When discussing the topic of Data Management tools, it’s easy to get caught focusing on flashy, automated things like Workflows, or even the foundation tools like Check In/Out and Revision Control.
For me, though, one of the most important yet transparent parts of a PDM system stems from how it improves performance and stability for the CAD user.
‘Traditionally’ users work ‘across the network.’ In other words, most CAD users work on files that reside on the server… NOT on their local computer. The benefit is that the server is the computer that is regularly backed up.
The downside… and there are several… is that the user and said users colleagues are all taxing the server anytime CAD files are rebuilt, saved and in general, when any calculation has to take place. It is as if they are all sitting in a circle around the server with keyboards, mice and monitors all plugged into the same computer.
Not to mention that in most cases that same server is tasked with running a business system, email server, shared printers and any number of other process that contribute to the stress and instability of the server itself.
Whether you are using SolidWorks Workgroup PDM or SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, the files still ‘reside’ on the server where they get backed up regularly. However, when files are opened or checked out, all the needed parts, assemblies and drawings are copied to the users ‘local’ computer into a ‘working folder’ or the local cache. Now the user can take full advantage of the RAM, processor and fast BUS speeds of the workstation they are sitting at, while distributing all of the taxing calculations across the rest of the users workstations and away from the server.
When files are modified and then checked back into the vault… ONLY the files that have changed are transmitted across the network, further reducing network traffic.
Of course, the next time that large assembly is checked out from the vault, it compares the versions of the files in the vault to the ones on the local computer and ONLY transmits those files that have changed. Again, reducing the network traffic on every subsequent check out.
As a result, the users see significant performance gains since they are now utilizing the full resources of the workstations they are ‘sitting at’ today, and they also experience fewer crashes due to common network collisions and traffic spikes at key hours of the day while working across the network.
There are dozens of other features that get little fanfare but are extremely beneficial from the implementation of a PDM system, but if I’m spending money to upgrade the CAD users workstations, it would be best if they were actually working ‘ON’ their workstations. This is truly one of the more beneficial features of PDM that is taken for granted.
For a deeper dive into “The Foundation of SolidWorks Performance”, register to attend a special webinar on Friday, March 25, 2011 at 11am ET.
Darin J. Grosser – CSWE