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Install to go-live, 3 days

This has been an interesting week, but not really that surprising.

I was called back to a previous client site where I had previously helped with some Oracle Application Server ( post-install configuration. In that previous visit, I got oriented to the environment they use and the packaged application they were deploying. The packaged application uses JSP, Oracle Forms, and Oracle Reports (possibly also Discoverer). The deployment environment is all Microsoft Windows servers with two Oracle Application Server homes per application server since the vendor’s deployment requires that JSPs be deployed in a separate O_H from the Oracle Forms and Oracle Reports environment (that’s the first eyebrow-raise I did, but whatever).

This customer had an environment that was configured by the vendor for testing purposes and it works fine. However, it uses HTTP and they want to use HTTPS for all client-server traffic. They also wanted to be able to manage the environment and be better equipped to support it, so they left the vendor-installed environment as is and built a new environment on new servers so they’d get first-hand views of the install and configuration procedures. Since all the application servers are virtual machines, they could easily create additional machines.

My first job back a few weeks ago was to configure SSL for all the client-server configuration. That took a couple of hours to finalize while explaining the steps I performed along the way. I also did some database configuration to configure basic backups of the databases (these are the first and only Oracle databases in the environment). The customer then fought through finding all the places where URLs were either in database tables or hard-coded in properties and configuration files to make the appropriate change for the new HTTPS URLs. We also configured the whole environment to use WebCache to load-balance the two application tiers (2 “Forms tier” and 2 “JSP tier” servers total). After much hunting and a little tracing of SQL to find the URLs in the DB, it all worked fine.

This week, the plan was to invite the vendor’s installation consultant along with me to a joint installfest. We would start on Monday morning with a database server that had databases installed, patched, and created along with two “brand new” application servers that had no Oracle software on them at all. The tasks were to install and configure the vendor’s application and go-live on it (cutting over the existing environments from the vendor-installed environment that was in use at the time) by Wednesday afternoon. That’s 3 days. Same week, same year…you read it right.

While this seems (and is) something of a horrible idea, it did have some logic that helped make it seem a little less bad:

  • They only had one module (payroll–so an important module) for one small sub-company (a small number of employees) live on the current system. The rest of the modules and other entities will go live later, following data migration testing and training.
  • They saw it as an opportunity to go live, maybe hit a few bumps, but have the two best resources to fix the bumps (the vendor installation consultant and me) onsite and ready to address whatever comes up. The alternative was to go live next week when they’d be there without additional support and have to address the issues “alone.”

The short version of the story is that they went live at around 5pm on Wednesday afternoon. True to their goal, it was three days from first Oracle Univesal Installer run to application go-live. Of course, they had done testing quite a lot on other systems/environments, so they already had a list of workarounds and fixes to implement as part of the three-day plan.

While I still don’t believe that such a short implementation cycle was the best plan, it did happen and they went in eyes wide open knowing the risks and potential issues. Regardless, this is probably the fastest implementation go-live I’ve ever witnessed and can’t imagine any other ERP implementation project doing the same thing no matter how small it is!