Random thoughts from an unusual company

Connections 4, Two Upgrades and a New Install - That Went Well’ish

Gabriella Davis  18 September 2012 01:07:03
Well that was quick.  Lots of demand over here for Connections 4 which have resulted in upgrades of 2 pilot environments and the install of a new server entirely for test.  No big upgrades yet, we're still in the planning stage and there's too much at stake to rush in without proper planning.  So let's talk about the installs I have done

New Install

Connections 4 now has more applications than previously, that means more processor required which means more WAS servers and clusters and more actual software.  Yes , more software.  The metrics application within Connections produces some very useful information on how your users are working with the environment, what applications are being used by who and when.  However the metrics application is only gathering data, the actual reporting is done by Cognos.  Connections 4 comes with a Cognos entitlement allowing you to run reports against Connections generated data.  To quote from the licensing details

A customer is authorized to use the Supporting Program (here, IBM Cognos Business Intelligence server and Business Intelligence Transformer) only to support its use of the Principal Program (IBM Connections) provided the customer's use of the Supporting Program (IBM Cognos Business Intelligence server and Business Intelligence Transformer) is necessary or otherwise directly related to the licensed use of the Principal Program (IBM Connections).

So there you go.

Let's start with the main question I'm always asked.  No, I wouldn't even try deploying Connections 4 in its entirety on a single server (and by that I mean WAS, IHS, DB2 or SQL or Oracle, TDI, Cognos).  I'm sure someone will say they have and can and i'll still say you shouldn't.  My previous recommendation, even for pilot was to separate DB2 and TDI on one machine, Connections/WAS/IHS on another and of course LDAP on a third.  That's a throwaway pilot design but for Connections 4 I'd also now say you need 2 servers for Connections/WAS and another one for Cognos so our minimal pilot goes from 3 servers to 5.  Now before you all start complaining about the number of servers, just think about the number of Applications that Connections brings and the breadth of its functionality, and then think about using VMs.

My new install went well although I opted not to deploy Cognos for this.  Firstly because it was a pilot to demonstrate Connections features to the users and metrics is fairly low down their list and secondly because, well to be honest I need a few more weeks with Cognos before I'm comfortable enough with that piece of the puzzle.

The new install took 2 days beginning to end from built hardware with OS installed.

Upgrade Install

The first upgrade install went very well.  I did a side by side upgade which was essentially a new install next to an existing install and a re-pointing and upgrading of the DB stores.  It was more a new install than an upgrade and would be my preferred method for moving existing sites.  IBM do support in place upgrades but there are many risks you have to allow for, the deeper your customisation, the greater the risk.  For customer sites I'm a big fan of avoiding as much risk as possible and also having rollback points throughout the process so side by side is by far the best solution

In-place Install

I'll admit it. This was a mistake.  I wanted to upgrade one of my own test environments and since it was mine and I didn't care about the data and I didn't have much customisation, I thought i'd do an in-place upgrade.  I'd call it a 70% success, I got there eventually but not how I was meant to.  The in place instructions involve patching WAS and IHS to the latest supported versions, upgrading the existing data stores as well as creating new ones for the new applications, moving the customisations out of the way (backing them up) so post upgrade you can move them back again and then uninstalling Connections and reinstalling again over the same WAS servers.  Everything was kind of fine up until the Connections reinstall.  I say kind of fine because my WAS install was behaving very oddly once I uninstalled Connections, menu items had disappeared for example, however what stopped me in my tracks was the part of the install where you connect to an existing deployment manager and the installer retrieves the configuration from there.  It failed with a java error trying to read from the Deployment Manager referring to the hyprtshim24.dll file.  The error was thrown by the jre6 install embedded within WAS and nothing would clear it.  I tried upgrading the jre, I spent a day searching and trying to debug the problem.  Eventually I decided to delete the existing WAS profiles, uninstall WAS completely then reinstall 7.0.3, upgrade it again and create a new cell and server.  That worked beautifully.  There must have been something in my old WAS install that was still in place and out of date despite my patching it to the required version.  The version I ended up installing with was the exact same version I failed installing with earlier, just on a new WAS instance.

Once I was past that problem everything worked fine.  WAS installed, I configured LDAP and continued with the Connections 4 install.  It completed and I re-created the IHS node and put my customisation pieces back and I was back in business.  Only my stubbornness trying to track down / fix the hyprtshim24.dll problem lost me a day.  

In general I'd say IBM have made some very big improvements to the install process but there are a lot of moving parts and following the documentation in detail is how you're going to navigate through.  Good luck!