Altium NEXUS includes a server (the Altium NEXUS Server) for all your managed content - a 'managed content server' if you will, and an integral part of the overall deployed solution. The server works in harmony with the design software element of your Altium NEXUS solution to provide an elegant answer to the question of handling design data with secured integrity. The server not only provides rock-solid, secure storage of data, but also enables re-release of data as distinctly separate revisions - essentially tracking design changes over time, without overwriting any previously released data. It also caters for the lifecycle of the data to be managed, allowing people that need to use the data to see, at-a-glance, what stage the data has reached in its 'life' and therefore what it can be safely used for.
The server is used to manage all managed data, including components, domain models, schematic sheets of circuitry and design templates. Indeed, you can even create and manage your entire design projects directly within the server, with the additional benefit of collaboration support, meaning an entire team can work concurrently on the same board design - even annotating the design with comments. You can even control the working environments of your designers - ensuring that company-wide design standards are enforced and adhered to.
By furnishing a set of reusable design 'building blocks' within the server, you can embark on fresh projects safe in the knowledge that each model, component, and higher-order design element has been ratified and approved for use, with no having to reinvent the wheel as it were. The server becomes both the source and destination of design elements, with each new design utilizing elements released to, and managed through, the server. And by designing only with elements from the server, the integrity of those designs is inherently assured.
Within the NEXUS Server, each design entity that can be stored, managed, and reused, is represented as a specific type of Item. An Item is uniquely identified within the server and can contain any number of Revisions, where a revision contains the data for that Item. Each time a change is made to the data contained within a revision - which for most Item types can be edited directly within an associated temporary editor - it is committed (or re-released) into a new revision of that Item, ensuring that no existing revision can ever be overwritten, and thereby ensuring the highest integrity.
An Item can have any number of revisions, which are essentially an evolution of that Item over time. A change is made and the new data content is committed/uploaded/released into a new revision. The data stored in each revision of an item is therefore typically different. To identify between these different revisions of an Item, a revision identifier (ID) is used, which in combination with the Item ID creates a unique identifier for each release of an Item. This gives us the Item-Revision.
Another important aspect of an Item Revision is its Lifecycle State. This is another identifier that can be used to quickly assess what stage that revision has currently reached in its life, and what designers are therefore authorized to do with it. Where the Revision reflects design changes made to the Item, the Lifecycle State reflects the state of the item from a business perspective, such as Planned, New From Design, For Production, Obsolete, and so on.
From within Altium NEXUS, component management is streamlined through use of the Components panel and Manufacturer Part Search panel. However, another interface to your server is the Explorer panel. From this panel you can perform many activities, including:
The Explorer panel becomes your trusty right-hand, presenting a collection of features that can really enhance your productivity when working with the server through Altium NEXUS.
The NEXUS Server provides a flexible and secure method of centralizing the storage and management of all types of design data used in Altium NEXUS. From the schematic model to the component, from managed sheets through to completed PCB designs, the NEXUS Server delivers an ideal method of storing and managing your electronic design data.
Many design entities can be edited and released into the initial revision of a corresponding, and newly-created server Item, courtesy of the server's support for direct editing. Direct editing frees you from the shackles of separate version-controlled source data. You can simply edit a supported Item type using a temporary editor loaded with the latest source direct from the server itself. And once editing is complete, the entity is released (or re-released) into a subsequent planned revision of its parent Item, and the temporary editor closed. There are no files on your hard drive, no questioning whether you are working with the correct or latest source, and no having to maintain separate version control software. The NEXUS Server handles it all, with the same great integrity you've come to expect, and in a manner that greatly expedites changes to your data.
And at any stage, you can come back to any revision of a supported Item in the server, and edit it directly. Simply right-click on the revision and choose the Edit command from the context menu. Once again, the temporary editor will open, with the entity contained in the revision opened for editing. Make changes as required, then commit the release of the document into the next revision of the item.
