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Technology

Cumulative updates will change the way you look at upgrade

Friday, November 7, 2014

If you’ve been following my blog the past weeks, you already know that I am quite an NAV 2015 enthusiast. And, as I dig into the capabilities of the product, I keep discovering new significant improvements. For example, did you know that in 2015 RapidStart Upgrade makes it possible to have a three-way code analysis of what impact a new set of objects will have to your existing solution? Of course if any conflict is identified it needs to be managed, but otherwise it’s just click and go. The analysis is done in less than 15 minutes, pretty awesome compared to the effort needed previously unless you were an upgrade center or had invested in sophisticated tools. And RapidStart Upgrade also offers a tool to move data around during an upgrade. So as I was attending Convergence EMEA 2014 in Barcelona last week, I made sure to book a meeting with Mr. RapidStart himself aka Dmitry Chadayev for a chat about the much talked-about NAV 2015.

 

Upgrade vs update

Eager as I am to sell NAV 2015 I asked Dmitry: “So, when is the right time to upgrade to 2015”? He gave me this answer: “Previously companies typically waited until service pack 1 was released to upgrade to a new NAV version. And it also took time to learn a new version after it was released. Today when it comes to upgrade and quality each version is as good as another – whether it is a major release or a cumulative update. You can for example upgrade when cumulative upgrade 1 is released, just one month after a new version is released. And every month a full new version is available, thus if you wait two months instead, then you install the solution with cumulative update two directly, and so on… Upgrade is no longer a destination, it is a journey. Whenever you feel you have the capacity to upgrade then search for the latest cumulative update and do it. You don’t need to worry about whether another cumulative update or two are released while you upgrade. Just complete the upgrade and plan for the next one. Also remember that with the RapidStart Upgrade tools we released with NAV 2015 keeping up with updates is now much more affordable.

From there, Dmitry took me through a deep dive into the mechanism of Microsoft Dynamics updates and upgrades from now and in the future, and I would like to share this with you.

 

You see, the entire mindset around Microsoft Dynamics releases has changed. If you have been through a NAV 2009 -> 2013R2 upgrade you know that it is a significant job. However, from version 2013, a new angle has been applied to the solution upgrade release cycle. One of the major purposes of a release is still of course to meet a demand in the marked by shipping important features and updates more frequently – but now it also has to be applied in a way that has minimum impact on the existing solution architecture and design. In other words: it will be much easier to upgrade in the future. So good news if you are already on NAV 2013, getting on to the new versions is now within reach.

To summarize, Microsoft is now having two release cycles for NAV:

  • A yearly release cycle of new versions of NAV – version 2015 came out in September 2014 and the next version with the code name “Corfu” is planned for release a year from now. In order to benefit from these developments you need to upgrade your system.
  • A monthly release cycle of cumulative updates for every released version starting with NAV 2013.

 

What is a cumulative update?

Imagine that you do bug-fixing and monthly you are releasing the corrected or updated features. If it was service packs like in windows you would need to install first Sp1, then SP2 and finally SP3. Cumulative updates are built and tested differently, thus cumulative update 3 will also include all changes made in Cumulative update 1 and 2. From an end-user perspective it means that you don’t have to install each and every cumulative update to your system, you can install the latest one when needed, and then your entire system will be brought up to date. Now, that’s neat.

 

What does a cumulative update generally contain?

  • Hot-fixes and what formerly would be called “service packs” that can be done without data update or refactoring of the application.
  • Regulatory features thus updates to the Microsoft localization packs. This means that if you want to apply an updated regulatory feature to your solution, then the answer is to install the latest cumulative update. The updated functionality will no longer exist as separate fob-objects from Microsoft.
  • Light weight improvements of the application applied, i.e. improvements that can be made with no impact to the existing solutions.

 

A great advantage for partners is that they no longer have to go through a comprehensive process of searching for service packs in knowledge-based articles. They can just download the latest released version and go from there. It’s already tested.

 

You could say of course, that the downside of cumulative updates is the testing bottleneck. Now that Microsoft is developing a new cumulative update every month, all the testing is automated on their side. But after your system is updated you also need to test. The answer to that is automated testing… In the future, we are likely to see a new trend where partners and end-users increase the use of automated testing. Solution providers will have to provide not only a tested and certified solution to NAV, they will also have to provide test scripts. In fact, Dmitry told me that even though it is still early days, the team is exploring the ways to facilitate automated testing in the next version of NAV will start providing direct support for automated testing. Another great capability to look forward to.

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