IT Managers: How not to support BIM

During the early stages of a large infrastructure project I was involved in circa 2014, it was decided to deploy Revit Server to support the team of 50+ architects and engineers developing the models for the project. As the company’s offices were split between 2 buildings in the same location, a Revit Server host was located in the main server room in the head office while an accelerator was deployed in the main project office.

This was necessary as there were teams working on the models located in both offices, and the trunk line connecting the two was only 100Mbps, which doesn’t support the traffic that would be flowing on the project, and corrupt Revit files would have been a huge risk. An order was placed to upgrade the trunk line to 1Gbps, but it would take a couple of months so the Revit server solution was essential.

Just getting approval for Revit Server was blocked by Global IT as they favoured the use of ProjectWise that was being rolled out across the business, and they tried to convince us that splitting the models into tiny worksets which individuals could check in and out of ProjectWise would be the best solution. BIM Managers from 3 countries were flown to the UK to be browbeaten into accepting this disastrous workflow, they even brought in one half of the team that came up with the BIM Wedge (it was his idea) to argue with us that using ProjectWise like this was a great idea. The reality, as ever, was that politics were at work and several of the IT bods had hung their careers on getting ProjectWise enforced across the company, and they strongly asserted their authority to stop us from using Revit Server, that they considered a threat to their positions as technical leaders.

Which one do you think it was?

On returning back to the other side of the world, I pleaded our case for Revit Server with the PM, and he escalated up to the regional CEO, who told the Global CEO in no uncertain terms that we were having Revit Server installed, whether the IT goons agreed or not. We won.

Anyway, after a few months of project operations, with multiple models being worked on by the team, we arrived one morning and nobody could access the models, the Revit Accelerator wasn’t responding. The local IT guys, who were not the sharpest bunch reported that there had been a power failure in the server room at the project office, and our server had abruptly stopped, corrupting all the files on the server. “What about the UPS?” I asked the IT guy, he said it had done its job and kept the server running for an extra 30 minutes. “And you were not able to access the server and shut it down remotely after getting the alert from the UPS?” I asked. “Well no, we bought cheap UPSs which didn’t send a power failure notification to the sysadmin”.

Yes Colin, they really are that dumb

This was bad enough, but the next cock up was a classic. The Revit Server installation was on a dedicated PC, and during routine checks the IT guys found that the hard drive was getting full, so had a look at the file system and deleted the folder with the most data, our Revit Server model store… It was a cock up of epic proportions, thankfully we were able to restore the models from local copies on people’s hard drives, otherwise we would have been screwed as we later found out they were not routinely backing up the server.

A lesson learnt, don’t trust IT people to do their job, they often don’t.

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