Altium NEXUS, with its unified design approach, has traditionally used a component model that extends across all aspects of the electronics design process. However, to seamlessly fit the process of electronics design into the encapsulating product development process as a whole, this model needs to evolve - extending to cover other aspects including other design processes (in particular MCAD and Industrial Design), as well as business processes (such as procurement and manufacturing) that intersect with the product development process.
This evolved object model is known as the Unified Component Model.
Under this modeling paradigm, the design component, as seen by the designer, is separated from the Manufacturer and/or Vendor parts. This information is not defined as part of the component. Instead, Part Choices are used to map the design component to one or more Manufacturer Parts, listed in a Part Catalog, which in turn can be mapped to one or more Vendor parts, allowing the designer to state up-front, what real parts can be used for any given design component used in a design.
These components, along with their part choices, are stored in the NEXUS Server. A component is stored as a series of revisions of a uniquely-identifiable Component Item. Each revision is lifecycle-managed, providing collections of certified components, authorized to be re-instantiated into new design projects, manufactured into prototypes, or used for production runs. In short, a catalog of components implemented through server-based 'libraries'.
For organizations that require their Altium NEXUS installations to remain offline - isolated from the internet - the convenience and flexibly of on-demand software licensing can be provided by a localized Private License Server, rather than from the internet-based Altium Licensing Service. The NEXUS Server installation provides just the ticket, through its local Private License Service. It can be configured as a central, or local License Server, and can serve both Altium NEXUS and Altium NEXUS Server licenses over a local network. In addition, a server administrator is able to take full control over the offline leasing of license seats, configure licensing for use by specific roles, and configure a license for Roaming, and much more.
The server's PLS can be configured and used in different modes of operation, as summarized below:
The NEXUS Server installation provides localized (and centralized) version control, courtesy of its Version Control service. This service provides version control possibilities right there where you need them, locally, without searching, or paying for, external VCS management software.
A new installation of the NEXUS Server provides a single Git-based design repository for accommodating all of your managed design projects - and that's it! This avoids any setup and complexity regarding the server's local Version Control service. You have a single design repository - Versioned Storage - for all your designers to access and release into. As such, the VCS page of the server's browser interface becomes purely informational - you cannot add a new repository, and the single Git repository cannot be modified in any way, nor deleted. If you have upgraded your server from Altium NEXUS Server 1.0 (or Altium Vault 3.0), then use of SVN repositories will also be enabled, so that you can continue to use your previous (and established) design flow. In this case, you can continue to create repositories through the local Version Control service (SVN-only), or connect to external repositories (SVN or Git).
By defining design repositories in this centralized fashion, an organization can fully control which repositories its designers can access and use.
The NEXUS Server, in conjunction with Altium NEXUS, brings support for Managed Projects. Managed Projects target the development stage of the project lifecycle, simplifying the creation and ongoing workflow for version controlled projects. Centralized storage under the control of the NEXUS Server also enables this feature to be a foundation for other collaborative services.
Some key benefits to using Managed Projects are:
Management is performed through the Projects page of the server's browser-based interface. New Managed Projects can be created through this interface, or through the Create Project dialog in Altium NEXUS. Alternatively, an existing, non-managed project, can be quickly made available on the server.
Opening a project (by clicking on its name) provides access to a CAD-centric project view in another browser tab, which offers Design, BOM, Manufacturing and Activities view options.
Each NEXUS Server instance has its own dedicated Part Catalog. This is a managed local part catalog database, dedicated to the management and tracking of manufacturer parts and their associated supplier parts. The catalog is installed as a service (Part Catalog Service), provided through the NEXUS Server platform, and works only with the NEXUS Server.
The local Part Catalog stores items representative of actual Manufacturer Parts, along with one or more items representative of Supplier Parts - the incarnations of those Manufacturer Parts, as sold by the Suppliers/Vendors. Each Supplier Part is a reference to an item in a parts database - either the aggregate parts database of the Altium Parts Provider (which itself interfaces to, and gathers the parts from, enabled Suppliers), or a linked local parts database (ODBC-based).
