t h e   b u s i n e s s   o f  c a d


Issue #741 |  July 3, 2012
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In This Issue


1. Benchmarking Rendering: Desktop vs Cloud

- Readers React, Part 1

2. Readers React, Part 2


3. Out of the Inbox, and the other regular columns.



Benchmarking Rendering: Desktop vs Cloud

Last issue, I tested the speed in rendering AutoCAD's largest sample 3D model on my computers vs Autodesk's online rendering service. The results generated many letters to the editor, which I reproduce here. The content of the letters fell into two distinct camps: (a) See! The cloud is useless; and (b) Argh! Your benchmark was unfair, because it should have used a more complex model more fair to online rendering.


Of those in the unfair camp, many said I should have used a more complex model, especially from Revit. Which mads me wonder....

... is Revit really slow at rendering?

... is cloud rendering not meant for AutoCAD users?

... how do users know where the cut-off is between models simple enough to be rendered faster on their desktop computer. and those complex enough to pay extra to have them rendered on the cloud?

I know that benchmarking is controversial, and so I clearly laid out ALL the specifications for the benchmarking I performed. Autodesk's online rendering is free to everyone, and so I look forward to others doing their own benchmarks in the near future so that we can see how results differ objectively. I am not interested in subjective reports, such as "cloud should be faster" and "cloud felt faster."


Readers Respond, Part 1

"I am in a bit of a quandary here. I read your latest newsletter and I need some clarification. I thought that this cloud stuff was supposed to allow us to fire our IT [information technoloyg] department, because the cloud would just work quickly and reliably, saving us time and money. Especially when compared to all that clunky dated archaic laptop/desktop dinosaur stuff from yesteryear we so foolishly cling to.


"Also, weren't these cloud guys supposed to enable us to work from only a cheap, smart terminal? I heard that that we would not have to buy workstations anymore, since their servers would be doing the heavy lifting."
      - Dave Ault

The editor replies: "I wonder when Autodesk will stop using the phrase 'infinite computing',"



"Your special on 'Benchmarking the Cloud' is timely. Information Week is currently running a series on cloud ROI [return on investment] and its pitfalls. (IW is a more general IT site, but its readers are the folks at the big companies who pull the mandate trigger on these types of things.) My take on this is that you can save money -– in some instances -– but you have to have a very sharp pencil, and someone has to be watching the till at all times. If you have some down time, below is some reference reading:

"For most folks, go slow on this -- watch the show (it's gonna be good!), but join in later."
      - Lynn Brielmaier, Thrustmaster


"I always enjoy your weekly eZine, because it is so unbiased and 'upfront', just like we Germans like it. I have to comment on the 'Desktop vs. Cloud Rendering' article:

I guess you can call the desktop rendering a 'rendering'. To me, this is some advanced Phong shading that you can do in realtime in any CAD application. So it basically is a screenshot. Mid-90s state-of-the-art.


"The cloud rendering result is also awful. Look at the noise in the image, not to mention the lack of realistic materials, ground shadows, global illumination, etc. Also, were you able to preview this in realtime so you know exactly what you are getting, prior to hitting the [online] Render button? Or are you doing this on the desktop prior to uploading it to the cloud? And what happens if you need to make a change to the assembly?


"But thanks for sharing. It proves the point that the hype about cloud rendering is just that: hype. The workflow completely sucks and the software used to create the rendering delivers useless results. What is the point?"
      - Thomas Teger, vp of products and strategy
        Luxion, Inc


The editor replies: "To answer your questions: There is no preview before uploading the image to the cloud renderer, other than what can be generated in AutoCAD anyhow. If the assembly changes, you need to re-upload the entire model. (To readers: Luxion provides desktop rendering software.)"


Mr Teger responds: "For those in the unfair camp: if the workflow for a 2.3MB model already sucks, how much worse will it get with a big model? Plus, complexity is not necessarily related to file size. It is related to complexity of the model itself along with materials that have been used. And the size of the image doesn't matter. 640 by 480 or 6400 by 4800. If it sucks at 640 by 480, it will suck even more for a larger image.


"Those who think that the comparison is unfair have obviously no clue about rendering. At least for the most part. They are just jumping on the 'cloud' bandwagon without understanding the issues on hand."


The editor replies: "To answer your additonal question: The workflow is the same for big models, so it would not suck worse."


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Readers Respond, Part 2

"I really must take issue with the methodology you used in comparing AutoCAD's built-in rendering command with the new cloud-based rendering. A rendering that takes only 4 seconds on your local machine is hardly a valid test.


"I have been testing computers and graphics cards and writing about AutoCAD about as long as you have. My reviews are regularly published in Desktop Engineering magazine, and I have taught numerous classes about rendering at Autodesk University. I also recently added more that 3 dozen lessons on rendering, both local and cloud-based, to the CADLearning series of video-based tutorials for 4D Technologies' AutoCAD 2013 course.


