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Thread: Refreshing Server Infrastructure--40 person firm

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    Refreshing Server Infrastructure--40 person firm

    Hello all,

    I'm the bim/it manager for a forty person firm. Our present infrastructure is 8 years old, approaching its' End of Life, so we're replacing it. Obviously, we're mostly constrained by central models.

    I currently have a Dell Array (all spinning disks) paired with a failover cluster of two hosts running HyperV vms. I have various NAS type backup devices on site and a replication server hosted in a data center 100 miles away for backup/DR.

    It's been very reliable. I'm thinking about replacing the whole shebang with a more contemporary version of the same old thing.

    Meanwhile, business is changing. Up until now, I've been dealing with remote workers by hosting ALL central models on our server and maintaining a local PC for every worker whether they're in our office or not that the user accesses via LogMeIn when they want to remote in. I've always had it up my sleeve that we could host a model in BIM 360 but it hasn't come up yet. I'm thinking more and more people are likely to work remotely at least part of the time.

    I'm really asking if there are any new technologies on the market that I should be looking into. BIM 360 sounds pretty expensive for 40 users. I'm vaguely familiar with Panzura, but I don't think I want to go there because that seems that it's more about branch offices (which we don't have and probably won't) than remote workers. Something like Citrix seems more complicated than I need in the near term.

    So if anyone has any bright ideas about any kinds of hardware I'm not considering that will facilitate collaborating with Revit I'd love to hear your thoughts,

    Thanks,

    Rick

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    Member Marcel Jansen's Avatar
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    I work remote for a firm and we use a Revit server on Azure cloud. This works very good and fast when you have good internet.

    You can also host your own Revit server(very easy), it does not have to be in the cloud.

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    Actually, I've been taking a closer look at BIM 360 Docs as a replacement for our entire file storage infrastructure. I was basing my assessment on the cost of Design, Doc is actually pretty price competitive for us.

    Autodesk told me they have one firm in Atlanta that is just now making the switch. Anyone have any experience with this or know who the firm that committed to it is?


    MJ, thanks for the reply. As far as Revit Server is concerned, I don't get the feeling that Autodesk is all that committed to it going forward. My sense is that BIM 360 is where they're headed. I'd love to not have to maintain any heavy duty infrastructure.

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    You cant (or shouldnt try, i guess) replace a firms ENTIRE Storage infrastructure with BIM360. You can put their Revit files, and some other Design documents, up there. But it would be a management nightmare to try moving EVERYTHING to BIM 360, nor would it be easy to work with, in any capacity. Its not really a "general" storage solution, IMVHO.

    Its great for project models and such, yeah.

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    BTW- Simply because ive been asked (over email) about the "Remote Work" possibilities with Revit, about fifteen times, i now just store this email in a folder, for forwarding to people who ask. So here is what i have to say about Remote Work in Revit. Opinions Vary, obviously.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aarons Email


    1. Revit over VPN isn’t supported (by Autodesk), and for good reason. Revit Worksharing (without Revit Server or C4R) is all SMB based. It will be SUPER SLOW saving across a VPN, and it WILL corrupt a model, eventually. When it corrupts it, you wont get it back without rolling the file back to earlier.



    1. That means, you have to make some decisions about how people work when you have multiple locations. Your choices are:



    1. They don’t work on the same models, from different offices/locations. (Cost: free). But obviously this solution sucks.



    1. Set up “Revit Server.” (Cost: free (comes with Revit)), but its finicky. Oh, the software is free, but you need a computer and operating system at each end to be the Server Accelerator. So you need two extra machines, and operating systems. According to Autodesk, that OS needs to be Windows Server (more money), but there are ways around that… It works, but its not always pleasant to support. Note: It will ONLY work FROM the two offices. You cant work from home, you cant work on the road. You have to be IN one of the two offices, to access a model.



    1. Move all of your Revit Models that are inter-office collaboration to BIM 360 Design (aka C4R). (Cost: varies, but something like 500 bucks per year, per person). You can now work from anywhere (home, airports, etc), since C4R and Revit Server work by HTTP protocol, instead of SMB (so its stable over the internet).



    1. The model only lives in one office, and “remote staff” or staff in office number 2, need to ACCESS a machine in Office number 1. The one nice thing about these options, is they DO mean people in office number 2 can work from anywhere. That can look like several possibilities:



    1. Remote Desktop. Free (included on your machines already), but super laggy to work with graphics applications, and kludgy. AND you’ll need a spare machine for each person, in office number 1.



    1. Remote access software like LogmeIn or GoToPC. Probably better than RDP, but you have to pay for it. Its still laggy with graphics software. And you still need a spare machine for each person in office number 1.



    1. EVERYONE (both offices) works on VDI, and the model lives in one location (where the Virtual Servers live). This is probably what youre referring to when you say “holy **** are you serious” expensive. And yes, it is. VDI comes in two flavors, though: You can rent it, and you can buy it.



