard users ability to do things like participate in milestone printing, which requires a full load of linked files. And attempting to work beyond the ability of installed RAM to support results in very impaired performance and likely crashes with loss of work, provisioning all users with the same levels of RAM allows for more flexible staffing and tasking.
- If an office is strictly divided into departments, such that some people will exclusively work on the DD/CD/CA effort, while others will exclusively work on the design process, and those DD/CD/CA staff are provisioned with lower performing graphics cards in deference to the more 2D and simple graphics nature of that work, then the designers by all means should be provisioned with a higher spec card that will facilitate working with shadows, ambient occlusion, consistent colors, etc.