Software updates often include new features, and while useful, these new features are often the only driving factors in upgrading software. There's no harm in wanting to play around with the shiny new toy but many software updates also include much more significant changes, such as resolving bugs or security vulnurabilities.
In fact, bug fixes and security patches are usually released on a more frequent schedule than new feature sets. These changes are necessary to maintain a healthy environment. For this reason, Rittman Mead usually suggests environments are always as up to date as possible with the current releases available.
OBIEE 188.8.131.52 was released this past summer, and it seems to have resolved many issues that plagued early 12C adopters. Recently, OBIEE 184.108.40.206 was also released, resolving even more issues with the early 12C versions. With all of the improvements and fixes available in these versions, an upgrade plan should be a priority to anyone currently on one of the earlier releases of 12c (especially 220.127.116.11).
Okay, so how do I upgrade?
Spencer McGhin has already posted a fantastic blog going over how to perform an in-place upgrade for the 18.104.22.168 release. Even though it was for the previous release, the process is very similar. For those interested in reading a step by step guide, or looking to see what would go into the process, I would suggest reading his post here.
However, with OBIEE 12C's new BAR files, we could take another approach to performing an upgrade. Instead of the traditional "in-place" upgrades, we could perform an upgrade using a different process. We could simply perform a brand new install of this OBIEE version and migrate the existing content using a variety of tools Oracle provides us. Robin Moffatt covered this kind of installation for OBIEE 22.214.171.124 here, before the new BAR files existed, and now the BAR files will make this process much more straightforward.
If you choose to "upgrade" your environment by performing a fresh install, implementing the upgrade process will comprise of exporting the required files from OBIEE, removing the old version of OBIEE (if you are using the same machine), installing the new version of OBIEE, and then deploying the previously exported content. This process resembles that of a migration, and can be thought of that way, but migrating between 12C environments seems to be much simpler than migrating to a 12C environment from an older environment.
So an upgrade process could instead look like a brand new installation of the new OBIEE version, and then the execution of a handful of commands provided by Oracle to return the environment to its previous state.
But what would we gain from following this process, rather than a traditional in-place upgrade?
It's worth noting that either approach requires careful planning and testing. Performing a brand new install does not remove the necessity of planning an upgrade process, gathering requirements, identifying all content that must be migrated, testing the installation, testing the migration, and user acceptance and validation testing. The proper process should never be ignored, regardless of the implementation method.
Is there any advantage to a fresh install?
For starters, you won't need to pollute your system with old or deprecated scripts/directories. In Spencer's aforementioned blog, he found that after his upgrade process he had to maintain a second middleware home directory. If you upgrade your environment throughout the years, you may end up with hundreds of unused/deprecated scripts and files. Who enjoys the thought that their environment is full of old and useless junk? A fresh install would cull most of these superfluous and defunct files on a regular basis.
Additionally, there is the occasional bug that seems to reappear in upgraded environments. These bugs usually appear to be from environments that were patched, and then upgraded to a new version, which causes the previously fixed bug to reappear. While these bugs are fixed in future patches, fresh installs are usually free from these kind of issues.
Finally, I would argue a fresh installation can occasionally be simpler than performing the upgrade process. By saving response files used in an installation, the same installation can be performed again extremely easily. You could perform an install in as little as three lines, if not fewer:
/home/oracle/files/bi_platform-126.96.36.199.0_linux64.bin -silent -responseFile /home/oracle/files/obiee.rsp /home/oracle/Oracle/Middleware/Oracle_Home/oracle_common/bin/rcu -silent -createRepository -databaseType ORACLE -connectString localhost:1521/ORCL -dbUser sys -dbRole sysdba -schemaPrefix DEV -component BIPLATFORM -component MDS -component WLS -component STB -component OPSS -component IAU -component IAU_APPEND -component IAU_VIEWER -f < /home/oracle/files/db_passwords.txt /home/oracle/Oracle/Middleware/Oracle_Home/bi/bin/config.sh -silent -responseFile /home/oracle/files/configure_obiee.rsp
If this is the case, you can just save the response files set up during the first installation, and reuse them to install each new OBIEE version. Of course the required response file structure could change between versions, but I doubt any changes would be significant.
How do I migrate everything over?
So you've chosen to do a fresh install, you've saved the response files for future use, and you have a brand new OBIEE 188.8.131.52 environment up and running. Now, how do we get this environment back to a state where it can be used?
Before performing the upgrade or uninstall, we need to gather a few things from the current environment. The big things we need to make sure we get is the catalog, RPD, and the security model. We may need additional content (like a custom style/skin or deployments on the Weblogic Server, configurations, etc.) but I will ignore those for brevity. To move some these, I expect you would be required to use the WLST.
Catalog, RPD, and Security Model
Lucky for us, the Catalog, RPD, and Security Model are all included in the BAR export we can create using the
exportServiceInstance() function in the WLST. You can then import these to a 12C environment using the
importServiceInstance() function. Easy enough, right?
If your users are maintained in the embedded Weblogic LDAP, you must export them and then re-import them. This process can be done manually or through the WLST using the Current Management Object.
If users are maintained through an external Active Directory source, then the configurations will be pulled in with the Security Model in the BAR file.
Testing the migration
The final step is, of course, to make sure everything works! And what better way than to use Oracle's new Baseline Validation Tool. This tool is included in OBIEE 12C, and is perfect for testing migrations between environments.
For those unfamiliar, the basic process is this:
- Configure and run the Baseline Validation Tool against your content.
- Perform the upgrade (be sure to preserve the previously gathered test results)!
- Run the Baseline Validation Tool again to gather the new output, and display the compared results.
The output should be an HTML file that, when opened in a browser, will let you know what has changed since the last time it was run. If everything was migrated properly, then there should be no major discrepancies.
Is it better to do an in-place upgrade, or a fresh install and migrate current content? The answer, as always, depends on the business. One method adds complexity but allows for more customization possibilities, while the other is likely faster and a more standard approach. Use whichever works for your specific requirements.
It's an interesting idea to install a new version of OBIEE every so often, rather than perform an upgrade, but maybe for some organizations it will simplify the process and alleviate common upgrade issues. If you or your organization are often stuck on older versions of OBIEE because you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the typical upgrade process, maybe you can provision an additional environment and attempt this alternative method.
As previously stated, it is imperative for environments to be as up to date as possible, and this method is simply another, albeit unconventional, avenue to make that happen.