Beta Testing Via Virtual Machine

Every year I participate in the SolidWorks Beta program so I can feed the need to find, try, test and break all that is new in the coming major release. Starting last year, SolidWorks offered an easier way for those of us wanting to test out the next version of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM by hosting beta vaults on their own servers.

Last year I detailed out the steps to get enrolled in the hosted vault offered by SolidWorks and when I heard that they would be extending this service to beta testers this year, I was thrilled!

Typically testing a new version of EPDM requires you to build another parallel environment, since two versions of EPDM cannot exist on the same server or client.  This makes testing quite the undertaking, especially if you want to test it on a copy of the production vault (which typically cannot be upgraded once moved to an beta build).  SolidWorks' offering removes the need to hassle with the server side, allowing you to install the beta client and test with either your own data or a dummy dataset.

I typically resort to installing the client in a virtual machine so I don't need to remove or replace the current client version.  Unless, of course,  I am testing the CAD Editor license and SolidWorks Add-in, in which I just uninstall the client and reinstall the beta client for testing (low impact to overall setup). 

Being a big fan of VM technology, I have used quite a number of solutions over the years (Virtual PC, VMWare, Sun VirtualBox) but since Windows 7 comes with XP Mode, I thought I would give that a shot.  I prefer VMWare but this is a free solution that doesn't require any extra licensing so I ventured down this route. 

Since the goal of XP Mode is to extend a simple solution to users who might run into compatibility issues with legacy applications, the install, by default, will map all your system's drives into your virtual machine's Windows Explorer for easy accessability.  This type of mapping can be detected as a Remote Desktop Connection, in the even you attempt to run an installer, such as Enterprise PDM, through this mapped drive.  To avoid the above error message, simply use a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path to your installation on your local machine. (i.e. \\local_system_name\shared_folder\).  This will trick the installer into thinking you are executing the installer from a network drive and will continue with your install.

Now that the secluded test environment has your EPDM beta client build installed, you can connect to the hosted vault on SolidWorks' servers and resume testing the new bells and whistles without disrupting your local production environment. ~Lou