When I was barely a teenager, in the early ’70s. I became interested in car magazines. In the back of some of those magazines, I’d often see ads for a company called Baldwin/Motion Performance. They sold brand new hot-rodded Camaros that were guaranteed to run 11.50 second or faster quarter miles at the drag strip. Baldwin/Motion Performance Camaros represented the epitome of tuner-built hot rods. They were fast enough that, according to Super Chevy magazine, you could buy one, and, with no further tuning, win the A/MP class at the Winternationals.
During the same period, other companies also sold fast Camaros. Though GM’s official policy in the late 60’s and early 70’s was that they didn’t support drag racing, there was a way to get nearly drag-ready cars, if you knew the trick. A few dealers, notably Yenko Chevrolet, managed to get Chevrolet to install Corvette 427ci L-72 engines in Camaros, through the “central office purchase order” process. These factory hot rod COPO Camaros came with a full factory warranty. Nearly perfect examples have sold for over $2.2 million USD at auction.
Muscle cars have little to do with CAD, but I was reminded of these cars, at least by analogy, when I was at the SolidWorks World 2012 show, in San Diego, last week.
While there, I attended a press conference announcing HP’s new Z1 engineering workstation. This machine is sort of analogous to a factory hot rod. It comes with a stunning 27” built in display, a quad-core Intel Xeon processor, NVIDIA Quadro graphics, and uses ECC (error correction code) memory—which is particularly desirable for critical engineering software applications (See Wikipedia’s entry on ECC memory for background on this.)
There’s no doubt that the Z1 costs more than a typical commodity PC. But, for people doing serious CAD, CAE, or CAM work, the performance and reliability the system offers is worth the premium.
While at SolidWorks World, I also had a chance to chat with Rick Krause, CEO of BOXX Technologies. BOXX makes what could be considered the equivalent of a tuner-built hot rod. Their 3DBOXX 3970 XTREME workstation is designed to provide the best performance possible for serious 3D CAD work. That is, it’s performance isn’t tuned for doing spreadsheets and web browsing (which benefit from multiple core processors), it’s tuned for doing serious CAD work (which requires fewer, but faster cores.)
Let’s go back to the car analogy: Yenko Chevrolet sold stock Camaros, with the biggest and best engines GM offered. Baldwin Chevrolet sold hot-rodded Camaros, also with the biggest and best engines GM offered, but tuned to put out over 500+ horsepower (while still being streetable.)
The HP Z1 engineering workstations use Intel’s biggest and best processors. The BOXX XTREME workstations also use Intel’s biggest and best processors – tuned (overclocked) for the most horsepower.
BOXX doesn’t really like to use the work “overclock,” because it implies that they’re pushing the processor past it’s design spec. BOXX works closely with Intel, to make sure they stay within the processor design specs. Since they use liquid-cooling, they can push the processor faster, without reliability problems. Their workstations are backed-up by a 3 year warranty, and, in their history of selling overclocked systems, they’ve never experienced a processor failure.
If you’re a serious CAD, CAE, or CAM user, and you can out-run your current computer, you need to take a serious look at getting a factory-built or tuner-built hot rod computer.
Photo courtesy Baldwin-Motion