Posted by Gabe Enright
Now that I spend a lot of time talking with companies about how they will manage their SolidWorks Product Data I am often asked questions about the PDM solutions offered by SolidWorks. People often want to start with Workgroup PDM and figure they will grow into EPDM later. I personally feel the EPDM is the way to go for any company that wants to manage their CAD data and share a few points about Workgroup that gets them thinking. These are the main five points I share. There are many more.
5 Reasons Companies Migrate away from Workgroup PDM
1. NO Enhancements
While Workgroup continues to be updated to be compatible with each release of SolidWorks, it has had little functionality added. The last release that had significant enhancement was SolidWorks 2007. That's 8 years ago! There has been one true enhancement since then and it was added in SolidWorks 2008.
When reading the shortcomings in the next four points recall the words of a revered (or reviled depending on your location) New England sports figure, “It is what it is”
2. Unique Names
Every file in a Workgroup vault must have a unique name. You can't have two parts called Bracket or two Assemblies called "Initial Concept" even if they are in different folders. In theory this is a good practice, however users find it restrictive and will work outside the system to get around it.
Taking this a step further, folder names also must be unique. If you have folders for projects and like to organize them with subfolders, like "Artwork", "Customer Requirements“ or "Schematics" you have to make those names unique as well. This is cumbersome and often times even more restrictive than file names.
3. Not good for managing non-SolidWorks files
Workgroup was designed to manage SolidWorks files (Parts, Assemblies, and Drawings.) Any other file that a user would like to manage must be done with SolidWorks Explorer. You can either Drag and Drop those files into the vault, One at a time Only, or add them in a process that is a lot more like uploading a file to a website. Getting them out and changing them is similarly tedious.
4. Every change makes a Revision
Every time you check in a file to the vault, Workgroup is going to file it as a new Revision. There are workarounds but in the end most avoid checking in their work until they absolutely have to, which is dangerous.
5. Limited Workflow capability
Workgroup has the ability to set up ONE limited Workflow. This presents two key limitations
•First because it only has one lifecycle, all files must follow the same set of rules. Many companies have different rules for different departments. Manufacturing and Tooling will have more freedom than the Product Development groups. Everyone using a Workgroup Vault has to follow the same rules and those rules apply to all file types.
•Second the Workflow capability is limited and not robust. Companies have to adapt their procedures to the Workgroup limitations.
Because of these two limitations most companies never even turn on the Lifecycle module in Workgroup.
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Hopefully you haven’t noticed this because you made the move to SolidWorks Enterprise PDM. But, recently a change from last year was brought to mind. In Workgroup 2013, the Rebuid Vault button was moved. This button moved to the Vault Management tab – a brand new tab.
But why even rebuild a Workgroup vault? To quote SolidWorks, “… (the) tool lets you rebuild vault metadata from key base files.” In case you’re like me and find that answer less than helpful, let me continue. Once the metadata is rebuilt, that may improve the startup time of the vault and may also improve general performance.
That’s good, but that’s not generally why we ask Customers to rebuild. The rebuild is used to repair metadata errors that may have occurred since rebuilding will recreate the base files. Sometimes, Workgroup "loses its mind" and a rebuild settles things down. So, maybe add this process to your regular system maintenance and rebuild occasionally.
Of course, before rebuilding a vault, always create a backup.
In Workgroup, you cannot delete files from the vault view – unless your login is allowed via the Workgroup Admin Tool:
Allowing permission to delete files is something to think through. In theory, Workgroup is in use because there are multiple users. If there are multiple users, then one person may decide to delete a file they didn’t know someone else was using or delete a file with a similar name. If you have the option selected to Keep extra copy of the latest files, then you likely have a copy of the erroneously deleted file hanging out in the C:\insert installation directory here it's usually "Vaultdata"\projects\[vault name]\latest folder in the vault ... along with a bunch of other files you’ll likely never need. If you decided to sae the space and not opt to keep the extra copy (I would), there’s likely a copy in the folder C:\vaultdata\project\[vault name]\obsolete. In either case, if you do find the deleted file, the metadata and history are, well, history, gone, no more.
So, it looks like the easy solution is to block permissions to delete files from the vault. But now the project folders fill up with stuff the users no longer need. As a compromise, I recommend creating an “Obsolete” or "Trash Me" project. Users may move files to that project when they are done and those files can be deleted by an admin during regular vault maintenance.
Now that you're ready for the Workgroup (pdmwg) upgrade, let's get to some specifics. As I mentioned in the last post, this isn't going to be a step-by-step guide. There's plenty of sites listing them, they are also in the Installation Guide from SolidWorks, and I recommend you contact your Reseller before upgrading - you are only upgrading once, we get to upgrade dozens of times, so we've seen the issues that crop up and can provide the latest information on any issues. (btw - "known issue" always strikes me as redundant). If your Reseller doesn't have a document at the ready for upgrading pdmwg, then, well, how to say...
Stop the service
Stopping the service means going into the Windows Services in the Microsoft Management console and stopping the service named SolidWorks Workgroup PDM Server. It’s only loaded onto the machine hosting the vault. We recommend stopping the service to keep anything from changing while upgrading. That means clients cannot login, so I wouldn’t perform this task unannounced. Speaking of announcements, you should include a warning that all files need to be checked into the vault if they want to see them again – like a raAnS0m note. If anyone asks why, make a note – they’re going to be trouble. You see, someties risk averse, task-oriented, process-driven people (read: engineers) like us don’t like to have one copy of the files we’re working on. But, we also don’t want anyone to think that we really needed 59 revisions to get our job done, so we don’t check our files into the vault every time we make a change. We keep a “copy” in the vault. It’s a bad idea, but it is common. So, everyone needs encouragement to put ALL of their files into the vault. They can keep the local cache, but we need all of the files in the vault for upgrading.