"As part of my reviews for Desktop Engineering, I perform a rendering test using a drawing I obtained from Heidi Hewett at Autodesk. Although the drawing itself is relatively simple, it includes numerous materials and multiple light sources, all of which result in much longer rendering times. On a relatively fast dual-core workstation, it is not unreasonable for the rendering to take up to 5 minutes, whereas on a system equipped with two 8-core CPUs with hyper threading enabled, the rendering might be completed in less than a minute. In addition to the number of materials and light sources, the resolution of the rendered image as well as the render quality will also impact the overall rendering time.


"Again, this is for a relatively simple model. It would not be unreasonable for a highly detailed model with multiple light sources, all casting shadows, to take 30 minutes or more even on a very fast system with multiple CPUs. While I have not performed any benchmark tests yet comparing local rendering of such a model to Autodesk's online rendering service, I would expect the online service to be considerably faster.


"While you do make some mention of the fact that it does take some time to initially transmit the model to the Autodesk 360 service (and you experienced some problems in doing so), it is also worth noting that the online service can render multiple scenes from the same model, whereas to do this on a local system, you would need to render each scene individually. Furthermore, when you render locally, you cannot do anything else in AutoCAD while the rendering is being computed, whereas when you use the online rendering service, you can go back to work in AutoCAD as soon as the online render request has been processed.


"I also suspect that most people who use the Autodesk 360 service log in when they first start AutoCAD. They would therefore already be connected when they clicked the Render Online button and therefore would not experience the same delays as you.


"From the image you supplied, I can see that you rendered the model at a resolution of 640x480 using the Medium render preset, settings that are hardly representative of real-world situations. In my tests, I typically render at a resolution of 1280x1024 using the Presentation Quality preset. It's also apparent from the lack of shadows and materials, that you likely rendered using the default lighting mode and that the Oil Module drawing contained no materials.


"I suggest that you come up with a more realistic test before you start publishing results that are purported to be representative of real-world results or typical user experiences."
       - David Cohn


The editor replies: "I clearly laid out the specifications for the benchmarking so that readers could take it at face value. I look forward to seeing the results you obtain from running Ms Hewett's model on Autodesk's cloud rendering service."

"I would be interested in a rendering test of a real rendering, with highlights, shiny material, and a normal resolution, not just 640 x 480. Renderings are used for presentation; a tiny, matt image like yours is not a realistic test subject IMHO. I bet when it comes to real renderings, the cloud will win."
     - Ralf Steck
       Die Textwerkstatt, Germany

"I was looking forward to the read on desktop vs cloud rendering, but it does not seem like you are comparing apples to apples, nor are you realizing where the power of the cloud rendering is coming into play. It looks like on your AutoCAD rendering that you have no light source casting shadows on the one you did on the cloud. The Autodesk rendering you did looks nothing more than AutoCAD's realistic visual style, which as you said is rendered in real time.


"Using a rendering that only takes 4 seconds to do on the desktop is OBVIOUSLY going to take longer to do over the cloud and is just not worth it. It's going to take more time uploading/downloading the data than it took the desktop to do what you did. The benefits of using the cloud are for large renderings with high quality that normally run hours on the desktop. Not only will the cloud do these renderings quicker, but you can send multiples, where the desktop can only do one at a time.


"There are times it may be better to use the desktop, like these small jobs that was done in the article, but the rendering on the cloud will be just as much a no brainer for larger or multiple renderings."
    - Dave Wahl
      Bergmann Associates

Mr Wahl responded to my question, 'Is Revit really slow at rendering?': "I honestly have never rendered in AutoCAD before, we only use AutoCAD for 2D drafting. We use Revit for our 3D models, from which we render from. For our larger renderings we export in fbx [format], and do the rendering in 3dMax, for which we have a 24-core processor rendering farm machine. We have tested rendering to the cloud from Revit and it has worked wonders. The process of uploading, downloading, and monitoring the rendering is great.


"Rendering from Revit can be very slow depending on what you are rendering. Of course complexity of lighting and materials are what drives a lot of this.


"I agree I am not about to dive into this cloud-based CAD hype, but from what I have seen and tried so far with the Autodesk 360 cloud rendering, I LOVE it. I just wish Autodesk would get their act in gear as far as a way to manage our corporate units, so that I would feel more comfortable utilizing this tool on a corporate level."



"I get that was the most complex you had, but really? 2.3 megs? Why not ask for a larger file from someone and then run the test? I would think Autodesk would be rather unhappy with your article as it didn't paint their solution in a very good light.


