IBM has formally announced that it is dropping support for FileNet version 5.2.X on April 30th, 2019. FileNet customers on 5.2.X need to decide whether to upgrade to the 5.5 version, run unsupported, or migrate to another option. This post will present our thoughts from talking with a FileNet customer working through the decision process.
Upgrading FileNet – Not an easy decision
For FileNet customers, the decision to upgrade or migrate is not a simple decision. Like pulling a lose thread, upgrading FileNet might lead to other portions of the infrastructure that should be upgraded as well. For our customer, the upgrade included at least an upgrade of Oracle as well as other application and server components. Many times, upgrades can be difficult and risky and could result in a variety of costs and issues that, to the end users, don’t necessarily add value. Typically in regards to upgrades for stable clients, TSG will typically recommend:
- For a major .0 release, wait for the first service pack or .1 release to let other new installs work out the issues with the newest release.
- For a minor .X release, consider waiting and potentially skipping releases unless there is substantial value for getting on the new release.
- For any release, consider what other components of the ECM stack (DB, Application Server, hardware….) should be upgraded as well.
- For most environments, never upgrade in place as fall-back can be an issue. TSG recommends a new environment to allow for addressing issues without user interruption. Typically either virtual or new hardware should always be considered. TSG typically recommends delta migrations over blackout days if possible when considering migrating to the new environment.
For our FileNet customer, the decision comes down to:
- Upgrade to FileNet 5.5
- Migrate to something different
- Run on FileNet 5.2 unsupported
Upgrade to FileNet 5.5
As already mentioned above, upgrading to FileNet 5.5 involves:
- Potential need to upgrade hardware and Servers
- Upgrading Oracle
- Upgrading FileNet
Since the client was using a third party tool to access FileNet, that tool at a minimum would also require upgrading. All of the above would provide no additional capabilities to the business users and introduced the risk that some of the business might be interrupted during the upgrade process. Our client wasn’t sure that any support from IBM on the 5.5 version would be better than their current support on the 5.2 version.
Migrate to something else
Given a third party tool to access FileNet, the team felt the migrating to something else would be a substantial effort. Not only would the migration introduce a new ECM system but also potentially a new interface and require all of the integrations to both the old interface and FileNet to be moved. See our previous post on why migrations will never be easy.
While the team had a desire to begin moving the cloud, they felt strongly that the IBM cloud with FileNet was not a long term direction. In regards to the cloud, the client was more focused on Amazon or Azure and could not justify the move from a running a stable on-premise system to the cloud or a new platform.
Run unsupported on FileNet 5.2
In the end, the team reached a preliminary decision to continue to run on their existing FileNet 5.2 unsupported. Reasons include:
- FileNet/IBM Support – The team felt they were not getting great support from IBM on their current version and didn’t think it would get any better on FileNet 5.5.
- System Stability – The team felt the system was very stable currently and did not want to risk the upgrade process that could introduce instability as well as some downtime with no perceived benefit to the business user.
- Cloud – Client is considering the cloud in the future and would tie any upgrade or migration to that future decision.
While a vendor like IBM dropping support on a version might seem like a requirement to either upgrade or migrate, often the most practical decision from a risk and cost perspective can be to run unsupported. Many vendors will often use the “off of support announcement” to offer additional charges for continued support while clients continue to pay their maintenance. TSG typically doesn’t recommend these additional charges as we have often found vendor support for out of support products can be very lacking and not worth the cost for a stable system.
As we have said at this site often, clients should start to plan for migrating away from FileNet as it continues to not be a major focus of IBM. For many implementations of FileNet, there are simple ways to leverage cloud vendors as we mentioned in our article on how FileNet for one customer can be replaced with just AWS S3 while giving the customer all the benefits of a modern browser for viewing and annotation as well as replacement of proprietary components like TIF files with more flexible PDF and modern document formats.
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