2013-04-02

Performance Optimizer from Dell

I'm a bit spotty about what press releases I pass on here on my blog, mostly because I don't find many of them very interesting (sorry, no offense to the vendors who have taken the time to share such valuable information with me, but, I've got a terribly short attention span).

But! I couldn't resist scheduling a meeting with Dell about their new performance optimizer. I remember the days when I first started using AutoCAD professionally, and picked up advice on the AUGI Guilds and Forums and elsewhere about how to tweak paging files and memory allotments, because standard Windows configurations just weren't made with more powerful programs in mind and neither our IT department nor my department's programmer had any idea about how Autodesk software worked.
Of course, software for engineering and analysis and animation has only gotten more complex since then, so I can imagine that there are many people out there who could benefit from some more packaged settings adjustments for their workstations.

Enter the Dell Precision Performance Optimizer.
The PPO has three different basic functions:
  • Performance Optimization
  • Maintenance 
  • Analytics
Performance Optimization allows for the automatic loading of 'profiles' based on the application you run. These profiles will adjust the CPU, memory, storage, graphics and operating system settings when you load a program.
I specify the loading because, if you work as I do, with multiple applications loaded all day, you could be calling into play conflicting profiles. The ideal situation, if you're working with one of the more resource intensive programs out there (like Maya, PTC or Solidworks), would be to only have one of these applications loaded at a time. I don't tend to run more than one memory-intensive program at a time, but, as I have many other applications running simultaneously, I figured I should ask. This has been taken into account with the PPO. If you've got multiple profiles loading with your apps, then the user is prompted to decide which of the conflicted settings to utilize.
Maintenance function enables "automated or manual updates for new drivers, BIOS, application software, firmware and other vital components", which can save a user from forgetting about searching for them.
Tracking and Reporting. This was a fun addition to the Performance Optimizer that I wasn't expecting. With this component, you can see "how much free memory is available, processor utilization, thermal sensor data, battery state and more. Detailed reports can be scheduled to run and analyze system utilization at any time."
The application that came immediately to mind for me is justification for system upgrades. I have had to request a few deviations from IT standards over the years (first for my graphics card, then my mouse, then my CPU and OS) and the requests that went through the most easily were the ones where I had independent verification of my need.
This can be used to check out work loads for various tasks and applications. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of benchmarking and analytics and know that once you've got some data in your hands, you'll find many ways to use it.

The press release from Dell said that their benchmarks indicated that the performance optimization with these profiles can increase system performance by up to 57%. If you end up adding this tool to your arsenal, run some tracking and reporting on your current setup, then compare once you start using some of the profiles for your favorite heavy duty programs.

Oh, and, just because I asked, the PPO isn't a central management console, it's really meant for use by an individual, but it will, of course, work into your current IT administration systems and can be scripted or remotely accessed on the client side, etc as other tools.

The performance optimizer is free and can be downloaded here:
[oops, sorry, they said the link isn't working, I'll post an update when I get it]
and it will come "pre-installed on Dell Precision T1650, T3600, T5600, T7600, M4700 and M6700 workstations with Windows 7 (32 & 64 bit) and Windows 8 (64 bit) operating systems."

There should be an in-depth video available here. And a blog post.

Many thanks to Karl Paetzel (Marketing Director, Dell Precision) and Alex Shows (Sr. Systems Engineer for Precision Performance Engineering) for taking the time to explain the PPO to me and answer my questions.
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