Which Supplier Databases are actually used - a list of Approved Suppliers - is managed by the NEXUS Server, through the Part Providers page of its browser interface. This facilitates centralized supply chain management, with designers across the entire organization using the same approved list of Suppliers, with which to source supply chain intelligence for parts used in their designs.
Facilitating enterprise-level enforcement of a designer's work environment - to ensure that they are following the required standards expected by that organization for design, documentation and production - the NEXUS Server installation provides the Team Configuration Center.
The role of the Team Configuration Center is to give the organization centralized control over the environment its designers operate in. It achieves this through the definition and management of Environment Configurations. These are used to constrain each designer's Altium NEXUS working environment to only use company-ratified design elements, including schematic templates, output job configuration files, workspace preferences, and so on. In other words, it facilitates Centralized Environment Configuration Management.
Any number of environment configurations may be defined through the Center's dedicated browser-based interface. The data used and enforced by each configuration - referred to as Configuration Data Items - are sourced from the NEXUS Server. And by associating each environment configuration with a specific user role, and in turn assigning users to those roles, the correct working environment is loaded into Altium NEXUS as soon as the user signs in to the NEXUS Server. Using this role-based approach ensures that a designer always gets the setup they are entitled to, no matter whether they have their own PC, or are sharing a single PC with fellow designers.
Altium facilitates the ability for an organization to copy the content they need, between nominated source and target managed content servers - a process referred to simply as Server Data Acquisition. By acquiring design content, ownership is placed firmly in the hands of the receiving organization, who are free to make local modifications and maintain the content 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. And no matter if additional releases have been made to an item locally, there is always the possibility to revert to a previous revision from the original source server - all by keeping a link back to the item's original source, or Origin.
Acquisition is performed using the Content Cart dialog. Access to this dialog is made from within the Explorer panel. While browsing the source server from which you wish to obtain data, right-click on the revision of a supported Item type that you wish to acquire (or a folder of components, for example), and choose the Add to Content Cart command from the context menu.
Altium NEXUS provides a powerful collaborative design environment. Part of that is the support for Workflows, that guide a company's designers through typical, everyday design processes such as:
Each Workflow that is used to implement a particular design process is created as part of a Process Definition. It can therefore be referred to as that process's underlying Workflow, or simply a Process Workflow.
Processes, and their Workflows, are created and managed through the NEXUS Server's browser interface - by an Administrator of that server. For the three design areas mentioned previously, predefined process workflows are included with your server installation. Some of these are activated for use out-of-the-box. Use these, modify them, or create your own as required, to suit the needs of your company. Others are samples - these cannot be activated and used as is. Each of these is therefore more like a 'template' - edit to suit your company's requirements, name, and save as a new process definition, which you can then activate and use, along with all other definitions.
A powerful Process Workflow Editor provides the flexibility for you to build processes with workflows that can be as simple, or as complex as needed, and in-line with your company's requirements.
The NEXUS Server platform provides a dedicated Network Installation Service. This service, allows an organization to perform installations, or updates to Altium NEXUS, over their local network. The main goals of the Network Installation Service are:
The service is accessed through the Installations page of the server's browser interface. Typically you would acquire the products and extensions that you need from Altium's Cloud Repository into your local NEXUS Server, then craft a deployment package for installation across your network. Subsequent updates can be configured automatically, or handcrafted manually for ultimate control over what gets installed on your designer's machines.
Over time, your NEXUS Server will accommodate a growing, and impressive amount of data. The value of this data cannot be overstated, for it is a mixture of source data that can be re-used in future design projects, as well as data from which past, current, and future products are fabricated and assembled. It is data that has been released and ratified under the highest scrutiny, and stored securely with the upmost integrity. And as with all valuable data, longevity of its integrity is ensured by being able to perform a backup.
The NEXUS Server installation caters for the archival of your server data through the provision of a command-line-driven Backup & Restore tool. The tool's executable - avbackup.exe - is located in the \Program Files (x86)\Altium\Altium NEXUS Server\Tools\BackupTool folder, for a default installation of the NEXUS Server.