BIM Collaboration Beyond Revit: Part 1, Revit Server
Posted on October 28, 2014 by Bill Knittle, Synergis Building Solutions Engineer:
Today’s building projects are pushing the collaborative effort to near real-time transfer of information. The internet (or the cloud) is allowing distributed project teams to integrate their efforts. Autodesk provides solutions that allow this complex social experiment to become reality. Let’s start small and just look at collaborating with satellite offices within your own company. For instance, you may work in the main office in Philadelphia. However, you have individuals that also contribute to the project in Harrisburg. Enter Revit Server. Revit Server allows geographically distributed project team members to work simultaneously on a Revit project file.
When a Revit project requires two or more individuals on the team, we enable Worksets. The Workset enabled project file which we call the Central File is saved in our local Data Server within our own Local Area Network (LAN). From that point, each individual opens the Central File on the Data Server. However, Revit does not open the Central File. Instead, Revit automatically creates a copy of the Central File on the individual’s Client Workstation which we call Local Files. As the day progresses the Local File on each Client Workstation becomes out of sync with the Central File. Therefore, we synchronize each Local File with the Central File. Figure 1
Autodesk describes this process as File-based worksharing. Load and sync speeds are relatively quick within a LAN because the data is close to the end-user. But, when trying to do this between two or more offices over the Wide Area Network (WAN), the speed of loads and syncs is noticeably slow. Revit Server helps eliminate this latency. Revit Server allows two or more servers to communicate across the WAN by caching (replicating) the data on one server to the other server. Autodesk describes this process as Server-based worksharing. The concept is simple, keep the data as close to the end-user as possible. How does this work. Each office installs a single instance of Revit Server on their data servers. This creates a Revit Server Network. Figure 2
How the Revit Server Network for your offices works is dependent on what Role is assigned to each instance of Revit Server in the Revit Server Network. The Revit Server in the Philadelphia Office could play a Host and Administer Role while the Revit Server in Harrisburg just plays the Role of an Accelerator. This would mean that all the Central Files for every project would live in Philadelphia and be cached to Harrisburg. Another option is that both Revit Servers in the Revit Server Network act as Hosts and Accelerators. By doing this, each Revit Server can host or cache Central Files. It all depends on whether the Central File lives in Philadelphia or it lives in Harrisburg.
Administration of the Revit Servers in the Network is accomplished via your web browser using the Revit Server Administrator site. Here, administrators can manage the Central Files. The Revit Server Administrator is accessed by entering the URL. (ex. http:///revitserveradmin201x) Figure 3
The collaborative effort between home and satellite offices begins by making sure each install of Revit is connected to the appropriate Revit Server Accelerator. This is done via the Collaboration tab on the ribbon within Revit. The underlying connectivity is stored in a text file called the RSN.ini. The RSN.ini file is a text file that lists the names or IP addresses of all the Revit Server Hosts in the Revit Server Network. The RSN.ini must live on the Revit Servers and individual Revit Workstations (ex. C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\Revit Server 201x\Config).
Once the Revit Server Network is connected, each instance of Revit needs to be connected to the local Revit Server Accelerator. Expanding the Synchronize panel will reveal the Manage Connection to a Revit Server Accelerator dialog. From here, the end-user will enter the name or IP Address of the Revit Server Accelerator closest to them which would be their local Revit Server. The connection is completed once the Connect button is selected. Figure 4
The process of enabling worksets remains unchanged. However, how the Central File is saved is different. The end-user saving the Central File will use the ‘Save As’ command in the Revit Application Menu. Next, the end-user would select the Revit Server shortcut on the Place List. This will browse directly to the Revit Server Host listed inthe RSN.ini file. Finally, the end-user selects the correct File Folder and Saves the Central File. Figure 5
Opening the Central File on the Revit Server Network is a slightly different deal as well. The end-user opens the Central File using the Revit Server shortcut on the Place List of the Open dialog. Finally, the end-user selects inside the correct File Folder and opens the Central File. Revit will create a Local File on the end-user’s Revit Workstation. Figure 6
During the day-to-day operations, users will synchronize or reload the latest work. In Philadelphia, the Revit Server hosts the Central File making syncs direct. In Harrisburg though, the users would synchronize their work with the cached data on their Revit Server which is an Accelerator. The Accelerator communicates the delta data between the cached model data in Harrisburg and the actual Central File in Philadelphia. When it comes to borrowing elements or an entire Workset in Harrisburg, Revit bypasses the Accelerator and communicates directly with Central File in the Revit Server Host in Philadelphia. Figure 7
The Revit Server Network has built-in fail-safe in the case of network issue. For example, if the Revit Server in Harrisburg were to go down, the client workstations in Harrisburg would bypass the Revit Server in Harrisburg and communicate directly with the Revit Server in Philadelphia. The Revit Server Network will restore itself once the Harrisburg Revit Server is up. Figure 8
In conclusion, Revit Server provides an environment for multiple offices dispersed by geographical location to share in the work on a single Revit project. In Part II of this series, we will look at how the data management solution Autodesk Vault Professional combines with Revit Server to manage the Revit project, company content, and more.
Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3, or learn more on our free webcast on November 11.
See some of Bill’s other posts:
- Using Parts in Autodesk Revit
- How to Build Your Own Roof Truss Families
- SET’g the Stage in Autodesk® Navisworks®
- Revit Tip: Worksharing between Revit and Revit LT
- Revit Tech Tip 26: Construction Modeling and Phasing
For the past seven years at Synergis, Bill has been training, supporting, and implementing the Building Solutions offered from Autodesk, primarily the Revit applications. His accomplishments include many certifications which include AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, and Revit Architecture. He is also an Implementation Certified Expert for Revit Architecture and Structure. Bill’s latest achievement was acquiring the MEP Systems Specialist certification from Autodesk which has propelled Synergis as a Platinum Service Provider. Bill’s interactions with customers have provided him with constant challenges that lead him to think outside the box. As a result, he has authored several technical solutions for publications which include AEC Bytes and Cadalyst as well as, produced several tips and tricks videos for the Synergis Website and You Tube channel. He enjoys consulting with a many different Architectural or Engineering firms struggling to implement the BIM process using the Revit application. Bill has been certified many times on Autodesk products, including Revit Architecture, Revit Structure, AutoCAD , and AutoCAD Architecture.