Install as I say not as I do.

betaAs we all know the pace of change in technology shows no sign of abating for good or ill. In software terms it’s a continual moving walkway of new patches, version and features, usually for the better sometime not so. I’m both lucky and cursed to be able to install a wide variety of new software where I work and at this moment installing a beta of ArcGIS 9.4 (or 10 as it will soon be) onto a new copy of Windows Server 2008 R2. I’ll soon be downloading and installing a copy of Visual Studio 2010 onto that virtual machine as well. Lucky eh? Well yes and no, lucky because I get to try out new technology as it comes out, unlucky as I’m sure there will be a whole host of frustrations about bugs and workflow changes that will eat time along the way.

This is good right?

When you see a new technology being released, usually as part of an existing product you use it can be tempting to upgrade as soon as possible. When you’ve been working on that technology for a while, at the cutting edge so to speak, you want to tell people how good it is. The problem comes around when the technology you use is not actually supported for the applications running on it. Sure it might work, even if you have to spend all night tinkering with he registry, but without support you’re on your own (or at the very best, it’s you and a forum of people!).

There is also a propagation of new and cool, as people install the newest and shiniest new software others also do, as successes increase people believe that because it works it is also support, this is definitively not the case, especially in the case of server software.image

Windows Server 2008 R2 and ArcGIS 9.3.1

I like Windows 2008 R2 in the same way as I like Windows 7, they have the same heritage, the main one being that they are not based upon the same core as Vista. Where possible I’ve upgraded all of my servers to this release, all of those servers I mean that do not run ArcGIS 9.3.1. Why if it so good, well because it’s not on the magic list. “What magic list?” I hear you ask; this one. The image below shows the list of platforms that is supported by ArcGIS 9.3.1. Look through it, notice no R2.

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Now there are people who have no choice than to install on a new system such as R2, where purchases or machine suppliers can’t give you a copy of non-R2 or Windows 2003, in these cases, such as given here, the time for installing can be a lot greater than it should have been given a supported operating system, even if it seems that some people have an easier time installing it than others.

Now I have quite a lot of questions about which of the Microsoft operating systems are the best to install ArcGIS Server on, I used to say Windows 2003 as I felt at home in IIS6 manager and used to get lost in imagethe new IIS7 manager, but now I have my head around it I stick with recommending Windows 2008. I never recommend the use of desktop systems for anything more than brief testing (I do development against ArcGIS Server from a desktop machine, in my case Windows 7, I try and never install server software on my development machine if I can help it). Doing this gets you into good habits and doesn’t lead you to the problem of serving out large caches of data to an organisation using Windows XP’s crippled IIS5.1 (yes I have seen it happen, and no I don’t encourage de-crippling through registry hacking).image

Remember by its very name ArcGIS Server is a server not a desktop product and friends don’t let friends install servers on desktops. Until I here otherwise from places like here and here, I for one won’t be recommending R2 for ArcGIS 9.3.1 (and nor should other people be encouraging it!). If you have to, then  good luck, I’ll try not to sail in you boat.

Install as I say not as I do

imageSo to sum up, it’s easy to think that as people blog about software working together they are often only giving their opinion about how it has worked for them. They might be able to give you advice about how it might work for you, but when your production system goes down in the middle of the night because your versions were not certified I can guarantee that they probably won’t be coming round to explain the short comings to your boss.

When I say here that I’ve seen ArcGIS Server 9.3.1 running on Windows Server 2008 R2 don’t assume that it’s supported when the Support site says that 2008 R2 isn’t supported for 9.3.1, if you want to go ahead and do it, it’s a free country, but don’t expect the support department to lose sleep over your downtime.

The CleanerSure it’s nice to
try new software out once in a while and even install beta products to work out how they tick, but when money is on the line, take some advice from someone who has been there before and be conservative with your software installs, if it’s a production system then play it safe. So you don’t need to employ a ‘cleaner’ to remove the mess.

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Anyway I’m off my installs are done and I have beta software to make work.