"I'm thinking of running a similar test for the Vectorworks Cloud Service, which also renders, and see what happens. It can also do animations. Those take hours to do if they are very high quality (bounced light with GI + HDRI backgrounds, etc). These guys should be installing a version on 8-16 chip AMD servers which allow the threading in the rendering code to really fly. But you need longer renderers to really see the speed up."
      - Anthony Frausto-Robledo

"I got your eZine forwarded to me today. I'm the Technical Product Manager for Autodesk 360 Rendering. Your experience is a bit atypical, but it has some elements that a lot of first time users face when trying our service.


"I saw you mentioned some mix-ups with 32-bit components and .Net framework becasue of your beta installations. (I'm not aware af other users having similar issues.) Typically, users have firewall issues because of restrictive policies an their companies, or entitlement set-up issues when their subscriptions are not connected to the serial numbers of the products they are using.


"I wanted to address a couple of other points you mentioned:


"The AutoCAD rendering was extremely fast locally, because it looks like you were not using any lights. This make the rendering extremely easy for mental ray, as no GI [global illumination] or dome skylight is used. Once on the cloud, that file is rendered with full GI, and the process is of course slower.


"We expect that small, simple renderings will take longer on the cloud because of overhead processing. But that's not the typical use, especially for our main product, Revit, where renderings have very complex lighting and geometry.


"Interior rendering also performs much better on the cloud renderer because of the advanced GI technology we use.


"On large renderings that take hours in Revit, the overhead is a minor issue and the speed of the renderings is more noticeable. We have renderings that take 66 hours on an 8-core [desktop computer], rendering in 32 minutes on the cloud.


"The other advantage is the ability to batch-render all views. On Revit files with dozens of views, a user can expect to have the first image start rendering in 2-3 minutes (our average queue time), and often have 2 or more rendering processing at the same time. Of course, these numbers depends on the service load. You are just one of the hundreds of users that use the service daily. The service scales up to maintain an acceptable queue time for the first image. The queue is a fair queue, and tries to satisfy everyone equally. Tuning of the service is constant, and adjustments are done as the service load increases over time.


"AutoCAD is at its first version of the full integration, and it has lighting standards that are not supported by the cloud renderer because they are not physically correct."
      - Roberto Ziche




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Out of the Inbox

Risersoft releases UnitCAD ($995) drawing automation software for AutoCAD 2012/13. It works by "defining reusable unit components stored inside a database and controlled through parameters." http://www.unitcad.com


Big release of IntelliCAD, in which v7.2 has 600+ fixes, plus faster speed, and lots of new features: .NET application support, find and replace text, import .dgn files, underlays, Collada (.dae) and MrSID (.sid) files, Notification Manager, and new entity snaps. You cannot, however, access it right now, because the new code needs to be integrated by consortium members into their software. http://www.intellicad.org


TRL and Design Pro Software launch two new programs, Sign Design Pro and Line Design Pro for designing traffic signs or lines according to TSRGD 2002 and international standards. Includes an integrated structural tool designing posts and foundations. http://www.trlsoftware.co.uk


InspectionXpert has a new add-on for InspectionXpert for PDF and InspectionXpert OnDemand. CMMXpert imports data from almost any CMM software directly into InspectionXpert projects. CMM = coordinate measuring machine. http://www.inspectionxpert.com/Products/CMMXpert/tabid/220/language/en-US/Default.aspx


Now also on Android: ForceEffect from Autodesk, for interactively calculating structural forces on joints, etc. Download at no charge from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.autodesk.fbd.activities


Jimmy Bergmark upgrades DWG Columns with support for DWG 2013 file format at http://www.jtbworld.com/dwg-explorer-column-handler.htm , as well as DwgInfoTip at http://www.jtbworld.com/DwgInfoTip.htm


Bricsys updates Bricscad Linux so that the RedSDK now supports graphics boards from AMD (ATI); it also fixes a bunch of bugs. http://www.bricsys.com/common/releasenotes.jsp?i=2899


Until end of July, you can save $60 on up to five of nVidia's Quadro 4000 graphics boards through the mail-in rebate downloadable from here: http://www3.pny.com/QuadroPDFs/Disti-11-71574-Quadro-Limit-5.pdf


MecSoft Corporation ships VisualMILL 2012 for SolidWorks with a new 5-axis continuous milling module, new toolpath generators, and hundreds of other enhancements and fixes. http://www.mecsoft.com

On our blogs
These were some of the news items that were posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:

...and on Gizmos Grabowski blog <http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/gizmos/>

Letters to the Editor
"Sad news about Jake [Richter]. He was always a good head and a pleasure to engage in conversation."
      - John Moran, Boeing

Notable Quotable

"Giving your CAD data to someone else, and then renting it back from them is idiotic."
      - Matt Lombard, Dezign Stuff

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Entire contents copyright 2012 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.


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