    1. The ones where you rent it, are available from services like Azure, AWS, and Frame (its technically called Fra.me). They are more affordable UP FRONT because you don’t have to eat the purchase bill, but obviously as time goes on you just keep renting and renting and renting. And where they get you, is: If you use their VDI, you probably have to host the files on a cloud service too. More money. If you go to anywhere of their websites, youll see that VDI to rent starts out stupid cheap… Pennies per month. But that’s not a revit spec machine. Keep scrolling until you find “vGPU” that’s more than 1GB per user, and now you are in Revit Pricing.



    1. The ones where you buy them, and either put them in one of your offices (both offices log in to them, location doesn’t matter unless its around the world), or put them in a datacenter. These are available from a number of companies (and you can build them internally, getting parts from even Dell and HP and Nvidia, if you want to put it together yourself). A LOT goes in to setting it up and managing it, which is why I don’t recommend rolling your own. There are licensing costs (yearly) that have to get paid to VMware, or Citrix (you can use either, but citrix sucks for VDI compared to VMware), licensing has to get paid yearly to nvidia, and Microsoft, and on and on.


    Its darn pricey. A GOOD server for Revit can fit 22 people (with a mid level spec… less people if you crank up the power, more people if you lower the spec, all of which can change dynamically). But that GOOD SERVER is about 45-50k.

    GOOD VDI feels nothing like Remote Desktop. There is barely any lag (there is a little, but its perfectly useable), and you can work from anywhere in the country, just about. Internet LATENCY affects how it feels, but not internet speed. Truth: I run it tethered to my phone, in airports, all the time.

    But yeah. 45-50k is the price it starts at.

    Also, be super careful who you get advice from, about VDI. Why? There is VDI, and then there is vGPU VDI, which is what we need in AEC. VDI isn’t new, and so a lot of folks *think they know* about VDI, but vGPU VDI is almost completely different, because of how it has to get configured. I can explain this more, later. 😊

    The other technicality is even the folks that know "something" about VDI and vGPU, dont always know very much about AEC, our requirements, how our offices work, and on and on. Your success or failure with implementing VDI will solely rest on the knowledge, competency, and professionalism of the company or team that is actually configuring, tweaking, adjusting, and rolling out the VDI in every phase: Setting up the hardware, the network, the hypervisor, the Images, the desktops, the clients, and so on.

    In my EXTENSIVE experience, a lot of companies *say* they are great at it, and they absolutely suck donkey balls.

    I know AT LEAST three companies that have tried it, and bailed. Two that have bailed over a crummy team that was implementing it on their behalf, and one that bailed because of staff perceptions, and licensing costs.

    So there you have it!

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    Aaron

    Thanks for the input. I agree that I’d need some local storage, I’m hoping I could simplify my local requirements (or move it to azure) if I could host all project documents on BIM 360. I think our largest project is about 150 gb of disk space.

    As it stands now running infrastructure for a mid sized firm seems insecure, expensive and time consuming. If I can actually reasonably host all project documents I’d go for it. Right now I’m looking at indesign files as being tricky, seeing as how they use a idlk file to lock the document. I’m going to run through this tomorrow and I have a preliminary meeting with autodesk set up for Monday. I’ll keep you posted.

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    For your sake, i hope you dont talk to a dopey idiot salesperson who tells you BIM 360 can solve this issue, for you. Because there isnt a piece of the BIM 360 puzzle that i am not aware of. Its not a great solution for hosting all of a companies files, per project. It REALLY isnt, regardless what the sales folks say.

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    Aaron,

    I'm like honey on flypaper for dopey idiot salespeople!!! They love me!!!

    Have you heard of Azure File Sync? I know Azure uses standard SMB protocol, the file sync piece sounds like a local cache that holds frequently used files onsite.

    That actually sounds like it could be a pretty good compromise for us.I have 5 tb of files on a server, my guess is 4.9 tb of them never get touched anymore.

    I work with a pretty rigorous IT group that Dell hooked me up with and I trust these guys a lot, but they don't have a lot of architectural experience so I try to come up with some ideas for them.

    Anyway here's a FAQ about Azure File Services

    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azu...rage-files-faq

    that has this little nugget that caught my eye:

    What is Azure File Sync?
    You can use Azure File Sync to centralize your organization's file shares in Azure Files, while keeping the flexibility, performance, and compatibility of an on-premises file server. Azure File Sync transforms your Windows Server machines into a quick cache of your Azure file share. You can use any protocol that's available on Windows Server to access your data locally, including SMB, Network File System (NFS), and File Transfer Protocol Service (FTPS). You can have as many caches as you need across the world.

    Back to Rick--I do NOT want to create caches around the world, I'd close the whole thing down and only allow shares in the office. I may blend this together with a BIM 360 Docs subscription to handle off site workers in some fashion or another. My goal is to have an easier to manage infrastructure than I have now, and to avoid large capital outlays for deploying a resilient local server.

    And Aaron, you're an INVALUABLE help! I don't know anyone to bounce this stuff off of. PLEASE, keep the critiques coming.

    Rick
    Last edited by rickbern; August 23rd, 2019 at 09:21 PM.

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    You dont understand. Azure File Sync is going to destroy a Revit central file. Its not even a question. Its going to be "you test it (with one person) and it works, you implement it, and the model is destroyed.

    Unless you mean you could use that for your *other* stuff, and keep just revit models and other autodesk stuff on BIM360, which is an option, i guess.

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