Tips for managing major product version updates

In each IT ecosystem, there are a myriad of decisions and considerations around upgrading software titles to new major versions. IT pro Rick Vanover explains some tips on keeping every application in check.

This week, I am at VMworld in Las Vegas. While I'm surely going to be wooed with the new vSphere 5 and all of the supporting virtualization technologies that are available today; there is one issue that faces all of us with new big releases. How will this impact the functionality of our environment today?

Leaving the love, hate, love, hate, hate relationship with consumption-based pricing at the door, we'll quickly see that this is one of those changes that we have to roll in. Regardless of adoption of virtualization or use of vSphere 5, any major product upgrade can cause an IT organization to run through a number of scenarios to determine what needs to happen to go from A to B. Here are a few tips that I've picked up along the way:

Hardware compatibility: Sometimes going from one version to the next of a software title may require more hardware resources, such as GB of memory or number of cores. In a world of virtual machines, this may be an easy fix; but not in all cases.

x64 Support: Many products are dropping support for 32-bit operating systems, supporting databases and other components as an option for installation. Further, this requirement can trickle down to the server processor as well. While most modern processors offer x64 support; it may not be enabled in the BIOS of the server or workstation. We are in an x64 world now, and titles are reflecting it.

Database support: If a product has a database requirement, does it change from version A to version B? A good example is dropping off support for older versions of database server engines. Another would be a requirement for an x64 database platform.

Client impact: How will the administrative console be impacted? A good example is a new Java requirement that breaks another Java requirement, or possibly a client install that requires a large amount of disk space on client machines.

Supporting applications: How will other environments which connect to this package be impacted? Will a service pack be needed? Will a new version be required? This can be for any application that connects to the major application through programmatic calls via an API, agents, database calls or console clients.

Licensing: Well, I guess I couldn't leave it at the door. How will a new version of a major title impact a licensing obligation?

These are just some of the things that are a good checklist of things to have answers for before we get too excited for new features. What issues do you evaluate when preparing for new product versions?