COMMENT: In The Field
Answering the Upgrade QuestionBy Mike Riley
Before deciding, consider the benefits, support, and ripple effect.
Allow me to paraphrase liberally from Shakespeare’s Hamlet , “To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the question.”
When you work with Oracle Database, or one of the many tools that can be used to develop applications that work with Oracle Database, you will at times need to consider whether you should upgrade to a new version of the software. How do you decide whether to upgrade?
Upgrading your database or development tools is a process that should not be taken lightly. Thoroughly evaluating your reasons for upgrading is important. Factors to consider include the benefits gained from a potential upgrade, support for your product, other technologies that may be affected by the upgrade, upgrade costs, and your upgrade project time lines.
Consider These Points
You will need to think hard about these factors, including whether the benefits of the upgraded version include new or enhanced capabilities. For example, Oracle Database 11g Enterprise Edition introduced Oracle Real Application Testing. This option allows you to capture real-life workloads from your company’s production server and then replay those workloads to test a set of changes to the database that you may be planning. The benefits of this functionality include helping to reduce testing efforts and fine-tuning changes before implementing them in the production database. In addition, this option may help speed up the upgrade process itself, by enabling you to test an upgrade and its impact before implementation.
Oracle Application Express 3.2 is another example of an upgrade that a company may want to consider. This introduced, among other things, the Oracle Application Express Forms Converter feature. Those wishing to convert their Oracle Forms investment to Oracle Application Express applications have viewed this upgrade as a must-have. Others that have little or no investment in Oracle Forms or no compelling business need to move their current investment off of Oracle Forms may not view this upgrade with the same urgency.
Another evaluation point when considering an upgrade is the lifecycle of the database or tool that you currently use. If Oracle still supports your version, your need to upgrade may be significantly less than if you work on a version that is no longer covered by Oracle Support. Oracle Support is an important consideration for most companies and can be a lifeline if you run into an issue that you cannot resolve.
Another upgrade consideration is the “ripple effect.” One product upgrade can affect other products, which then also may need to be upgraded. These unanticipated upgrades may require additional resources and adversely affect your original upgrade time line. Of course, you may also benefit from upgrading your other products to their newer releases at the same time, which ultimately may be a net gain for you and your company.
Reducing the Pain Level
Whether to upgrade a single product—or your entire stack—is a big decision, one that can cause much anxiety in those who must make it. But there are ways to ease the pain. Oracle continues to work on making upgrades more manageable and predictable. The Oracle Real Application Testing option of Oracle Database 11g Enterprise Edition is one example of Oracle’s efforts to assist its customers with upgrades. Other efforts include Oracle’s beta testing programs, which enlist Oracle customers to test potential new releases of Oracle products. The testers then give Oracle direct feedback that the company uses to evaluate and enhance its products before release.
Oracle often looks to user groups for beta testing participants. Whenever Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) receives these invitations, we try to locate candidates that match Oracle’s requirements. ODTUG members benefit from this process by evaluating an upgrade before they pursue it. ODTUG itself benefits from this relationship through the beta testing knowledge that is shared with the rest of the organization (at the appropriate time). And Oracle benefits from the information that is gathered during the beta testing, ultimately making its products better. Everyone wins in this upgrade experience.
Mike Riley (MRiley@hortica-insurance.com) is the president of ODTUG. He has worked as a project manager/DBA for Hortica Insurance & Employee Benefits, in Edwardsville, Illinois, for the past 20 years, developing applications using the Oracle database and tools. Riley was ODTUG’s vice president for 2007 and 2008 and the 2008 Kaleidoscope conference chair.