IBM released BPM 8.6 this past September (2017), and the new version comes with changes, improvements and some potential pit-falls for the unprepared. I talked with Rama Athreya, one of our top installation and configuration consultants about the new release, and what it means for existing customers.
[Update] Though 8.6 may still feel quite new, it's already reaching its own end-of-support. Check out some of the features in the new BAW and updates on the upgrade path in this related post.
Nick: What does this release mean for IBM support of existing versions?
Rama: An important impact of the naming of this release is that all versions prior to 8.6 now have an end of service date. IBM’s End Of Service (EOS) date for version 8.5.x is 30-Sep-2018 (8.0.x was 30-Sep-2017). If you have been putting off upgrades, now might be a good time to start planning a move to 8.6.
Edit: Since this article was written, it has come to our attention that IBM has revised the 8.5.x End Of Service date to 30-Sep-2020.
Nick: What new features are in this release that customers should be aware of?
Rama: 8.6 is the first version to make the web-based process designer the primary development tool, supplanting the old Eclipse-based Process Designer. The product is also simplified, with Advanced and Standard editions being consolidated into one product. There are also some removed features — IE 9 is no longer supported and perhaps more notably, Java 7 is no longer supported, which may impact some older server configurations. You will want to review the requirements, changes and implications before upgrading your environment.
Nick: What are cumulative fix packs?
Rama: IBM’s cumulative fix packs (CF) are a very effective way of delivering updates through IBM’s Continuous Delivery (CD) approach. Instead of applying numerous individual interim fixes, system admins can apply one cumulative fix that includes all defect fixes (APARs) and the new functions of previously published cumulative fixes. This makes installation of fixes much quicker and less prone to errors.
The good news is that BPM 8.6 is a CF for 8.5.7 CF versions, so if you are running 8.5.6 or 8.5.7, installation should be a snap. The bad news is that Cumulative Fixes are available only for 8.5.6 or later. If you are on 8.5.0 or 8.5.5 (or anything in between), there is no need to worry — a comparatively simple upgrade path to 8.6 exists. If you are running an older version of BPM (like 8.0), then upgrading is a little more involved, and it would be prudent to start planning your upgrade project sooner rather than later. Upgrading from version 7.0 or 7.1 directly to 8.6 is officially not supported, so a multi-step upgrade is required.
Nick: How can Apex help?
Rama: Apex Process Consultants has successfully completed Lombardi/IBM BPM upgrades for many clients, including going from 8.0 to 8.6. To help you get started with your upgrade, download our pre-upgrade checklist. “IBM BPM 8.6 Upgrade Preparation Checklist”.
This worksheet helps you to gather information required for your upgrade/migration and identify any red flags you need to be aware of. If you have any questions regarding the content of this list, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit envisionapex.com.
Product maintenance strategy for IBM Business Process Manager V8.5.6, V8.5.7, and V8.6 — http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg21964995
IBM Business Process Management — Software lifecycle — https://www-01.ibm.com/software/support/lifecycleapp/PLCDetail.wss?from=spf&synkey=Y874774U49422V63
Migrating and upgrading your IBM BPM environment — https://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/SSFPJS_8.6.0/com.ibm.wbpm.imuc.doc/topics/tmig.html?view=kc