I just dropped my $2,500 HP ZBook laptop and shot the battery across the room. Once I put it back together I have nothing but a blue screen. In our business, we spend most of our time doing complex numerical simulation to solve problems efficiently and cost effectively. In consulting we always seem to be traveling and that means expensive laptops to do our work while we are on the road. So, that is why I have resorted to a 6 pound laptop that is over 15 inches wide and as it turns out, breaks rather easily. There has to be a better way. A new technology called Secure Cloud Workspaces seems like the answer for us. We would love to hear what your design and engineering team is doing?
Our projects require speed, flexibility and portability. For certain jobs, we can work locally and we do that on a dedicated desktop in our engineering department. For jobs that require us to be out of the office being able to work in the conference room at a customer location and process alternative simulations with new data and customer feedback is a competitive advantage.
We have looked at Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). VDI is a technology that enables an organization to host many users on a single physical server. We were initially really excited about this technology until we got pricing information. We would be looking at a nearly $20,000 bill for the server plus additional costs for the thin clients. We would also have to pay thousands of dollars in consulting fees to set up our new system and pay to maintain it. It would take a few months to get it up and running. While this seems like a perfect solution in terms of capability, the costs and time required makes this a poor option for our group.
At this point I had resigned to just buying a new laptop online. Instead, I spent time catching up on some magazines in my office and happened to start reading Digital Engineering An article on Secure Cloud Workspaces just happened to be exactly relevant at exactly the right time. One option in the article was about a service from a company called Frame. Frame provides secure cloud workspaces. They create a virtual desktop designed for computer aided engineering users where you can scale up RAM, CPU, GPU and storage requirements to your current requirements and scale them down when you don’t need them. The desktop is powerful when you need to do CAD or simulation work and light when you need to type something in Microsoft Word. The desktop uses your licenses from software like Solidworks, CREO and suites from Autodesk. This keeps the cost of the service down. If I used the Frame virtual desktop on full power for eight hours a day and every workday of the year it would cost only $1,200. A more realistic number might be $500 a year. While this still sounds like a lot, I am spending $2,500 a year on expensive laptops since they never seem to last.
I can buy any cheap laptop that I want and just access our tools on a powerful virtual desktop whenever I need to. This feels like a huge cost savings and a lighter briefcase when I travel.