64 bit operating systems were originally aimed at the next generation (which is here now) CAD Workstations to run high end and demanding cad applications. 32 - bit software is fast becoming obsolescent for the real power users, and 64 – bit versions of many Cad software applications have already been released as many of the top software houses are eager to squeeze every last ounce of performance from modern Cad workstations in order to make their applications even more productive.
In a Cad workstation 64 bit technology is all about addressing vast amounts of physical memory (RAM) and computing information far quicker.
For example with 64 bit operating systems you can in theory address 16 Exabyte's but it is unlikely that any application will ever be able to use that much RAM in the near future, and none of today's hardware can even support anywhere close to that amount at present.
64-bit operating systems will allow 32-bit programs to use the full 4GB of RAM where required and will allow some programs to be recompiled/compiled into 64-bit applications thereby allowing them to use much more RAM giving much faster more stable applications (subject to hardware configurations of course).
This of course makes the software applications far more powerful and gives a business an even better return on investment in their CAD technology making this an all round win-win scenario.
The Benefit for Power Users and Cad / Digital Content Creation specialists is quite exciting and very real. This group of users has had to suffer the inadequacies of available and affordable hardware for many years but that has and is coming to an end.
Typically these professional (and traditionally 32-bit) software applications can be compiled to "see" up to 4GB of memory, but as previously stated windows 32 - bit operating systems limits windows to use 2GB of memory for applications and 2GB for system use by default. A typical example of this would be for instance Autodesk's Inventor 3D software which could take advantage of any extra GB of ram to perform much much better with larger and more complex data sets.
Many commercial applications such as Digital Content Creation (DCC), Mechanical CAD (MCAD), Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software have swiftly outgrown the 4 GB limitations, as they need to manage extremely large data sets which require access to much more (preferably) physical memory.
It may help more to explain how these applications essentially work. Computer programs and their data are initially stored on the system's hard disk. The program (or part of a very large program) is loaded into the system's memory by the operating system and the program then loads its data as needed.
The operating system will swap in and out data and program code between memory and disk depending on how much memory is required by the program versus how much physical memory is available.
Ideally, the program, data, operating system kernel, and libraries will be loaded into physical memory as memory accesses are orders of magnitude faster than even today's fastest disk drives.
Simply put the more of this data that can be stored in physical memory the better the program will perform, and time savings (sometimes upwards of an hour a day) are not uncommon so the return on a proper CAD computer is very justifiable indeed.
In summary if you are a business owner or an IT support specialist, then you should be considering 64 bit operating systems for your CAD workstations. Equally be aware that the current different versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 can address different levels of memory, so make sure you have the most suitable version of a 64 bit operating system for your CAD workstation requirements.
Having explored the importance of Cad workstations and 64 - bit operating systems in greater depth, lets now have a look at how important workstation graphics cards are to productivity.