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Upgrading PeopleSoft, part 1: The first steps

With Project Fusion looming, you need to get up to speed on some of the technology that will be fused into the new apps suite. This tip explains a PeopleSoft upgrade.

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The PeopleSoft Technical Upgrade process is complex. Although PeopleSoft provides templates, scripts and tools to aid you in the process, these are just initial guidebooks. This tip explains the technical upgrade process from PeopleSoft Financials 7.52 to Financials 8.4SP1 and explains which areas of the upgrade will take the most time and what specific tuning can be performed to improve the odds of completing the upgrade over a weekend rather than a week.

The upgrade process -- What is it?

In simplest terms 'upgrading' is moving from one (current) release level to a higher (newer) release level. Most often this move comes with benefits -- technical and functional -- that are improvements to the way the current release functions. For example, one of the benefits of upgrading might be the technical advantage of moving away from client-server based applications to Web-based applications. The benefit of being able to access an application using a Web browser over having to install software on each user's workstation is immense. Gleaning the goodness often comes with a certain amount of complexity. In the case of the move to Web-based computing there are often more pieces of hardware to support the multiple computing tiers required to deliver the boon. This equates to an increase in technical complexity, which in turn comes with a price. Upgrades are not cheap. The result of an upgrade needs to be clearly articulated in order to get the backing of sponsors (usually the people who sign the checks). As an agent of change, you will need to be prepared for the inevitable question: "Why would I ever change something that's working?"

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The PeopleSoft upgrade is many things to many people. To the software vendor, providing the updated software, it represents millions of dollars of research and development. It also represents future growth. To organizations utilizing ERP software, an upgrade is the reason they have been paying those large support/maintenance bills each year. The upgrade comes with advances in technology and in functionality. Within an organization, teams assembled to perform an upgrade are often aligned along these technical (information systems) and functional (business) lines.

Each of these technical and functional teams has a crucial role to perform. Technical team members must ensure new hardware components to support the technology change are put in place. They are also charged with the execution of prescribed technical upgrade procedures -- delivering the upgraded system to the functional team.

The functional team is charged with performing a 'fit-gap' analysis of what's new, modifying existing procedures to take advantage of the newer (improved) processes and rigorously testing the software prior to its acceptance.

PeopleSoft technical upgrade -- Defined

PeopleSoft provides a wealth of information and tools to assist you in performing the technical upgrade. As with any successful project, the time you spend in preparing and planning for your upgrade will pay off later in its smooth execution. You should first familiarize yourself with the larger picture -- the milestones required to perform the upgrade and then once you have the conceptual flow, dig into the details of how each milestone is to be achieved. Of equal importance, is to understand where the technical upgrade fits into the overall upgrade of the application. Typically, the technical upgrade team has to establish the working infrastructure: installing software including the DEMO version of the PeopleSoft application, ensuring release levels of databases and utility software are up to date and the going through the first conversion, or in PeopleSoft terms, the first 'move-to-production.' After this point the functional team can begin its fit-gap analysis, training and testing. It is also the time when the technical team captures basic configuration information and starts on optimizing the time it takes to perform the upgrade and by refining the upgrade process through a series of test moves-to-production.

Upgrade planning

Begin your upgrade with a plan that will lead you through the steps to execute the technical upgrade. Fortunately, the upgrade instructions provided by PeopleSoft gives you a great start. The instructions contain a detailed task list of the steps required to complete the upgrade.

Is your environment ready? Are your operating system, database, hardware and third party tools certified for the new release. Do you have enough resources on the existing hardware to carry off the upgrade? Going to a Web-based system requires new hardware to run PeopleSoft 8x specific application servers, Web-servers and process schedulers. This doesn't apply exclusively to the production environment. You'll need plenty of these resources in your development and test environments, as you will have multiple copies in various stages of upgrade.

Hardware/software resources

One of the first steps to be performed is to check your application's upgrade path. This basically describes a viable and certified path from one combination of PeopleSoft Application Release and corresponding PeopleTools release to another. Check the PeopleSoft Customer Connection site 'Platforms' for the release you are running in production today and compare against the target application release. Application releases will dictate which PeopleTools are required and you can use this information to determine if other components such as the Operating System (OS) and Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) satisfy the certification requirements. If you find that you are not on a supported component release, you'll first need to upgrade that component. These other upgrades need to take place ahead of your planned PeopleSoft upgrade and can be time consuming!

You'll also need to confirm third party software release levels. An example of this is COBOL compilers. You will need to be able to compile COBOL on various computing tiers (application server / process scheduler) and may possibly need multiple compilers to support each OS (Windows / Unix) depending upon which computing tier runs which OS.

Moving from a client-server (PeopleSoft 7.x) to a Web-based (PeopleSoft 8.x) system using the PeopleSoft Internet Architecture (PIA) requires more physical hardware resources. The PeopleSoft 8.x version introduces new computing tiers including a Web-server and browser. It also centralizes much of its processing to the application server. PeopleSoft 7.5 installations often chose to run their database and application servers on the same physical machine running in a logical three-tier (the other tier was the client workstation). However, with the application server now requiring more resources (read memory), it's advised to physically separate the database and application server tiers to dedicated hardware.

Another architecture change that may not be immediately obvious has to do with the process scheduler. PeopleSoft advises placing the process scheduler on the same machine as your database as the speed with which data passed between the two tiers will be increased. The report and processing tools that run on the process scheduler machine is in a few cases limited by the process scheduler's operating system. For example, the Crystal and nVision reporting tools can only run on a process scheduler running on a Windows operating system. If you run your database on Unix and wish to run a single process scheduler, you'll have to dedicate separate machines for the database and process scheduler. Either that, or you'll have to run multiple process schedulers -- one on Unix and on Windows. Either way, it's additional resources (machines, money, setup) and complexity.

Technical team personnel

You must then determine if you have enough qualified resources to make the technical upgrade happen. Most organizations perform major ERP upgrades once every three to five years and wish to complete them as quickly as possible so that they can get back to their company's 'real' business. The people who support your PeopleSoft installation may be very good at what they do but have likely not performed a previous PeopleSoft upgrade. Even if they have performed a PeopleSoft upgrade, they have likely not performed the upgrade that your company is about to embark upon. Unless you or your organization wants to become proficient in performing upgrades, it pays off immensely to seek out and retain qualified help. Augmenting your staff with an 'upgrade specialist,' ideally someone who has been through the exact upgrade that you are about to perform and who has the battle scars to prove that they have successfully 'been there and done that,' will assist in avoiding the inevitable pitfalls of the upgrade process.

Training

Training your technical team on the upgrade process is essential. Delta training explaining the differences in the architecture and in PeopleTools over the current install will greatly assist in overcoming obstacles along the way. It is important that the training occur prior to the start of the upgrade process as mistakes made early on in the upgrade can have a profound affect on the upgrade if not detected until later on.

Part 2 of this tip focuses on the technical aspects of the PeopleSoft upgrade.


 

This was last published in February 2005

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