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Software-Defined CAD Machines Are Eating CAD Workstations

Software-Defined CAD Machines Are Eating CAD Workstations

Software is eating CAD Workstations. This is great news for casual CAD users and IT departments

Software is eating the world. Today, the 3D CAD workstations are on the menu.  This is good news for casual CAD users. They can cut the cord that locks them to their workstations. IT departments will share in the joy. They can slash their hardware costs and reduce the burden to administer their CAD workstation fleet.

In 2011, famous investor Marc Andreessen announced in the WSJ: “Software is eating the world”. He referred to HP’s decision to jettison its PC business. Marc was at the time a board member of HP. In the same article, Andreessen said: “More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services”.

This is quite literally true for CAD Workstations

Virtual CAD machines are in essence a “software-defined” CAD Workstation. They have a lot of RAM, cores and GPU power. CAD vendors have therefore certified their 3D CAD applications to run on virtual metal. The big difference: virtual CAD machines consist of bits and bytes instead of metal, plastic and silicon. 

Why are software(-defined) machines eating physical CAD Workstations?

A physical machine (as well as age) comes with inconveniences.

  • They hold the CAD user hostage: The user has to go where the CAD workstation is. Shouldn't that be the other way around? 
  • They can only be bought (or leased/rented for a period of 3 years or longer) as capital equipment.
  • They cannot be shared among colleagues.
  • They are expensive to own and run; this gap will grow further.

For casual CAD users – who use CAD less than 50% per workday –  virtual CAD machine are ideal.

  1. They have lesser demands for their CAD hardware but are more mobile than full-time ("heavy") CAD users. They will therefore be very happy to swap a physical box with a virtual one;
  2. The cost savings potential on hardware for casual CAD users is more than 50%*
  3. The amount of casual CAD users is large: at least 50% of the total user population** 

Casual CAD users are thus ideal for virtual CAD machines. Happier casual CAD designers are more productive. IT departments can take a big and tasty bite out of their capital budget for CAD workstations.


*The monthly depreciation of a physical machine that costs $2500 and is written off in 36 months, is $69 per month. The cost of an ‘average’ virtual CAD machine is $50 per month (hint: check out our pricing). But here's the big kicker. Two casual CAD users can share one virtual CAD machine. When one virtual machine “serves” two CAD users, the cost per user drops to $25/month. This is less 40% of the amortization of physical machines ($69/month);

** The Business Dictionary defines “Heavy User” as

“…the roughly one-third of the consumers of a good or service who account for nearly two-thirds of its sales revenue. For example, 39 percent of all families consume 90 percent of all cola drinks, and 48 percent of all families consume 87 percent of all breakfast cereals in the US. “.

According to this definition, the casual users are thus roughly other two-thirds, or 66% of all CAD users.


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