Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Deploying AutoCAD with MDT 2010

In my latest book I discuss the various ways to automate the deployment of Autodesk products throughout a Windows network environment.  Among these is "imaging".  This is essentially where you automate the process of loading the base operating system, drivers, updates, and a set of "standard" applications on a new computer before delivering it to the user.  If you're using a network-licensed version of an Autodesk product and the majority of your users use the product, then adding it to the base image might make sense in your environment.

Microsoft provides a free application called Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, or MDT, for creating custom imaging configurations for your various needs.  This can range from various hardware models (drivers and utilities) to various user functions (role-based configurations for various departments or skillsets).  It is also the required component for deploying imaging services within System Center Configuration Manager 2007, where it rolls up into what is known as the Operating System Deployment (OSD) feature.  MDT employs a variety of components and toolkits such as WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit), .NET framework and so on.  For more information about MDT visit the Microsoft TechNet MDT web site.

MDT uses a "task sequence" process that allows you to create a custom chain of events to install and configure everything you need on each computer.  Think of it as being kind-of like a giant BAT script, but with a very robust GUI environment to work with.  You configure which operating system, which service packs and updates, which drivers, which settings to customize, and which applications.  You also configure the order in which these things are executed.

Why would you want to use MDT to deploy Autodesk Network-Licensed Products?

It can save on product network traffic overhead compared with pushing the installations out to computers in the environment.  You can easily segment and isolate network traffic between the MDT host server and the workbench where the computers are imaged.  This keeps the traffic off of your production routers and switches, thereby avoiding slowing down your users even during peak production hours.

Why would you NOT want to do this?

This is a bit tricky, and often subjective, but you have to consider how many licenses of the Autodesk product you have available (FLEXlm), compared with how often you max out usage, compared also with what percentage of your total computer user population could use a license at any given point in time.  An example might be if you have 500 computers/users, but only 100 AutoCAD licenses.  If 150 of your employees are potential AutoCAD users, especially frequent users, you may experience the dreaded "No available licenses / try again later" scenario.  If you are in this scenario, then putting AutoCAD on every desktop and laptop might only exascerbate the problem by making it too easy for even casual users or curious folks (non-users) to attempt to launch AutoCAD.

The missing piece

Assuming you're not worried about the downside described above, and you wish to pursue adding this into your base image process, what do you need to do?

You need to create a Deployment share for AutoCAD.  This is not to be confused with the "Deployment Share" referenced within MDT.  That's a different deployment share.  You have to create a network deployment share for the Autodesk product and create the deployment for the product to publish into that share.  This is done from the installation media main setup interface.  You will need to follow the same basic process as if you were creating a deployment for SCCM.  You should make sure you include the installation of .NET Framework 4.0 before the task sequence item that installs the Autodesk 2012 edition of your products.  You may also need to (separately) package the DirectX components.  Last but not least, you need to make sure your command-line for installing AutoCAD includes the /I /Q and /W parameters (as shown in the NAG, or Network Administration Guide).  If you forget the /W parameter, the installation will not pause the Task Sequence until it finishes, and will then create a problem where the next step begins execution before the AutoCAD installation is even partially completed.

If you build a proper AutoCAD Deployment and configure the Task Sequence within MDT properly, you should have a smooth process for including it in all of your newly imaged, or re-imaged computers before delivering them to the end-users.

Cheers!

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