I haven’t been writing a lot as I’ve been going crazy at work and nothing has jumped out at me as time sensitive. I’ve starting writing some “expert” blogs for AIIM on Enterprise Content Management, their label, so you can get a small fix over in the AIIM Community.
It is the summer and things are pretty slow going in the industry, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t build-up to a good rant. I was doing a little research in some release notes for Documentum the other day and something that annoyed me last Spring hit me full in the face.
The proliferation of patches. WOW! Let’s look at this for a minute.
I can’t tell you how many times I have installed a system, not just Documentum, and eventually come across a bug. Usually I have to open a ticket with the vendor, convince them that I’m doing things correctly, and then, if I’m lucky, I might get a bug fix.
Then there are those bugs that you don’t find until after damage has been done. At that point, you not only have to fix the problem, you have to repair the damage. That can be costly (though you do learn a lot about the inner workings of the system in question).
To solve this, a little over a year ago, EMC began releasing regular (1-2 months) patches for its active software. Excellent! If I’m installing a system I can add the latest patch. I can also review patch notes to see if there are any fixes that may be worth installing before the next Service Pack or Release.
As For Execution…
The biggest problem is the sheer number of patches. If a product is out for a year, you can expect 10-12 patches. That is 10-12 Release Notes and 10-12 packages. Let’s look at the previous version, Content Server 6.6, which triggered my effort.
I went to find the Release Notes because I was checking an environment certification and I didn’t have the notes already downloaded. There were 11 set of patches mixed in with the base product. Given that the Content Server includes the xPlore search engine and lots of different pieces of Documentation, there are 30+ files listed normally. There were also 50+ patch files!
After some time, I discovered that I could filter the patches out of the listing, speeding-up my Release Notes retrieval. The issue is that if I needed to download the latest patches, I would have been challenged.
The files are listed in patch order. There is a sort column that you like to think will list them in that order, but it doesn’t. As a result, determining which of the patch files are the latest version is challenging at best.
Keep in mind, this scenario is replicated across all products.
To be honest, they have to keep all the patches up there for download. You never know when someone will need to match an exact environment and re-download a set of patches. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be easier.
Two things need to be done.
- EMC needs a way to clearly indicate the latest patch release for all software. As not all software gets a new patch with each release, this isn’t necessarily as easy as looking for patch “11” across all version 6.6 products. Maybe put all patches in Powerlink, leaving only the latest in the Download Center.
- Patches need to be better tagged/organized. They don’t sort in patch order and I can’t sort by date. As it stands, when I browse the Content Server products, I have to scan the entire list for every patch file of a given patch release.
Kudos to EMC for releasing these patches. I can’t find a reason to really argue against the process. They have already served me well, though due to the headache above, determining how to successfully patch the previous release of xCP in January was a nightmare.
Just PLEASE make the download decision process to be less cryptic.