Machine learning is opening the door to exciting new opportunities for engineers and data scientists, with a range of AI workstations redefining the limits of what’s possible.
Generative artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies are among the fastest-growing modern disciplines, with intuitive data analytics unleashing new benchmarks of complexity and sophistication in every aspect of computing.
But the immense data sets being harnessed and filtered require equally immense amounts of memory and processing power to prototype, develop and fine tune 3D visualisations and detailed modelling simulations.
Luckily, a new generation of AI workstations are so powerful they can even cope with cognitive technology platforms such as generative AI and perform the bewildering number of calculations many engineering projects require.
Fuelled by the latest graphics processing units (GPUs) and data science software stacks, they provide unparalleled insights and shorten the time period between an idea forming and viewing actual results.
Smarter AI workstations
“Engineers need a lot more power from their computers if, for example, they’re using AutoCAD for design work or studying 3D renders of products in development,” said David Siroky, Dell’s Head of Artificial Intelligence for Asia Pacific.
“These workstations have built-in AI that learns how you work to create a smarter, more intuitive experience.”
Among the most advanced are Dell’s latest Precision Workstations, available as laptops or fixed desktops, which are purpose-built with faster GPUs to handle the demanding applications data scientists need.
For Siroky, they represent a seismic shift in the so-called “engineering triangle”.
“Every computer is a trade-off between three factors: speed, size and battery life,” he said. “Engineers want them to be fast, small and with long lasting batteries, but you can’t have all three. If it’s fast and small, its battery life will be challenged; if It’s small with a good battery life, it probably won’t be the fastest system out there.
“With Precision, however, you can get closer than ever before to satisfying each factor as there’s a hell of a lot packed into a small space.”
Packing in more memory
One way this has been achieved for desktop units is removing portability. That means there’s no need for an incorporated battery or inbuilt laptop display, freeing up room for additional memory, faster CPUs and more powerful GPUs inside. It can make a huge difference as the pin-sharp graphics that an eight-million-pixel screen produces use up 8GB of the GPU’s capacity.
The Precision laptops also punch above their weight, their sleek design belying a surprising amount of computing power from multiple processor cores, solid-state drives and state-of-the-art graphics processing units.
“Every engineer knows their requirements in terms of portability verses enhanced power,” Siroky said.
“A bigger laptop screen means there’s more space for batteries, while a heavier desktop tower isn’t going to come with you everywhere you go — but its processing abilities will be exceptional.”
Surpassing gaming PCs
AI desktop workstations go well beyond even the most high-end gaming PCs, and can tackle the biggest foundation models, such as Falcon LLM, a generative AI chatbot similar to Chat GPT and Bard but open-sourced with its software freely available.
“Such a platform can be downloaded and then customised over time to optimise performance,” Siroky said. “It can also be taught new things to improve how it interacts with customers or users.
“You could input a 300-word technical document and get Falcon to summarise it in a single page. That’s way beyond the skill set of a regular computer.”
Also out of reach for work stations devoid of AI is modelling the design for a new plane and then asking it to find 25 ways to make it 30 per cent lighter or accommodate 10 additional passengers.
The number of calculations involved would run into the billions, yet AI workstations would take seconds to not only complete them but learn from the exercise and handle any 3D printing.
With Dell Optimizer, a software application that intelligently enhances performance, the Precision range can even be configured to a customer’s cognitive framework to improve efficiencies and user experience.