Enterprise Technology

Upgrading on Your Terms

Businesses have now realized the importance of questioning any shift in IT strategy to map any decision to change or not with business benefits. It is important to see the value when moving away from the systems that you have been using for years or even decades. IT upgrades are beyond the face value of version changes and a routine procedure; they need to be seen as complex IT projects.

Better availability, performance, and security promised by the latest tools and technologies combined with dynamic business need make a compelling case for an upgrade. When upgrading it is important to:

  • Conduct impact analysis
  • Conduct risk assessment
  • Review requirements
  • Review upgrade strategy
  • Document requirements
  • Go ahead from stakeholders

There are two fundamental strategies for upgrading IT systems:

  • In-place upgrade: Directly upgrading an instance/component by upgrading to the latest version
  • Side-by-side upgrade:Gradually move to the new software/system; the two major variations of this upgrade strategy are:
    • One environment: The new instance or software component exists on the same environment as the older instance
    • Multiple environments: The new instance exists on a different environment than the older instance

Every upgrade of a production system that contains valuable data should occur in the context of a good plan. This plan should cover following steps:

  • Identify pre-upgrade tasks
  • Establish performance baselines
  • Estimate required downtime
  • Develop upgrade checklists and communication plans
  • Identify backup and restore operations
  • Determine upgrade validation criteria
  • Develop and test rollback plan
  • Carry out upgrade dry runs using Advisors, Assistants and Wizards
  • Identify post-deployment steps

In a recent engagement we were moving our client’s production system from MS SQL Server 2008 to 2012 to improve performance of applications. This fosters the need to establish application performance baselines before upgrade, thereby making it possible to compare and ensure that application performance is at par or better after upgrade. Our client only expected significant improvement in application response time, post upgrade, whereas they could also incorporate new business features or address security risk.

To summarize, Upgrades with a compelling business benefit are something you have to live but organizations need to execute this diligently. Your views?