January 26, 2009
Boost Performance with 64-Bit Revit 2009
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Boost Performance with 64-Bit Revit 2009
By Susan Smith
It’s all very well to introduce a great product, but what happens when users really push the limits of the technology to the nth degree?
That’s the story behind Autodesk Revit, a building information modeling (BIM) product Autodesk that now has an installed base of 350,000 seats. Users have embraced BIM and consequently have begun running up against its limitations. Before they knew it, they were running out of room on a 32-bit operating system. In response to overwhelming customer demand, Autodesk debuted 64-bit Revit in September 2008. Yet at Autodesk University, it was learned that many customers were not aware of the new release, and continued to think that Revit was not substantial enough to manage the huge data files their organizations managed on a daily basis.
64-bit Revit swoops in like a superhero with computing power that provides performance, stability and large model size. The superhero comes with a price tag though: although the upgrade from 32-bit Revit is not that expensive, downloadable from the subscription site, users will have to go and buy a 64-bit CPU and a 64-bit operating system in order to run it.
According to Emile Kfouri, senior platform line manager for the AEC Solutions Division at Autodesk, once users experience what Revit can do on a larger operating system, they’ll see the investment well worth the expense. In one case study, an architectural firm was able to integrate several models into a single model linking all of them, then cut a single section of different views in less than an hour. With the 32-bit version, this procedure would have taken them at least a full day.
“64-bit Revit is one of the major solutions to complexity in BIM models,” said Kfouri. “There is a huge amount of information in BIM. The real power of BIM is the ability to enrich your model to add more data to it from a number of different sources and be able to leverage that data for visualization and analysis, cost estimation and procurement all the way through to facility management. As the teams and projects get bigger and the richness of data increases, you start running out of space with a 32 bit program.”
Kfouri gave a good description of the differences between 32 and 64 bit computing. Basically with 32-bit computing, he said you’re dealing with memory address. “If you’re in a city and the city only uses two digits to define city blocks or the address on a block then the best you can do is get a 100 buildings, or addresses, on that block. If a city starts using 3 digits, then you can get 999 addresses on that block. In effect, that’s exactly what 32-bit vs. 64-bit computing is, with 32 bit computing the total amount space you can address in memory is #2 to the power of 32 which comes out to roughly 4 GB memory. With 64-bit computing you’re able to access #2 to the power of
64 which brings you to 17 exabytes which is around 17 million GB memory. That’s the theoretical number.”
32-bit computing is also like a box, said Kfouri, where you run out of space quickly. The operating system has to figure out whether it will save itself or make the whole thing fall apart. When you get close to the edges of the box with 32-bit computing, your application can become unstable, and the OS can also become unstable. This is where many users have experienced crashes with 32-bit Revit. Because 64-bit is so much bigger, there is a lot more room to fill before you would run out of space.
The ability to work with much larger models and much richer data on more complex projects is an enticement that many committed Revit users may not be able to resist. BIM’s inherent ability to manage complexity, whether through geographic dispersion or model complexity, is why organizations want to use it for their high visibility projects. The opportunities BIM can offer can truly be realized with 64-bit Revit rather than relying on the limitations of a 32-bit environment.
Kfouri pointed out that 64-bit Revit is forward compatible but not backwardly compatible so you can take a 32-bit native application and run it on a 64-bit operating system but you can’t take a 64 bit native application and run it on a 32-bit operating system. 64-bit Revit can only run on a 64 bit OS, but it can’t run on the 32-bit versions of those OS. However, 32-bit Revit can run on both 32-bit and 64-bit OS.
Any CPU purchased within the past two years will support 64-bit, according to Kfouri, and then they will need a 64-bit OS. Most companies’ licensing agreements allow them to install either a 32 or 64-bit operating system, and all the verticals are 64-bit.
Choosing to go with 64-bit tackled a bigger issue than performance, said Kfouri. Model size and stability were also issues that are addressed with 64-bit. The model size dilemma “speaks to the relevance of BIM and the problem it’s trying to solve in industry, a problem people have had for ages,” said Kfouri. “Now they have a tool that enables them to create more complicated projects, to be able have more visibility into the design, embracing it fully.”
Does a 64-bit system allow you to then add different things or attempt different types of models? “The whole goal of 64-bit computing is to make it as similar to 32-bit as possible,” said Kfouri. “However, there are always opportunities to optimize from one OS vs. another, we explore any opportunities to take advantage of the different OS, to see how we can improve the experience of Revit.” The OS allows the user room to grow, as there are certain tasks users would not have pursued with Revit knowing the model could never be larger than two or three GB. “Now the ability to have much larger models allows us to look at the product in a way we wouldn’t have before.”
When Autodesk put out the 64-bit beta of Revit 2008, Kfouri said some companies immediately changed their computer specifications to prepare themselves for 64-bit computing.
Even though 64-bit computing provides a lot of advantages, Kfouri cautions users that 64-bit Revit is no substitute for best practices in design firms. The advantages of 64-bit Revit are better coordination, accuracy, less waste and ability to make better decisions in one model.
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