BIM Collaboration Beyond Revit: Part II, Revit Server and Vault Professional

Posted on November 3, 2014 by Bill Knittle, Building Solutions Engineer:

Part II of the BIM Collaboration beyond Revit continues with the addition of Vault Professional to the workflow. In Part I of this series we looked at how Revit Server facilitates Server-based worksharing among multiple offices within your company. In Part II of this series, we’ll look at how Vault Professional can run in parallel to Revit Server and aid the project team in managing overall project workflows across multiple offices company wide. Vault is not a means to share the work on a Revit project file. This is the job of Revit Server. Instead, Vault will track and manage all the internal information as well as inbound and outbound data regarding the project. This includes managing consultants’ models or CAD files linked to the Revit Central File, Microsoft Word, Outlook, and Excel files, Sheet Sets, Content Libraries, and much more. Vault accomplishes this by recording a version history of every file it stores through a check-in/check-out process initiated by a user. Access can also be granted throughout the company through Vault’s roles and permissions. Last but not least, Vault will make it a lot quicker to search for those files through its organized indexing feature. To understand how Vault works, we shall start with the basics.

pt1The Vault Professional solution is comprised of two components. They are the Vault Server and the Vault Clients. The first component is the Vault Server. The Vault Server is typically installed on a dedicated Windows Server and is comprised of three pieces. They are the Web Server (ADMS), Database, and File Store. The Web Server transmits the client side requests to the server side. The Database piece stores all the metadata from the files in the File Store piece and, provides the search index and file relationships. The File Store piece provides a secure location to house the files themselves and their history of versions. Figure 1

The second component is the Vault Client. The Vault Explorer is a desktop application that allows users to access the Vault Server. There are also integrated application clients that install into many of the Autodesk design applications as well as, some Microsoft applications. These show up as tabs on the application’s ribbon. Figure 2

pt2pt3Let’s now look at how pt4Revit Server and Vault Professional work together to extend data management to server-based worksharing. When the Vault Client is installed on a machine with an instance of Revit, Navisworks, AutoCAD, MS Word, etc… it installs the integrated Vault Client add-ins within each application. The add-in is a Ribbon Tab called “Vault” in Autodesk applications and “Autodesk Vault” inpt5 applicable Microsoft Office applications. In terms of Revit, we can see an Options button on the Settings panel of the Vault ribbon tab. This will launch a dialog. The first tab we’ll focus on is the “Mapping” tab. Here is where we map the location of the Central File in the Revit Server to where Vault will store the file in the File Store. A wizard of dialogs walks you through the process of mapping Revit Server to Vault Server. The last tab we’ll look at is the “Sharing” tab. This tab allows the Revit Client to specify how often uploads are made to the Vault when the Revit Client synchronizes their Local File with the Central File. There are four options that vary the degree of frequency to which Vault stores syncs to the Central File. In many cases, one person on the team should be given the primary role of vaulting their Sync to Central. This eliminates the plethora of unnecessary versions that Vault would create if everyone on the team vaulted their Sync to Central. Figure 3

Now that Revit Server and Vault Server are communicating. Let’s expand on the Revit Server Network and incorporate a Vault Network. A Vault Network is comprised of two or more Vault Servers installed at each office location. A primary Vault Server (ADMS) would be set up to replicate its Database and File Store to remote offices. In 2014, Autodesk released The Autodesk Vault File Server (ADFS) to streamline the Vault Network by installing only a File Store at the remote offices. This solution increases Database connectivity performance by keeping the main Database at the primary Vault Server and, replicating only the File Store to the remote offices.

Like the Revit Server Network mentioned in Part I, the primary Vault Server will live in Philadelphia and a replicated File Store will live in Harrisburg. Philadelphia and Harrisburg will communicate with the AMDS in the Philadelphia office. The files are replicated from the Philadelphia File Store to the Harrisburg File Store. With that general understanding, let’s get back to Revit Server-based worksharing and the workflow with Vault. Users in both offices will log into Vault via their Revit Vault Client add-in. From here, users select Open from Vault. Figure 4

pt6Revit communicates with the Vault which then, reaches out to the Revit Server to deliver a Local File to each client via the established file mapping mentioned earlier. From here, Revit server-based worksharing commences as usual. The Central File in the Revit Server Network manages all Sync to Central and Element/Workset permissions. Figure 5

pt7While Revit Server is tasked with the worksharing workflow, Vault oversees other aspects of the Revit project workflow. Revit Links are one such function that Vault can manage. In general, models or CAD files from outside consultants are stored in the Vault as they are received. Within Revit, users can link the consultant’s models or CAD files to the active project using any one of the standard positioning options. As models and CAD files come in, they can be incorporated into the Vault to create versions of the original. This provides a record of updates over time. Figure 6

pt8When it comes to managing Loadable Families for Revit users, Vault’s capabilities are second to none. The advantage to using Vault to manage Revit Families is its search indexing. Users can utilize Vault to search for Families that meet any criteria based-on the parameter values stored in every Revit Family. Vault can also be utilized to manage which Families are accessible to users. When Families are not ready for use by the production staff they can be hidden from view or, content can be organized to be visible only to production staff of a specific discipline. One last benefit is that Families within the main Library can be linked to a particular project thus, keeping the information closer to the project file. Figure 7

pt9This is a mere fraction of Vault’s capability to sustain Revit workflows. One of the more important workflows Vault can manage is the internal review cycle of Construction Documents. With Vault’s Add-Sheets feature, Revit users can publish DWF files of Revit Sheets to the Vault. The DWF Sheets can be checked out and reviewed by a project manager and marked up in Autodesk Design Review. The marked up DWF Sheets can then be checked back into Vault. Figure 8

pt10From there, the production staff can use Vault to link the DWF Markups back into Revit to make the specified revisions. Lastly, the markup status can be modified and saved back to the Vault. Figure 9

pt11pt12In conclusion, Vault Professional offers AEC companies a powerful data management tool that works seamlessly with Revit to enhance laborious workflows. As a company becomes more versed in integrating Vault, additional Vault workflows can be implemented. Vault’s Lifecycle States can be used to push the responsibilities of a given process efficiently between specific individuals so that information is made available to the correct individuals. s60nov14In Part III of this series, we will look at how the data management solution Autodesk Vault Professional and Revit Server workflow can be extended to Autodesk Buzzsaw to automate the exchange of information with external stakeholders on the project.

Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3, or learn more on our free webcast on November 11.

Happy Designing,
Bill Knittle

See some of Bill’s other posts:

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.

Contact us, visit the Synergis website or subscribe to our blog.

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