Moving Autodesk License Servers via Group Policy

Showing you what I did on a recent project with a client – moving license servers on a few hundred workstations automatically! Very useful when migrating servers or retiring servers, or even making sure workstation have a backup license server in the cloud. Using Group Policy, we make an environment variable on workstation listed on a specific OU. The environment variable will direct workstation to point the Autodesk software to point to the new server.

Advertisements

Apply Update Release 1 to your Revit Architecture 2013 Deployments

Got a follow up video for those you responsible for making deployments in your office. Since the original  deployment was made, Autodesk has release Update Release 1; we’re going to add that update to your deployment image. We’re also going to change two file locations, the Revit Project Data path and the IES file location.

There are two reasons for this change. If you want worksharing to work properly, the folder needs to be write-able for users. Since my DFS location is locked down and I don’t want to bother with permissions and blocking inheritance, I’m going to repath it to the local workstation. The second reason is that you will always have a local copy of the Revit model you’re working on (in case the server falls off the cliff).

Hope the video helps in your deployment needs. If you have questions, feel free to leave comments in the video and I’ll answer them there. Thanks! 

Deploying 3ds Max Design 2013 – GPO Errors

Confirmed my licenses for 3ds max design 2013, and packaged the deployment in my DFS – no errors or failures. The next step was to deploy the software! My philosphy is always to automate as much as possible so I decided to use Group Policy to push the software out. Initially done on my lab, I then applied the GPO to one of my training rooms. EPIC FAILURE! Here’s the error message from the workstation:

Event ID 10005

Product: Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2013 64-bit — 1: 5 2: adlmPITSetProductInformation failed. 3:26

I searched for the solution, including renaming the .pit file from the Program Data directory but it didn’t work! I’ve been working on finding a solution for this so my GPO will push but nothing seems to work! Sounds like I’ll have to start a case with Autodesk! 😦

When you know you got licenses…

I know I have 3ds max design licenses, I even checked my FlexLM on my server. It shows I have 50 licenses, but why can’t one of my users start up 3ds max design? When I start the software, I see this message, “The software license check out failed. Error 20.”

I went on a fact-finding mission, checking to see if the workstation actually communicated with the license server. You do this by checking the debug file. If the workstation did try to check out a license, it would leave an entry there. As I expected, there was no entry. I then went back to the workstation and disabled the Windows Firewall. Problem Solved! It turns out that a recent Windows Update actually made the firewall block ports needed by the license server. The fix?

  • Make the few exceptions on the Windows Firewall via GPO,
  • Applied the GPO to my domain,
  • Performed a “gpupdate /force” on the problematic workstation and
  • VOILA!

Beam me back to the network please! [the 2013 version]

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… You can beam yourself back after you left Starship Enterprise. Okay, I’m not talking about Captain Kirk here, but rather users who disconnected from their offices and left for some sunny location to “work” and subsequently converted their licenses to standalone. Now that they’re back to reality and need to be back onto network seats, a quick and easy change in the registry will fix do the trick!

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Autodesk\AutoCAD\R19.0\ACAD-xxxx\AdLM

Civil3d-2013-reg

NOTE:  The value ACAD-xxxx may change depending on your AutoCAD vertical.  The example above is for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2013.

In that directory change the type for the installation that you require to edit Type:
1 – Network
2 – Standalone
3 – Multiseat Standalone

FlexLM on Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual machine for Autodesk 2013 & 2012 products

Got Windows Server 2008 R2? Got virtualization plans? If so, check out the latest video. You can install FlexLM on guests running on Hyper-V or VMware. For this video, I’m going to be installing FlexLM using VMware Workstation, with a Windows Server 2008 R2 guest. It’s always recommended to ‘hard code’ your virtual guests’ MAC address so it doesn’t change. Complete setup and configuration in just over 6 minutes to get your license servers up and running, and your users back to work.

 

Here are the steps in case you feel like reading and not watching my awesome video:

  1. Load the latest FlexLM on the media of 2013 software. You should be using 11.10.xxxx. Should look similar to:
  2. On the Autocad install DVD (or any other installation DVD)  or the extracted EXE file, the path for FlexLM is named NLM.msi, under folder: C:\Autodesk\AutoCAD_2013_English_Win_64bit\x64\en-US\Tools\NLM\
  3. Note down the existing settings onto notepad and copy the files (especially the license file) off to a backup directory.  You do not want to mess up and delete your license file!!!!
  4. Remove the old version via “Programs and Features” in Control Panel.  You can also stop the service manually and do an “in place” installation.
  5. Click on the MSI file and follow the installation wizard. It’s as simple as clicking next a bunch of times.
  6. Once it’s installed, make sure the initial check box, “LMTOOLS ignores license file path environment variables” is checked. To configure as service, go to the CONFIG SERVICES tab and point/browse to those locations for LMGRD, LICENSE FILE, DEBUG FILE (you have to get the license file from Autodesk and create a debug.log file manually). Make sure the two check boxes are checked and click on SAVE SERVICE.
  7. Go to the Start/Stop/Reread tab and click on the Start Server button.
  8. Once the status shows Server Start Successful, go to the Server Status tab and click on the Perform Status Enquiry button.
  9. VOILA! You’ll see all the licenses available to you in the status window!

