Designed to Deliver

DQI Bureau
New Update

One popular question that many customers ask is, How exactly do I

differentiate between a workstation and a desktop? Or If I plug in a powerful

graphics card inside a desktop, will it be equivalent to a workstation?


The firm answer is, Not at all, you can never convert a desktop into a

workstation just by plugging in a graphics card. They are two different species

of personal computing systems, each tailor-made for doing totally different

kinds of work. A workstation is designed to deliver higher performance

capability than desktop personal computers.

In simple words, if you are a professional a workstation is ideally suited. A

PC is a general-purpose machine designed mainly for running office productivity

suites like Microsoft Office, emails, Power Point presentations, etc.

Workstations are designed for users who work on high-end applications that

require greater graphics capability, processing power, and need multitasking


The key points that differentiate a workstation from a PC being:

  • Overall system reliability: Workstations are fitted with higher

    reliability technology than PCs. Features such as error checking and

    correcting (ECC) memory, larger power supplies, and more sophisticated cooling

    mechanisms ensure higher reliability; moreover, workstations are designed for

    quick (and often tool-less) upgrades and repairs.
  • Application certification and overall stability: Workstations are often

    tested and certified by both the hardware vendor and software vendor to run

    specific applications, which need high computation and graphics power. Users

    are assured that they are using a tried-and-true combination of hardware,

    system software, and applications.
  • Enhanced performance: Workstations are engineered to provide the best

    performance available for a specific set of applications that typically have

    large resource requirements (i.e., memory, disk, I/O, and/or graphics

  • Wide range of graphics: Workstations provide a more elaborate support such

    as professional graphics cards for large and tough 3D visualization, OpenGL

    support, and specific application support to maximize on-screen performance.
  • Greater expandability: Workstations are designed with more headroom for

    additional components. For example, additional (and higher-powered) PCI slots,

    higher RAM capacity through increased number of memory slots, higher disk

    capacity, and higher capacity power supplies.

To Choose Between

The intended usage pattern and the type of software that a person plans to

use are important factors. If one were using any workstation application, then

the need would be higher levels of performance, reliability, and flexibility as

compared to a personal platform. Further, there is also a need for high level of

support and expertise from hardware vendors.


There are a number of key applications that benefit from the power of a

workstation such as design and simulation in engineering and manufacturing, oil

and gas, digital content creation (DCC) and entertainment, financial

applications and power office users, geographical information systems (GIS),

architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC).

Multi-core Workstations: Multi-core workstations that are quite popular

nowadays can accommodate two numbers of Quad-core processors. In other words,

users can harness the power of 8 processor cores from a workstation which can

sit on your desk.

Thus, a frequently asked question is about the number of processors a person

should use in their workstations. This obviously depends a lot on the type of

software that a person intends to use. For example, for multithreaded

applications whose performance increases as you increase the number of cores, it

is better to buy the maximum number of cores possible. CAE, CFD, rendering, etc

are normally multi-threaded and can get tremendous benefit from running on

multi-core workstations.


But in the case of CAD applications or digital content creation applications

that are not really multi-threaded, simply increasing the number of cores cannot

increase the productivity of the workstations. In this case, the workflow of the

workstation needs to be changed. Scalable Workflow is a concept that is very

relevant for such non-multithreaded applications.

In the Scalable Workflow concept, in order to take advantage of multiple

CPUs and cores, a multi-threaded application or simply more than one application

must be run at the same time. Multi-threaded applications typically show good

performance scaling as more processor cores are added. Using multiple

applications on the other hand can scale much better, as their tasks are

completely separate, and their scaling is only limited by availability of system


In case of making a purchase for a workstation, the desirable features to

look for are:

  • Specialized tools that come bundled with workstations to automatically

    fine-tune the performance of the workstations and to suit several MCAD, CAE,

    DCC, GIS, and AEC software
  • Software that enable remote collaboration and visualization of complicated

    models over very large distances, connected by a network
  • Superior mechanical design of the workstation that ensures quiet

    operations and optimal heat dissipation
  • Toolless chassis, very wide graphics card offerings high reliability, and

    large expandability of systems
  • Easy manageability tools to simplify IT management and lower TCO
  • Security tools to protect the intellectual property of corporates. Very

    high levels of physical, identity, data, and network security are assured with

    the help of several hardware and software tools
  • Specialized support and personalized after sales service. Multiple-tiers

    of support and escalation levels must be clearly defined and offered to

    high-end users
  • Standard, comprehensive, onsite 3 years warranty with an option to extend

    warranty up to 5 years
  • Conformance to very stringent safety and regulatory standards
  • Buy-back schemes for your current systems

Green Workstations: Though a workstation may have several good technical

features, it is not really a good workstation, unless it is environmental

friendly. The 80 PLUS efficient power supply is a popular standard. 80 PLUS is a

specification developed by an independent non-governmental organization


An 80 PLUS power supply ensures the same performance while saves money on

energy costs on each workstation installation. Actual savings depend on specific

configurations and the model used. It provides better power supply efficiency

leading to less heat output and, consequently, less fan noise, thus contributing

to a better office environment. The utility company supplying power saves money

on electrical infrastructure if all the energy demand is power factor corrected

(PFC). Using a power factor corrected workstation can help your organization

meet its environmental stewardship goals. Better for the environment, using less

energy, more efficiently in an office environment results in a smaller carbon



Moving a step forward, several of the workstations also conform to a standard

called Energy Star 4, which is an extremely stringent standard. Energy Star is a

joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of

Energy helping save money and protect the environment through energy efficient

products and practices ( Electronic Product Environmental

Assessment Tool (EPEAT) rating is yet another standard.

Future Workstations: Blade Workstations is one such new area. Rather than

placing the workstations computing power at the users desk, the computing

power, in the form of blade workstations, is moved to the data center where the

workstations can be easily, securely, and inexpensively managed. Centralizing an

organizations workstations in the data center provides many benefits, including

improved uptime and business continuity, remote management capabilities, fault

tolerant design, re-provisioning capabilities, outstanding uptime, etc.

The blade workstations offer enhanced data security by ensuring that

business-critical data remains in the data center and offer reduced IT costs to

a large extent by centralizing your organizations workstations into the data

center and by taking advantage remote management tools.

Anurag Gupta

The author is country category manager, Workstations, Personal Systems

Group, HP India.