Continuing with the series of articles on Product Data Management, we publish this second article describing one of the Autodesk products developed for this area of data management.

To see the previous article, you can click on the following link: What is Product Data Management?

What is Autodesk Vault?
Autodesk Vault is the Autodesk application for Product Data Management, which helps organize, manage and track data from the creation, simulation and documentation processes for design, engineering and construction teams.
With this application you can organize the files and keep them in one location for easy access. The versions of the files are controlled, so that previous versions will not be lost or replaced. The vault will save each version of a file, along with all its dependencies, allowing to track the history of a project while working on it. The properties of the files are saved in the vault for quick search and retrieval.
In a design team, all files and their associated data are normally stored on a server, so that all users have access to that information and its history. Each of the team members must have a user account and their respective password, to provide an adequate security environment.

The application allows the control of the versions of a file, as well as the revisions. If we enter the field of definitions, we have to differentiate a version of a revision in the following way:

  • When a user takes a file, modify and save it again, we have a version change. Normally, these files with their respective changes overwrite the previous state of the file. In Autodesk Vault these versions are generated automatically, without overwriting the previous version. This allows us to have a history of changes.
  • On the other hand, when we needs to generate a revision change, this is accompanied by a process of control, in which several people will be involved, among them: the one who requests the change, the one who manages it, the one who actually does it, the one who reviews it and who approves it. This whole cycle is carried out in a coordinated manner, administered by Autodesk Vault, so that each stage of the process is controlled and duly documented.

How Vault works?

The Autodesk Vault architecture consists of two main components: a client and a server. There are other additional components, such as:

  • Add-ons for applications.
  • The file server.
  • The Job Processor.

When a user needs to create a file, he creates it with the corresponding tool, it can be a 3D model, a drawing, or a general document. Then, a check-in process is done to save the file in Autodesk Vault. This file is then available for other users to consult or even modify.
In the case where a user needs to modify an existing file in Autodesk Vault, the first thing to do is a check-out process, in which Autodesk Vault generates a copy of the original file and saves it in a folder on the user computer. At the same time, it also blocks the copy of the existing file in the vault, so that other users can’t modify that same file during the change process.
This brings several advantages:

  • On the one hand, you never work on the original files, allowing that in any situation that may occur, whether loss, deletion, overwriting, etc., you will always have the possibility of recovering the file in its original state.
  • On the other hand, when any application has an open file, it constantly exchanges information with the file in the place where it is stored. Generally, under usual conditions, this file will be stored on a server within the local network, which is why this exchange of information is done through this network, resulting in an increase in network traffic with the consequence that the application will respond more slowly and, it can be said that, “we will bother” the other users connected to that same network. During the check-out process, Autodesk Vault copies the file to a folder on our local disk, so the exchange of information will be done only within our computer. The application responds faster and we don’t generate continuous traffic on the network.
  • In addition, having the files with which I will work stored locally allows me to work offline from the network and the server, so if the computer is a laptop, I could take it, and the files, with me to another place to work, for example: construction site.
  • I’ll also have the advantage that, while I’m modifying the file, no other user can modify it simultaneously. They’ll only be able to access the file in a read-only copy. What ensures a sequential access to the edition and not in parallel or simultaneous.

When finishing with the necessary modifications, having reconnected the client computer to the network if I had been working offline, I’ll only have to return to the check-in process mentioned above. During this process, Autodesk Vault will save a copy of the modified file, generating a new version of it without erase the previous version. This will allow me to maintain a history of changes and, especially, to control the traceability of those changes.

In the next article we’ll continue with the topic of product data management and we’ll talk about the Autodesk Vault architecture.

To see the next article, you can click in the next link: Product Data Management: ¿What is Autodesk Vault like?