File Server and remote office collaboration

I had someone email me about DFSR and file locking based on some old comments on a Ned Pyle post from the Ask DS blog on technet.
I wrote up a detailed response of how I’ve handled this issue in my environment, and decided that response would make a good post to share, so here it is:

 

It’s a long story actually. Not sure if you read my post from April 2013, but I effectively gave up on DFSR due to the instability we were experiencing. Still not sure if it was underlying storage causing it, or just the scale at which we were operating. PeerSync couldn’t keep up with the rate of change on our file servers when we piloted it, and neither could PeerLock when we tried to integrate it with DFSR.

So stuff crashed in April 2013, I gave up on DFSR and we intended on using Silver Peak WAN acceleration across our site-to-site VPNs, combined with RDS or Citrix XenApp.

Then my company was acquired by a much bigger engineering firm, and all my plans were interrupted. We basically left our users to suffer (since we had already used DFSR to create a single namespace, when we quit DFSR we just kept a ‘single source of truth’) for months because the parent company was going to roll out a global WAN.

That did eventually happen in late 2014, so at that point we had Riverbed Steelheads providing 80% data reduction across the WAN and a 7ms link between our biggest branch and head office (where the most pain was for ACAD production).

We occasionally heard rumbling from staff that it wasn’t good enough, and so we pressed on-wards with purchase of a 30-seat Citrix XenApp environment with a dedicated nVidia GRID K2 card for GPU acceleration. However we really screwed up the user communication and training and failed to get adequate buy-in from CAD management to enforce it’s use.

XenApp works fantastic for apps like ArcGIS Desktop and GlobalMapper, but

we really struggled with mouse lag in all AutoCAD streams (except Revit which we don’t use). We went as far as a specialized consultant out of the UK and they couldn’t figure it out either.

I had begun the process of looking at Panzura, which I raved about here. It still looks like the best overall solution to a centralized file server with geographic collaboration on AutoCAD files. But the price tag for two offices was close to $60k not counting cloud storage costs, and I had just purchased a whole bunch of new storage so i didn’t want new Panzura hardware, and they don’t support Hyper-V for their virtual instance (which still blows my mind).

Ultimately, a couple months ago we had a big meeting with all our CAD managers and consensus was that:
– The majority of work performed in branch offices is acceptable due to the Riverbed Steelheads and low latency provided by the global WAN
– The work that doesn’t perform well due to huge file sizes would be done with XenApp and the mouse lag would just be accepted. But I don’t think the CAD managers are actively encouraging this.

And that’s where we’re at right now; not really solving the issue but trying to find improvements as best we can.

2 thoughts to “File Server and remote office collaboration”

    1. Hi Dan. I haven’t specifically looked into Autodesk Cloud, the primary reason being we don’t want to be locked into a single application vendor. We use many different applications in a collaborative fashion with large file sizes, and while Autodesk products are the majority, investing heavily into a platform like that (especially with the low quality we have seen with Autodesk products) is too large of a risk.

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