Best Methods of Deploying Autodesk Software

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Looking to install Autodesk software and deploy to many computers? Here are three of the easiest ways to install software on a massive scale:

#1 – Network Deployments

Network deployments are a native feature of the Autodesk installer. Network deployments are basically a pre-configured installer that, when run, automatically extracts the software onto the client that runs the deployment. This simplifies the installation process because you do not have to run the Setup Executable on multiple computers. All you do is run the Deployment Creation Wizard on one computer, choose a network share to put the deployment on, modify all the settings you need in the Deployment Creation Wizard, and then create the deployment. Once it’s created, you get on a client, browse to the network share, and run the deployment, then go to the next client and do the same thing. The deployment installs silently so you don’t have to do anything after you’ve run it. Once the deployment is done installing, then the software should be ready to go on your client.

Network deployments require that you have a working network where clients, servers, etc. are able to communicate with one another via TCP/IP. It also requires several gigabytes of storage space on both the clients and the network share. It’s also recommended that the share is on a Windows Server system. The reason for this is that Windows Server Operating Systems allow a huge amount of connections at once whereas a consumer/business-based OS, such as Windows XP or Windows 7, only allows 10 active connections from network computers at a time. This means you would be limited to installing on only 10 computers simultaneously until they finish installing. This makes the installation process a bit slower. It’s still effective, but not as effective as it could be if you were using Windows Server.

To start the deployment creation wizard, simply put in your DVD or run your Setup Executable and choose “Create Deployments” from the splash screen that comes up. This will begin the wizard. If you need further assistance creating a deployment, contact your Autodesk Authorized Reseller for technical support.

#2 – Imaging/Ghosting

The quickest and most efficient way to deploy the software, in my opinion, is to use imaging/ghosting software. Imaging is when you copy a computer’s hard-drive data into a file that is then pushed out to other machines on your network. The data is then transcribed, more or less, to the other computers’ hard drives. This gives each computer the same exact data as your main computer that you created the image from. Keep in mind that it will wipe any previous data that was on the other computers to replace it with the new data from your master computer.

In order to push an image out to your clients, you need a few things. First of all, you need a working network where your computers can communicate via TCP/IP. Secondly, all of your computers must have the same hardware as each other. The reason for this is so that all of your drivers from your main computer are compatible with the hardware of the receiving computers. If you push an image onto a computer without the same hardware, then you are going to run into issues. Thirdly, you need imaging software such as Acronis or Norton Ghost. There are lots of different imaging solutions on the market. I have most commonly used or come across Norton Ghost and Acronis and I know they both work well.

When creating an image for your computers, you want to install all of the Autodesk software that you’re going to use onto the master image. You then want to run the software once it’s installed so that the software initializes to the registry before you push the image to all the computers. If you are using standalone licensing, you do NOT want to activate the software before pushing it out. This is because standalone licenses are bound to a machine’s MAC address, which is dictated by physical network cards. This means that each computer has its own MAC address, which means that each computer must have its own activation occur. As such, if you push an activated image out, all the other computers will have licensing issues that could take you hours to fix. Network license users have nothing to worry about.

I recommend consulting with your Authorized Autodesk Reseller before embarking on the process of imaging your computers as there are small details that should be discussed.

#3 – Group Policy

For those of you administrators who know the ins and outs of Windows Server, Active Directory, and Group Policy, then deploying via Group Policy may be for you. Group Policy utilizes Group Policy Objects with customized installation settings that are pushed out to the users or computers that you specify on your domain. A connection is established to the computers and the GPO (Group Policy Object) is then pushed to the computers, effectively installing the software the way you want it to be installed onto all the computers/users you choose to install it to on your domain. I do not have much experience with this nor have I talked to many administrators who install the software this way, but apparently it works really well for the ones who have done it.

What you need for this method of installation is a Windows Server machine, Active Directory, Group Policy, a Domain setup with your computers/users, a working network where computers can communicate via TCP/IP and a working knowledge of active directory and creating and deploying Group Policy Objects.

Conclusion

These are the three main methods people use when they need to install their software on lots of computers quickly and efficiently. Keep in mind that every lab is different. I’ve talked to people who have run into issues using network deployments due to permissions issues, anti-virus issues, or even firewall problems. Likewise, I’ve talked to people who can’t make an image work for the life of them. I recommend that you always consult with your Authorized Autodesk Reseller before you try to do any of this on your own. Application Engineers know the small details about installation that you may not be able to read from a guide or whitepaper that you find online. Good luck!

Author: Mark Philipp

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