Software-Defined CAD Machines Are Eating CAD Workstations

Software-Defined CAD Machines Are Eating CAD Workstations

Software-Defined CAD Machines Are Eating CAD Workstations

Software is eating CAD Workstations. Your traditional chunky computer and hardware? It’s about to be swallowed by the next generation in software-defined CAD Workstations. You see, software is eating the world – from word processing to file storage and even gaming – every kind of technology today is being overtaken by cloud-based, software-defined alternatives. And today 3D CAD workstations are on the menu. 

This is good news for CAD users – it means they can cut the cord that locks them to their physical CAD workstations, meaning they can work from anywhere! IT departments will share in the joy too. They can slash their hardware costs and reduce the burden of administering their CAD workstation fleet.

What do you mean by “software is eating the world”?

In 2011, prominent investor Marc Andreessen announced in the Wall Street Journal that “Software is eating the world”. To describe what he meant, he pointed to HP’s decision to jettison its PC business - Andreessen 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”.

The same can be said 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?

Software defined CAD machines are swallowing up physical CAD workstations simply because they offer a better way of working. A physical machine comes with many inconveniences:

  • They hold the CAD user hostage. The user has to go where the CAD workstation is. Shouldn't it be the other way around? 
  • They can only be bought (or leased/rented for a period of three years or longer) as capital equipment.
  • They cannot be shared among colleagues.
  • They are expensive to own and run and this gap will keep growing further.
  • They age and must therefore be updated or replaced at great expense

For both CAD users and their colleagues in IT, virtual CAD machines are the ideal solution:

  1. They allow users to be more mobile, working from home, a partner company’s office, a hotel or anywhere they want
  2. The cost saving potential on hardware for some CAD users could be as high as 50%*
  3. IT teams save hours installing, managing, patching and maintaining hardware

Is it the end for CAD workstations?

Many of the world’s biggest companies have already started using virtualised CAD machines in some form or another, showing that designers at leading businesses are getting real value from CAD in the cloud. And, with cloud-based solutions like designairspace making it possible for any business – regardless of size or location – to use CAD in the cloud, it really does look like CAD Workstations are set to be swallowed up by a new generation of tech.

Want to see how it works? Try our free trial today.


*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);