Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autodesk Network Deployment Strategies

This is going to be sort of an extension of yesterday's post and on some of the topics covered in my book "The AutoCAD Network Administrator's Bible".  Mainly: how to unleash an Autodesk network deployment installation on your network with some logical and strategic efficiency regarding traffic isolation.

If you've ever taken a certification exam, this may all seem very familiar.


Let's start with a model:  Fictional Corporation

New York, NY - is the main data center for the company.  The data center is state of the art with blade servers, SAN device arrays, and virtualized servers and virtual data center switches.  While being the largest office in the company, there are no AutoCAD users in this office, at present.  However, the company IT department creates and maintains all software distribution resources for the company.  They build the AutoCAD network deployment and host it (initially) in the NY data center.

Chicago, IL - is the second largest office in the company, but has the largest concentration of AutoCAD users in the company.  The connection between NY and Chicago uses multiple/redundant T-1 connections.

Washington, DC - is the third largest office, with the fewest AutoCAD users.  The connection link between NY and DC is fractional T-1.  Not bad, and not unreliable, but not as fast as the NY-Chicago link

Virginia Beach, VA - is the smallest office with the second largest group of AutoCAD users.  The link between NY-VB is fractional T-1, about the same performance characteristics as NY-DC.

The IT department utilizes Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to deploy software, updates, collect inventory data, as well as uses it for provisioning new and refreshed computers.  There are primary site servers in Chicago and Washington DC.  Virginia Beach has a seconary site server.  All four site servers are also distribution points.

The file, print, and Configuration Manager site servers in the remote offices are physical machines.  The servers in NY are virtual.


All computers in the company run Windows 7 Enterprise Edition, Service Pack 1.  All servers are running Windows Server 2008 or 2008 R2.  The IT department has installed a FlexLM(R) license server in New York and obtained a valid license file from Autodesk.  They have configured the license server and verified it is operating normally.

The IT department creates the first AutoCAD network deployment share on a server in the NY data center.  They are aware of the deployment caveates for .NET Framework 4.0 and have already packaged the AutoCAD DirectX(R) component installer as an .MSI. 

Using Configuration Manager (aka "SCCM"), they deploy .NET Framework 4.0 to all computers in the company successfully.  They also deploy the DirectX(R) custom installer successfully. They then deploy a few test clients in the NY office using SCCM successfully.  Everything so far looks good.

Within SCCM they assign additional distribution point servers for the AutoCAD deployment package, one for each remote office.  They create the necessary collections and add direct memberships for clients in each remote office to a corresponding office-related collection and assign the advertisement.

The IT department runs server data backups over the WAN links to the NY data center for archival between midnight and 2AM ET (1AM Chicago time).  Client computers are schedule to run disk defrag, and anti-virus scans between 2AM and 4AM local time.  Tests show that the AutoCAD deployment takes roughly 40 minutes to install on a full T-1 connection, and 60 minutes on a fractional T-1 connection.

Few, if any, of the remote office clients successfully install.  Most return an error that the package timed out.

Question 1: What Happened?

What might have caused the remote office clients to fail the installation attempt when the clients in the New York office completed the installation just fine?  Was it...

  1. The Package did not finish replicating to the remote office distribution point servers.
  2. The network links might have been saturated with concurrent traffic during the deployment.
  3. The replicated package files contained identical deployment .INI content, so the clients attempted to install from the New York server share.
  4. Answers 1 and 2
  5. Answers 2 and 3
  6. All of the Above
  7. None of the Above

The answer is (definitely) 3 but could also be 2, so the best answer is 5.

Question 2: How to Fix This:

When you run an installation from the network deployment share, the process refers to the DEPLOYMENT_LOCATION key in the .INI file.  So, what's the best way to address this?

A. Open the deployment .INI on each SCCM package share and edit the DEPLOYMENT_LOCATION value to refer to the local share UNC path.

B. Build each deployment "on" a server in each remote office, then create a SCCM package and program that refers to the UNC as a distribution share.

C. Build each deployment "on" a server in each remote office, in a separate folder create a .bat or .cmd script that references the setup command for that server.  Create a SCCM package and program that points to that script.

Best Answer?  ____

FlexLM License Servers

After sorting out their deployment issues, all clients are working fine and obtaining licenses from the license server as expected.  The IT department decides they want to add a little redundancy by implementing two more FlexLM(R) license servers in a Distributed configuration.  They provision a license server in Chicago and another in Washington DC. 

The clients were originally installed using a system environment variable to assign the FlexLM(R) server setting.  Now they want to reconfigure the Chicago users to point to their own license server first, then the New York server, followed by the DC server.  The DC users are to be configured so they point to their license server first, then New York, followed by Chicago.  Lastly, the Virginia Beach users should point to DC, then NY, and then Chicago.

What's the Easiest way to accomplish this change?

A. Modify each deployment using the deployment utility "Modify Deployment" link, and enter new FlexLM server information, then re-deploy the installations to all clients for each site.

B. Create a SCCM package and program that executes a script to configure the system environment variable to suit each location.  Target the clients using collections based on site assignment.

C. Create four Group Policy Objects with a Group Policy Preference setting to replace the system environment variable value, link the GPO to the Active Directory OU for each site.

Best Answer?  _____

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