Data Acquisition Support

Now reading version 4.1. For the latest, read: Data Acquisition Support for version 5.0

This documentation page references NEXUS Server (part of the deployed NEXUS solution), which has been discontinued. All your PCB design, data management and collaboration needs can now be delivered by Altium Designer and a connected Altium 365 Workspace. Check out the FAQs page for more information.


Parent page: Altium NEXUS Server

Altium facilitates the ability for an organization to copy the content they need from a source server, and deliver it to a second target server – a process referred to simply as Server Data Acquisition. This allows you, for example, to quickly obtain data from a Workspace (hosted on the Altium 365 infrastructure platform) and deliver it to your on-site server.

By acquiring design content, ownership is placed firmly in the hands of the receiving server team, who are free to make modifications and maintain the content – in their server – as they desire moving forward. And by keeping a link between the acquired data and its original source, intelligent handling of the data can be performed, including notification when the source of any copied content is updated. So for example if, down the track, a change is made to a revision of a design item in the source server, the target server has the ability to update to that revision, resynchronizing with the 'mother ship' as it were. And no matter if additional releases have been made to an item in the target server, there is always the possibility to revert to a previous revision from the source server – all by keeping a link back to the item's original source, or Origin.

Data Acquisition – Conceptual Overview

The following image provides a higher-level, graphical illustration of the data acquisition concept. The principles of data acquisition depicted are the same, regardless of the type of data being acquired.

The concept of server data acquisition.
The concept of server data acquisition.

Note that the server Workspace that will receive content data (the target server) must be able to connect to the source server Workspace. This means that an on-site server, such as an Altium NEXUS Server, cannot act as the source of content data for an Altium 365 Workspace, since the latter cannot connect to the former – which is within a local LAN/WAN and not exposed to the internet.

In practice this means that Content Cart data can be transferred between Altium 365 Workspaces, between on-site LAN server Workspaces, and from an Altium 365 Workspace to an on-site Workspace such as an Altium NEXUS Server. In these cases, the receiving/target server can 'see' and connect to the source server, whereas a cloud-based server target cannot see and connect to a server that resides in a closed local network.

Items that can be Acquired

The following Item types can be acquired from a source server, into a target server, using the Data Acquisition feature:

  • 3D Model
  • Altium NEXUS Preferences
  • Component
  • Component Template
  • Datasheet
  • Footprint
  • Managed Schematic Sheet
  • Output Job
  • Schematic Template
  • Script
  • Simulation Model
  • Symbol

Things to take into consideration when acquiring data:

  • Only the chosen revision of a source Item is acquired, and not all revisions that may exist for that Item. In the Explorer panel's default view this will be the latest (current) revision of an Item, unless a lower (older) revision is explicitly selected – deselect the Show only latest option from the menu to expose all available Item revisions.
  • When acquiring a revision of a source Component or Managed Schematic Sheet Item, all linked child Items will also be acquired:
    • Component Item – applicable revisions of following linked child objects: Symbol Item, Footprint Item(s), 3D Model Item(s), Simulation Model Item, Component Template Item, Datasheet Item(s).
    • Managed Sheet Item – applicable revisions of following linked child objects: Component Item(s), Symbol Item(s), Footprint Item(s), 3D Model Item(s), Simulation Model Item(s), Component Template Item(s), Datasheet Item(s), Schematic Template Item.
  • The lifecycle of an acquired source Item revision will assume its initial state (for example, Draft), as determined by the assigned lifecycle definition for the target Item. Any lifecycle history for the source Item revision will be ignored.
  • If a child Item of a chosen source Component/Managed Schematic Sheet Item can not, for whatever reason, be acquired, then the acquisition of that chosen Component/Managed Schematic Sheet Item will not proceed.
A child Item Revision that is used by multiple parent Items – for example, a shared Symbol Item or Footprint Item – is only acquired once, and not for each parent Item Revision that is acquired.

Acquisition User Interface

Related page: Using the Content Cart

Acquisition is performed using the Content Cart dialog which is accessed from within the Explorer panel. While browsing the source server from which you wish to obtain data, right-click on an Item Revision that you'd like to acquire and choose the Operations » Add to Content Cart command from the context menu. You can add one or more selected Item Revisions, or even a folder of Items (which will load the cart with the latest revision of all Items in that folder).

The Content Cart dialog – command central for acquiring data from a source server.
The Content Cart dialog – command central for acquiring data from a source server.

Use the Content Cart to acquire all the data content you need. The process of acquiring data Items from a source server can be summarized in the following steps:

