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Autodesk Software Deployments 101

29 Apr, 2013 By: Pete Markovic

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: This article demystifies a time-saving method for rolling out software, and also explains how easy it is to reconfigure a software deployment after it has been built.


Editor's Note: This tutorial courtesy of IMAGINiT Technologies.


For quite a few releases now, Autodesk has incorporated a software deployment method to aid CAD administrators in delivering their software to users' desktops. By building a software deployment, CAD admins can be assured that they're delivering the same configuration of the software to each user. This deployment method can also greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to upgrade a department to the latest version of software.

Very little has changed in how these deployments are created and distributed since Autodesk first introduced this method. With the 2013 versions of its software, however, Autodesk began including tools to facilitate using Microsoft's SMS/SCCM tools. If your company uses Microsoft's SMS/SCCM tools, consider using the software deployment, as it will fit into your IT's architecture very nicely.

This article is not going to explain those tools, but rather some of the basics for setting up and reconfiguring the deployments to be delivered successfully. Whether you are a beginner or novice in creating these deployments, understanding just a few of the basics can save you a lot of time and headaches.

When Do Software Deployments Make Sense?

Before setting out to create software deployments for your Autodesk software, you need to determine whether you will benefit from using software deployments. If you are working in a mixed environment with multiple suites or serial numbers, or if you have fewer than five users, installing the software manually may be the best option for your situation.

Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • How many users? Typically environments of five or more users will benefit from software deployments.
  • How many different software suites (e.g., Product Design Suite Premium, Ultimate, etc.)? A different deployment package will be needed for each software suite.
  • How many operating system platforms? A deployment package will need to be created for each (32-bit, 64-bit) platform.
  • How many serial numbers for stand-alone products? Network licensed products will benefit from deployment packages, but if your licenses are stand-alone and each has a different serial number, deployment packages can be difficult to use.

Create a Software Deployment

Creating the software deployment is very much like simply installing the software. After executing the setup.exe file for the software you want to install, select the Create Deployment button, rather than the Install on this Computer button.





Deployment dialog:

  1. Give the deployment a descriptive name, keeping it as short as possible to avoid any installation issues with a path that exceeds Microsoft Windows' capabilities (255 characters). In this example, PDSU is used to abbreviate Product Design Suite Ultimate followed by the version (year) and the platform.
  2. Deployments must be created on a network share. This share can be on the same PC as you are using to create the deployment. Be sure you have full access (Read, Modify, and Delete) to the network share. If you are not familiar with how to create a network share, plenty of documentation and examples exist on the Internet for your particular operating system.
  3. Select the target platform you are creating the deployment for.
  4. Running the installations in silent mode will keep dialogs from appearing during the installation of the software. Creating a local log file in the workstation temp folder is highly recommended for troubleshooting any issues that may keep the deployment from installing. The network log file will maintain a list of computers that have executed the deployment package so that you can track which workstations the software has been deployed to.

The remaining steps are the same as they are for installing the software. Follow the installation prompts, selecting the appropriate software and configuration for your deployment.

Some applications (e.g., AutoCAD) allow you to set up software options in the deployment to ensure a common configuration across all users. These options are only available in the creation of deployments and are not available during a manual installation.


 

 

Move a Software Deployment

One of the most common complaints about software deployments is that they break or do not work if you move them. It is true that if you move a software deployment from one computer to another, or to a different location on the same computer, chances are the deployment will not work. However, it is fairly simple to fix or heal the deployment once you understand what needs to be fixed.

There are four items that need to be updated whenever a deployment is moved, renamed, etc. The items consist of two files and two shortcuts.

In many cases, I build my deployments on the fastest computer I can find (or multiple computers) to speed things up, then later move them to a server for deploying to the users. The administrative image path entered into the deployment dialog (the second item in the numbered image above) is hard-coded into these four items and needs to be updated with the changes.

In each software deployment folder, you will find three folders and a shortcut.



The AdminImage folder contains the two files that need to be updated, as well as the software being deployed. The Tools folder contains the shortcut that is used to modify the deployment package after creation. The other shortcut to be modified is the one in the root folder and is used to start the installation of the software. (This shortcut will be the same name as you entered for the deployment configuration name [the first item in the numbered image above]).

Modify the shortcuts. Select the shortcut, click the right mouse button, and select Properties.



In the Properties dialog box, select the Shortcut tab if it isn't already selected. The path in the Target and Start In will reflect the path that was originally used in the Image file location. These paths need to be updated to the new location. Note: In the Target path, there are two places that need to be updated. The Shift key and right arrow key will aid you in selecting the text to replace.

In this example I have moved the software deployment from \\SERVERNAME\Deployments to \\NEWSERVER\Deploy.



Tip: After moving the deployment to its new location, navigate (using Windows Explorer) to the root folder through the UNC share and select the path, type Ctrl+C to copy the path into your clipboard, then use Ctrl+V to paste the new path to the AdminImage folder. This method will ensure you do not misspell or mistype the path.

As previously mentioned, the Target path has two references to the path to the AdminImage location. The Properties box cannot be resized, and it can be difficult to navigate the Target path to the second entry. Use the right arrow key to navigate to the second location, then hold down the Shift key while continuing to use the right arrow key to select the original path. Use Ctrl+V to replace the old path with the new path. This process is much easier than highlighting the text with the mouse.


Note: The second reference to the path location of the AdminImage folder is after the setup.exe.

 


The second shortcut to be updated is located in the Tools folder. This shortcut is used to make changes to your deployment image (e.g., change configuration settings, add service packs, etc.). To modify the second shortcut, follow the same process you used to modify the first shortcut.



Modify the INI Files. The two files to update are located in the AdminImage folder.



The names of these files may be different depending on which software the software deployment is for, but in any case, there will be two INI files to update. These files can be opened in Notepad or any other text editor for editing.

Open the AdminImagex64.ini file and look for the line entry that contains the path to the AdminImage folder. (The location in the file may vary, but there will only be one line labeled ADMIN_IMAGE_LOCATION in each file.) Update the ADMIN_IMAGE_LOCATION path to the new path.



Repeat this process for the PDSU_2013_64bit.ini file. (The second INI file will be named the same as the name of your deployment.)

Other Options

Once the software deployment has been created, the paths can be updated to a drive letter rather than a UNC path. However, anyone using this software deployment will need to use the same drive letter. Also, an IP address can be used in place of the server name for instances where the server can't be pinged by the server name.

Utilizing this technique, I have put deployments on a flash or portable drive to be installed on a workstation that cannot access the deployment server. Once the flash or portable drive is plugged into the new workstation, I will change the drive letter of the flash or portable drive to match the drive letter called out in the deployment. This technique makes software deployments very portable and flexible.

Summary

As the Autodesk products have evolved into multiproduct suites, it has become very efficient to create software deployments to roll out to users. This ensures a common configuration of the software as well as speeding up the process of installation; administrators can simply kick off the install, then walk away to the next computer.

Understanding how to create and modify these software deployments will aid CAD admins and users in successfully deploying their CAD and PDM software. There is no need to re-create broken packages, as they can easily be modified to get them working again.


About the Author: Pete Markovic


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