All throughout the year many people ask about upgrading either SolidWorks or EPDM. This is especially true around this time of year as the new release of SolidWorks is about to come out. Many customers worry:
Will the next release work just as well as this one? Will my process break? I can't afford the downtime to upgrade and the path isn't clear! Why should we upgrade if everything is working as is? Will my customizations continue to work?
All these things are valid questions and often leave many companies to put off upgrading many months and sometimes several years. This can lead to some major challenges later on when your vendors or customers start using later versions you become forced to move. Additionally there are many improvements made to the software from release to release. This year there are some 400 to 500 improvements being made to SolidWorks and that doesn't even include bug fixes. 2013 for example included some very important enhancements related to video rendering performance, simply from upgrading!
Needless to say we strongly encourage upgrading but there must be some way to chart the waters, clear the fog, and eliminate much of the doubt to empower today's CAD Admin.
My recommendation: An upgrade test environment. Essentially this is an area, a sandbox, set aside to test upgrades. This includes not only WPDM or EPDM, but also your SolidWorks files as well. When doing SolidWorks files it is easy to setup on one of these. Basically, copy a sample of files to test upgrading to the next version and see what happens. However, when testing PDM we must duplicate the vault to make a full and true test. Remember the scientific theory, we want reproducible results so controlling the environment is key. This post won't cover the details of how to do this but it will give a brief overview and references for those willing to try.
For EPDM we must duplicate the key components. They are illustrated below:
The "Vault" is composed of the data (the files) and the metadata (the information about the files). Together these are viewed by the client in what is called the vault view. These can be duplicated to other servers (or virtual servers) and a new client connected to run the test environment through its paces. For details on this process see the Appendix of the Installation Guide (on the CD) "Moving Server Components". Also I have found even easier is the knowledgebase solution S-017826: "How can you restore a copy of a customer's PDMWorks® Enterprise file vault to a separate system from a database backup for testing purposes?". Trust me, that solution is the way to go. In fact you can install the new environment at the new version and upgrade the vault as part of the solution's process. The Installation Guide has details on setting up the server components in preparation of the move/copy.
For those using Workgroup PDM the metadata and data are separate concepts but can be taken together as one. Simply copy the "Vaultdata" folder and install the server component on a new server, pointing towards the Vaultdata copy. This process is covered in knowledgebase solution S-031210: "What are the steps to move a PDM Workgroup Vault to a new server and retain all settings?".
Once the duplicate environments are created test away (and rigorously!). Run files throughout their workflows and upgrade files to the latest version of SolidWorks. Test your tasks and custom APIs and document everything. This will enable you to go into an upgrade with both eyes open. While not common it has happened where customers of mine have discovered potential pitfalls ahead of time and have them resolved before moving forward. It will also give you the ability to gauge just how involved an upgrade process will be and where you can overlap tasks to minimize the time impact. Through these methods you can stay ahead of the curve with latest features and reduced upgrade effort and manpower.