Workbench now supports peer-to-peer CAD collaboration

About fifteen years ago, the internet was abuzz with peer-to-peer file sharing technologies. Napster spread throughout college campuses as music enthusiasts with vague ethics discovered that they could move data anywhere in the world with no central authority. Today, BitTorrent is responsible for about a third of internet traffic in Asia-Pacific. That's not insignificant. Plus, P2P can be used in perfectly ethical instances. Like, say, transferring CAD files between team members.

GrabCAD Workbench is not inherently a peer-to-peer system. On the contrary, Workbench is a centralized system – there is a single source of truth about important concepts like the latest version of a file or who has a file locked. Given that most engineers only get latest and check-in a few times a day and that Workbench only moves changed data, the system has been working well for over a year.

But our users are getting larger and more sophisticated, and so is their data. Most small business have relatively standard cable-based internet connections, that are much slower than the connections between computers around the office. For a team working in one site, it would be much faster if they could retrieve the large CAD files from their neighbors instead of our servers. But how would their client know what to download?

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We have solved the problem by combining Workbench’s central authority with peer-to-peer downloads. When the Workbench desktop app tells you that there are files it needs to download, it is looking for a list of unique IDs that correspond to those files. Until now, it would always retrieve those files from the Workbench server. With peer-to-peer enabled, different peers make themselves aware to each other on your local network behind your firewall, and can ask each other for these unique IDs in a secure way. When you do a download, your client will now download from both Workbench and your colleagues’ computers, getting you the latest data as fast as possible.

To turn on peer-to-peer, enable this setting:

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When you enable the setting, Workbench will launch Windows’ firewall settings to let our Desktop app communicate with other Workbench desktop apps:

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Be sure to check the box that corresponds to the network that you're on. Our support team is more than willing to help if you need it. However, depending on your computer and network security, you might need to talk to your IT department. When in doubt, check with IT. They'll be glad to hear that communications are encrypted (handshakes, payloads, etc.) over both public and private networks.

If you've been wishing that you could use Workbench to get gigabytes of data from the person sitting next to you quickly, now you can!

 


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