  1. The currently active server is automatically determined to be the source server.
    1. You can change the active server shown in the Explorer panel view – and therefore the current source of data – from the server selector menu available at the upper left of the panel.
    2. The available servers are those you have previously connected to and/or are currently accessible (connected), as shown under Known Servers on the Data Management – Servers page of the Preferences dialog.
    3. Note that while the Altium Content Vault is also available as a source server, its direct use for data acquisition is deprecated in favor of the Manufacturer Parts Search (MPS) panel – where you will be directed if the Content Vault is selected as a source. The MPS panel offers sophisticated search capabilities for locating real-world parts through the Altium Parts Provider Service, and in the background, uses the Altium Content Vault as a source for component model data. Found components that have supporting model data can be Acquired for use in your designs.
  2. Use the target server name drop down menu (highlighted in blue) to select an alternative target server from the list, which is populated with currently connected servers – choose the Server Administration option to enable/disable server connections.
  3. The original Item Revision is listed in the main grid. Any number of additional Item Revisions can be added to the cart. To do so, click the Add More Items control at the top-right of the dialog and choose the Select entry to access the Choose Item dialog (an incarnation of the Explorer panel). From here you can browse the source server for more Items, adding either one at a time, or in batch-style using standard multi-select tools.
    Alternatively, choose the Add manually entry to access the Add new items dialog. This dialog allows you to paste an external list of items that you require (one item per line), and which can then be searched for within the source server, using a chosen search criteria (GUID, Item ID, Name, or MPN). Select and remove Item Revisions from the list (click the button) if you decide they are not to be acquired after all.
  4. Click the Change Settings control at the bottom-right of the Content Cart dialog to access the Content Cart Structure dialog. From here you can define default options for each of the Data Item types supported for acquisition by the feature. This involves specifying a default folder in the target server, as well as default Lifecycle Definition, Item and Revision Naming Schemes, and a starting index. You also have the option to add a note, which can provide useful information about the acquisition to others, when browsing your acquired content.
  5. Once the desired source Items have been chosen click the button, which prepares the target server for acquisition. This automatically checks the status of the chosen Item revisions involved (in case they have been acquired previously), the parent-child links, and then proposes the action required – which for new acquisitions, will be Transfer new revision and item. While the default acquisition options (see point 3 above) are applied during this preparation phase, the properties of individual target Items can be modified if required. To do so, select an Item in the list and click the button.
  6. With preparation complete, click on the button to invoke the acquisition process. An initial confirmation dialog will appear – click Yes to proceed with transfer of the content between source and target servers. A secondary confirmation dialog will confirm the result of the acquisition.

Use the options in the Content Cart Structure dialog to modify default acquisition settings in line with schemes employed (and preferred) for those Item types in the target server. By default, these settings are defined to acquire each Item type in a distinct folder under a root folder, referred to as the name of the Content Cart. The default name is in the format Content Cart – <Current Date> – <Current Time>, and is reflected in the Content Cart dialog.

This can be changed to a more meaningful name as required. Alternatively, you can choose a folder in the target server, into which content on the Cart is to be delivered. This can be an existing folder, or a completely new one, created on-the-fly. The acquisition settings in the Content Cart Structure dialog are coarse-level defaults – properties at the individual Item-level can be defined if needed, giving finer-level control.

If an Item Revision has already been acquired, and the source Item has not been re-released since that acquisition, its Status will be Already Exists to reflect this. Since there is no action to be taken, the Action field will display as Nothing to do.

Acquired data points back to its original source. This ancestral link information can be seen by changing the aspect view for the target Item revision to its Origin aspect view. The information is available only when the Origin (source) server is available and connected – see point 1 above.

Acquisition Mechanics

For those who would like to know about the data transfer mechanisms behind the Data Acquisition process, the following section provides more insight into the basic procedural flow employed by the feature, and the general scenarios encountered when managing data acquisition.

Basic Procedural Flow

The following image takes a closer look at the mechanics of acquiring data from a source server. It illustrates the procedural flow involved, to essentially copy a chosen revision of a source item between the nominated source and target servers.

The mechanics of acquiring data from a source server and transferring it to a target server.
The mechanics of acquiring data from a source server and transferring it to a target server.

As can be seen, the procedure essentially boils down to three distinct stages, ensuring that the data is transferred between servers whilst maintaining its integrity:

  1. Download – the chosen revision of the source item (in the source server) is first downloaded.
  2. Modify & Retarget – the data is automatically modified to suit defined local preferences (local to the target server), while reliably preserving acquired value.
  3. Release – the data is released into the target server (in this case into a new revision of an existing target item). The target revision maintains a link to its origin, a pointer to its ancestor source item revision.

Managing Acquired Data

In the previous section, the basic flow of acquisition was seen. To effectively manage the acquisition of data, the relative history of both the source and acquired items is tracked, so that the relevant acquisition actions are available to the designer through the acquisition management interface.

The following sections take a look at the general scenarios encountered when managing data acquisition. In each case, the state of the acquired data – in terms of target Item and any revisions – is compared with its original source Item and its revisions.

Completely New Acquisition

In this scenario, no revision of the source Item has been acquired previously. A source Item revision is to be acquired into the initial revision of a new target Item. The new target Item and revision is created as part of the acquisition setup.

Scenario 1 – acquiring data into the initial revision of a new target Item.
Scenario 1 – acquiring data into the initial revision of a new target Item.

Acquisition of a Later Revision

In this scenario, a revision of the source Item has been previously acquired. The source Item has subsequently been modified, leading to a later revision being available. In this case, a new revision of the existing target Item would be created, to acquire the later source Item revision.

So in practice, even though the latest revision may have been acquired to a different target server Cart folder, the system imports the new revision into the existing Component Item. That component now has the new revision available, which will be detected automatically when a project that uses the component is opened – indicated by an Out of date status in the Properties panel, Item Manager or ActiveBOM document.

Scenario 2 – acquiring a later revision of a previously acquired source Item.
Scenario 2 – acquiring a later revision of a previously acquired source Item.

Already Exists

In this scenario, the latest revision of the source Item has already been acquired – there is nothing further to acquire.

Scenario 3 – desired source Item revision already acquired, nothing to do.
Scenario 3 – desired source Item revision already acquired, nothing to do.

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