The First Steps Into Darkness - Davidd (Cropped)Now, I was born in the dark, but it wasn’t last night. Before we even looked at installing the Autodesk Vault Professional – Microsoft SharePoint integration, I had my IT department set up a safe sandbox environment which included copies of all the servers I would need to access. We also included a copy of my workstation so I would have a client environment to test things in. All of these were placed on a remote system using Hyper V manager, so I would be completely cut off from the network world. I could cause as much havoc as I wanted without harming anyone else’s data. This was going to be fun!

So, once inside this test environment, I ran the integration install program, downloaded from the subscription site. This basically unpacks all of the files you will need for the integration, as well as the documentation. This documentation, entitled Autodesk Vault Professional 2014 – Integrating with Microsoft SharePoint 2013, is the integration bible. It will take you step by step through the process. In this article, I’m not going to go through each of the steps, as that would be redundant. Instead, I will detail what problems or challenges I ran into along the way, and what I did to overcome them.

The first thing I did was to check the product requirements as listed in the documentation.

Product Requirements

Autodesk Vault Professional 2014

Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Standard or higher

  • Business Data Connectivity Service
  • Search Service Application
  • Microsoft WSE 3 (Web Service Extensions 3 is available at Microsoft’s download site)

As a result, we found that in our SharePoint setup, the Business Data Connectivity Service and WSE 3 were not installed and running. My helpful IT folks were happy to set these up in the test environment for me.

Deployment for us was a matter of running the “deployall.bat” file included in the integration folder. The other batch files; “deployfarm.bat” & “deploysite.bat” offer different options depending on how your SharePoint setup is being used. Details of these options are in the integration bible, so I won’t bore you with those. To run any of these batch files, you must first edit the file and change “localhost” on line 2, to match your SharePoint server name. This tells the script in the batch file where to look for the installation files, and where to put the deployment.

Heads Up: Run the batch file from the Windows Command Prompt, using “Run as Administrator”. Even though you may have admin rights for the server, running the batch file by simply double clicking it, will normally result in “Access Denied” errors. An additional benefit of running the batch file from the Command Prompt, is the ability to watch the process more carefully and verify that each step runs error free.

Run As Administrator Windows 7 - Windows 8.1Windows 8.1 Start Menu & Windows 7 Start Menu

This deployment creates all of the administrative web pages needed within SharePoint to set up your Vault interface, as well as deploying the BCS model which is the communication link with Vault.

Once the deployment is installed, the next step was to establish the access permissions to the Vault. At this point I am going to post some shots from the documentation, showing the first few steps of this process. I ran into a unique problem here, and without some visual context, my fix won’t have much meaning. So from page 3 of the integration documentation, here are the first few steps for setting access permissions.

Set Access Permissions

  1. Start SharePoint Central Administration
  2. Click Manage service applications under Application ManagementSharePoint Central Administration
  1. Click Business Data Connectivity Service

SharePoint Business Data Connectivity Service

  1. In the View section, select External Content Types in the drop-down lists.

SharePoint External Content TypesAt this point in following the steps, you should see three items in the External Content Types:

  1. AdskVaultFile
  2. AdskVaultItem
  3. AdskVaultChangeOrder

When I got to this point, I saw nothing. Apparently something had gone wrong in the deployment of the batch file at the very beginning. So now what? As I usually tend to, I panicked for a moment or two, then went to the AutodeskCommunity for help. Posting in the Vault Forum, I described the problem and from a very reliable source received the following fix.

  1. Find the C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Vault for SharePoint 2013 folder on the SharePoint server.
  2. In this folder is a file called Autodesk.Vault.BCS Connect.wsp. Rename this file to a .CAB file, which will allow you to view the contents as if it were a .ZIP file.
  3. Copy the file inside called AutodeskVaultModel.bdcm and place it in the Vault for SharePoint 2013 folder
  4. Rename the initial .CAB file back to a .WSP file.

Now, back in SharePoint Central Administration, where I tried to select External Content Types, this time I selected External Systems, as instructed in the forums. Under this tab was a system called AdskVaultLobSystem. The next step in the solution I was given was to delete that system. Then from the toolbar above it (see the images), I ran the Import command and selected the AutodeskVaultModel.bdcm file that I had just copied. This re-installs the External Content Types so they can be set up correctly. If all of this doesn’t get your head swimming, you must be a closet IT person. At this point I was learning more about SharePoint than I ever thought I wanted to know…. but wait, there’s more.

The Journey Continues – Crisis Resolution

Image Credits: Powell Fabrication and Manufacturing inc and Davidd – puuikibeach (Cropped from Flickr)