Backup the vault
This one is easy. Your company already makes frequent backups (ahem!). On the odd chance you are the 1:1,000,000 that needs some help with this one, just stop the vault service, make a copy of the entire vault and put it somewhere safe. The default name for the folder containing the vault is VaultData.
Soapbox alert: Workgroup is a flat-file database. Said another way, Workgroup is a single-point, one-way database. If it gets corrupted, it cannot be fixed. YES, it happens. Backups aren’t backups unless they are known-good. Known-good means they are tested. Tested means they are loaded onto a machine and used. Yes, that means installing the vault, vault service, and at least the admin tool on a machine and poking around in the vault. Maybe even go nuts and login to the test vault from a client. VMWare and a 1TB drive is all you need. The vault service and admin tool don’t need a license, and the client is already paid for. The vault represents to sum total of your company’s intellectual property - please treat it that way.
Whew, I feel better now.
Upgrade the Service
I won’t join the uninstall/reinstall versus upgrade debate. Take your pick. I upgrade mine. In either case, to install the new version, the SolidWorks Installation Manager needs to appear on your screen. Workgroup is under Server Products.
Upgrade the Admin Tool
The step most often missed is the admin tool install. To install that on a client that doesn’t have SolidWorks, fire-up the Installation Manager again, select Individual installation and then “change” products on the summary screen. Expand SolidWorks Explorer/Workgroup PDM->SolidWorks Workgroup PDM VaultAdmin.
NOTE: If you have an admin image install of SolidWorks on your machine, this won’t work. You need a new admin image that includes the Workgroup admin tool.
NOTE: If you have an Individual installation of SolidWorks on your machine, but not the admin tool, don’t clear the check marks for all the products other than the admin tool – you (not “it”) will uninstall everything that has its check mark removed. There’s a warning, but it gets missed.
Login and Test
Did I mention making a backup? In any case, when you upgraded or reinstalled, the service started. However, double-check that by looking into the services running on the machine hosting the vault. Otherwise, there’s absolutely no indication that things are working properly (awesome, huh?). Next, go ahead and try to login with the admin tool. I use “try” because the login won’t work until the new vault service shakes hands with the old vault. In any case, login and get that blue progress bar running. Once the service is happy, it will let you in – there’s no harm in letting the login sit there and you’ll feel like you’re making progress. If you get an error message, take a screenshot and email it to your VAR (you do know your VAR, right?). There’s no need to panic though, because you have a backup. I’ve never seen the start-up take more than 30 minutes. Let me know if yours does - and is a successful upgrade.
Once you have successfully logged in from the admin tool, test logins from the clients. Logins do not change, so unless the server name changed, the login should go smoothly.
It’s a good idea to validate the vault. This process forces the vault to “shake-hands” with all the files and make sure the meta-data is intact. Some recommend this as part of the upgrade process. I like to get things working as soon as possible and validate once I know everything is running again since database upgrades are stressful. So, you may choose to do this before you stop the service the first time for the backup. Either way, know that this can take hours, so cancel your weekend plans.
To validate the vault, in the admin tool select Validate valt and then the option to validate the vault on next start-up. Then stop/start the vault service.
If you have 2013, you also have the rebuild options shown in the screenshot. Check out the Help for details on each.
SolidWorks 2013 sp2 is out and I can see you thinking about upgrading from 2012. Oh sure, it’s easy to ignore poor sp0 – unfairly judged by sp0’s from the past. But sp2 … well it’s somehow different, less threatening – a warmer-fuzzier sp0.
There's plenty of info out there on upgrading SolidWorks. I’ll start with how to upgrade SolidWorks Workgroup PDM (the cool kids here call it “pdmwg”). There are basically three pieces to upgrade with pdmwg:Notice I did not mention the data. Also note that the Client side gets upgraded with SolidWorks.
There are about two dozen actual steps to upgrade and I won’t cover them all. Before you jump ahead, copy/paste and leave the blog, there are some facts you need to understand:
PDMWG is a flat-file database. Translation: back it up before doing a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. The default name for the folder that contains the vault is VaultData. If the vault gets corrupted, you won’t need technical support, you’ll need grief counseling. It cannot be”repaired”.
SolidWorks and PDMWG must be on the same major version (e.g.: 2013). Many Customers get the wrong info on this one. Yes, older version files can be in the vault (e.g.: *.sldprt). But, the 2013 vault cannot be accessed from a 2012 seat of SolidWorks. Translation – the plans to upgrade the SolidWorks seats should be on the ToDo list right after upgrading pdmwg.
Upgrading the vault service affects access to the files in the vault. Translation: All files should be checked into the vault before upgrading the vault service. Sometimes people have frequently used files in their local cache and forget to check them in, so remind everyone that all files need to be checked into the vault.
See Fact 1.
Here are the basics:
Simple, huh? Now for the details…
Where I’m from we call this “fixin’ to get ready.” Now’s a good time to make sure you really know the admin password, where the vault is, and the size of the vault. Do you know your serial numbers? Do you know whether you have Contributor licenses? Also, you don’t want to surprise everyone with a shut-down of the vault, so a warning is in order. It’s also time to grab a copy of the vault log. The tool for getting a copy is on the Vault Settings or Vault Management tab (depending on your installation’s vintage). Save it, verify it, and then clear it. Then, if there is some issue during upgrade, we have an easy to read log.
Finally, if this is a major version upgrade (2012 to 2013), then have your client upgrades at the ready. Once the vault is upgraded, the clients won’t be able to login. Technically, we like to see service packs stay in lock-step also, but things still work.
Now go get ready to upgrade. Check back in a few days for more detail on upgrading SolidWorks Workgroup PDM.