Many of us have heard of terms like cluster computing or server farms and once you begin to apply these resource harnessing techniques to CAD and CAE tools, you end up with a huge amount of CPU capacity at your disposal. A couple of weeks ago I did a revised show on the SolidWorks Task Scheduler since in the most recent build (2009 SP4), SolidWorks introduced a new sub-toolset called Network Monitor (NetMon). NetMon essentially deligates tasks to "node" computers on the network to participate in tasks that might consist of many sub-task routines. This coordinates the efforts in order to allow each system to utilize it's own resources and SolidWorks license to complete the large task in a fraction of the time. Currently this new feature can only partipitate in the "Convert Files" task, which consists of opening an older version and saving it in the current version. This repetitive task is perfect for deligation, however I hope to see more tasks added to NetMon's feature set.
This "cluster conversion" routine has existed for a while in SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, under the "Support/File Version Upgrade" folder in the install files. Once this utility is installed, it coordinates systems on the network, much in the same way NetMon does, to convert files inside the vault the the current version of SolidWorks.
Another front that has been utilizing the cluster format is SolidWorks Flow Simulation (previously called FloWorks). Within the "Batch Run" dialog, not only can the solver take advantage of the various CPU's on the local system, but also other systems running Flow Simulation as well, creating a CFD server farm within your organization.
Many task oriented procedures are responsible for causing our productivity to go down or at least bring it to an annoying crawl. These are some techniques that might be a solution to take advantage of standby CPUs that are already on the books. Even if you can offload these CPU intensive tasks to anthoer "speed challenged" system, it will enable you to continue on without watching the simpliest applications drag while a task is being run locally! ~Lou