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Installation and performance issues PDMWE - what do you think?

Question asked by Arve Jordal on Jan 11, 2013
Latest reply on Jan 11, 2013 by Jay Weigand

We have been using PDMWE since 2007, in Dec 2012 we upgraded from SW2011/PDMWE2011 to 2012 SP5, Due to extreme stability issues back in 2009 and 2010, we NEVER upgrade SW or PDMWE before they reach SP5. Our vault now contains about 820.000 files consuming 400GB+ of disk space. The SQL database is close to 5 GB.

The hardware we use is HP Blade servers, HP F/C SAN, VMWare 4.0 that runs Windows 2003/2008 virtual servers, and high performance Cisco switches. All workstations have gigabit LAN, Xeon processors, 8-16 GB RAM, SAS RAID 0 disk arrays OR SSD disks on the newest generation. We have roughly 100 employees, 32 SW/PDMWE licenses just about in constant use.


So, Friday Dec 14th 2012 we started the PDMWE upgrade process. If we were to follow SolidWorks' plan/recommendation, we would firstly need to run a complete backup of the entire vault. A completet backup of the Archive server takes 7 hours, so that would mean losing the entire Friday as a working day, just to get a complete backup. The backup to tape copies 996 MB/min from the archive server. In comparison the backup of a normal data volume is copied at 3.981 MB/min.


Generally we feel that performance is rather poor. We have some huge directories, and the ineffiency of the NTFS file system with thousands of tiny files really slows things down. In our opinion the PDMWE design is unsuitable for large vaults.


Now, losing a full day of productions costs roughly 200USD per hour per employee (what we would expect to bill our customers), about 60 employees would be directly impacted, so 200x8x60 means that would cost us USD 96.000,-. We could not let the users work during the day, as the backup then would be useless.....

Our organization is a 360 days a year operation, which means that even during weekends 10-15 people will expect to be able to work at any time. Shutting down CAD for the weekdend means that we lose at least 80 hours, ie 80 x 200 = 16.000 USD.

We have complained to SolidWorks about this extermely demanding and costly upgrade process for 3 years, with no result.


On Friday afternoon we closed down the systems, and started the actual upgrade. This is pretty straightforward until you need to run the "Upgrade.exe" that basically runs a lot of scripts to update the SQL database. That job runs for hours, with no indication of actually doing anything, so we believed that the process was hanging so after a long time we killed it. Restarted and found that we could tell that the SQL server was actually doing something. Finally, after more than two hours with nothing, the Upgrade.exe finished successfully. The next step was then to upgrade the PDMWE software on a workstation, and then run the File Version Upgrade Tool (FVUT) to upgrade the actual files to 2012 format.


Now, we have been through all of this several times before. We even have a separate test enviroment that we use specifically to preprare for version upgrades like this. So, we had tested and experimented with FVUT to ensure that we would get the optimal result.  The test vault is however only 10% of the production vault.
Job # 1 - generate work instructions for the 14 workstations we planned to use. We had decided to run FVUT a number of times, splitting the work into 4 separate parts so that we would have some control over what was updated, and in the correct priority. The task of generating the work instructions was actually started on Saturday Dec 15th at 10.43. At 16:22 the same day (yes, almost 6 hours later), the FVUT had generated the work instructions, and we were ready to proceed. As you probably can guess, we were rather pessimistic about the progress.....


We initiated the workstations with the work instructions and waited.....

On Sunday morning the one workstation was ready to proceed, displaying the cheerful dialog "Hit Enter to start upgrading files...."

Is it possible to conceive what that guy who wrote this software, or the people who approved it, were thinking when they require interactive input - namely hitting ENTER!!! - when running a batch job that has been processing for a number of hours??? HOW THICK CAN YO GET???


So, we aborted the FVUT and swore that this would be our last attempt to upgrade PDMWE - ever. The rest of Sunday was spent on the replicated vaults, preparing images for remote users in other departments and other useful work. Now, every time a user updates any kind of CAD file, the check-in takes even longer than usual, because of the way SolidWorks updates files on major revisions.


We are now going to evaluate other PDM solutions.

Are there anyone else with large vaults who wants to share their thoughts and experiences?