Making the WAN as fast as the LAN

I get a common question on how to make users from multiple offices share the same drawings seamlessly. They want to be able to work on files stored in New York while working from Seattle just as they were in the New York office. In the realm of WAN optimization, the biggest player is Riverbed Steelhead. Autodesk works directly with Riverbed and many firms already have it in place, but it’s important to know what actually happens.

The appliance takes data across the wire and caches it, sending only bits that haven’t been sent (incremental changes). The first 5MB file you send will take 1 minute (cold). If someone requests the same file later, that transfer will take 10-20 seconds (warm). The older DWG file format (2007 and older), along with older Autodesk software, does the full file swap when saving, negating any benefit from appliance.

Solution?

  1. Change the “Incremental Save Percentage” (ISP) inside AutoCAD to 50.
  2. Use the 2010 DWG format!
    • Why? The 2007 DWG format are not optimized. When you do every open/save, all the bits inside it are rearranged, data de-duplication technologies can’t recognize them, and the entire file looks new to Riverbed’s data hashing algorithms.
    • 2007 is sooooo 2007. Last time I checked, it is not 2007 anymore.

Another interesting tidbit is that if you analyze the data from your Steelhead, besides AutoCAD files being optimized, a lot of the benefit comes from other things are being optimized. You’d be surprised how chatty software is.

Automate ALL the things!

Just came back from a client visit and the project this time was helping to upgrade their license server. Pretty straight forward stuff, but I’ve come to realize that what I do as “straight forward” is actually pretty impressive to quite a few people.

We all know [at least you should if you follow my blog] that there are three spots that Autodesk uses to define where the license servers are.

  • Environment variables
  • Registry Entries
  • LICPATH.LIC

These are read that in that order, and when the system finds the key (ADSK_LICENSE_FILE), it will stop and put it to memory. So how does it affect my deployment? Well, if you have a license server (let’s call it OldLic1 and OldLic2) already serving up licenses and you want to upgrade/retire it and move licenses to your new, awesomely robust virtual server (NewLic1 and NewLic2), most people think you need to touch every workstation to update those values so that AutoCAD and Revit will get license from the right servers. NOT!

With the all-powerful Group Policy Management Editor and some nifty GPOs, you can make the change to all your workstations to all your branches… at once. Yes, we did this to well over a thousand machines for this project, even to their branches, WITHOUT having to touch every single machine. Thank goodness too, cuz I would’ve gone crazy!

Wait,… what? What GPOs do I need, you ask? I dropped enough clues; I’ll let your IT group figure that one out 

default (vs) local (vs) shared

So what is the difference between default, local, and shared when you deploy AutoCAD / AutoCAD Architecture? Both default and local stores onto your local workstation; the difference is that you get to pick where you want it to go (local) and keeping content data like AEC styles and DesignCenter Content in the  ProgramData folder (default).

The Shared Mode is where things get a little more interesting, and for larger firms, this is the preferred method since standardization across all workstations is vital for productivity. I mean, you don’t want teams in the same firm using completely different Templates and Layer Standards. Some points to consider:

  • If you specify the same location for subsequent installations (not deployment), you will be prompted to overwrite the existing shared content files.
  • If you create a deployment with shared content, the content files are written to the shared locations when the deployment is created. This “one time deal” installs content for all Content Packs to the shared location so make sure it’s large enough.

Thankfully uninstalling the software from one workstation does not remove the content from the shared location. Imagine the headaches that would’ve happened if that was the case! Craziness!

Save space & time when applying Revit updates to deployments

Within a few months, Autodesk has released a second update for the Revit family of products. Download them from the Autodesk website (here). Being a “on the ball” IT guy, I went to update my deployment images for Revit Architecture, Structure, and MEP.

Since I have both standalone and network versions, I don’t want to download the updates twice. The automated method actually downloads the MSP from Autodesk and puts it into the file location \\company.com\deployments\RevitArchitecture2012-64bit\AdminImage\x64\RAC2012, under the file name rac2012ur2.msp. Knowing this, I moved the .MSP file over the the root of the deployment image for the Revit product and modified the deployment to apply that .MSP. One MSP can then be used for both standalone and network deployment. Save server space. Save time. WOOT WOOT!