The practicalities of upgrading to SharePoint 2010

In a recent episode of the MOSS Show podcast Hilton Giesenow interviewed two highly experienced SharePoint administrators, Todd Klindt and Shane Young. Todd and Shane described the options for upgrading from SharePoint 2007 to 2010, and why they think the upgrade will be a boon for hardware manufacturers.

If you are running SharePoint 2007 you will only have two options for upgrading to SharePoint 2010:

  • An in-place upgrade: SharePoint goes through all your content databases and converts them to SharePoint 2010. It does it all in one go, on the same hardware, with everything staying at the same url address as previously
  • A database attach upgrade: you keep your SharePoint 2007 farm running, and set up a brand new server farm to run SharePoint 2010 alongside it. You move your content databases over one by one from the SharePoint 2007 farm to the SharePoint 2010 farm

At first sight the in-place upgrade appears the better option. It is quicker, simpler (because you don’t have the complexity of running 2007 and 2010 in parallel) and cheaper (because you can re-use your existing hardware).

However Todd and Shane said that their experiences of running in-place upgrades from SharePoint 2003 to 2007 were so bad that they are wary of trusting it this time around. The in-place option gives you no control over the upgrade process. You have to let the whole upgrade take place over the whole farm. If the upgrade has failed all you can do is revert completely back to SharePoint 2007, diagnose what caused the problem, fix that problem and try the whole thing all over again.

Todd’s experience of running in-place upgrades from SharePoint 2003 to 2007 was that diagnosing the problem that caused your in-place upgrade to fail was like ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ . The problem could have come from anywhere on any content database anywhere on the farm, and the error messages that SharePoint provided were of little or no help.

Todd and Shane will instead be recommending that their clients run a database attach upgrade. They admit that this is a more expensive, time consuming and complex option than the in-place upgrade. It requires you to buy a complete set of new hardware for SharePoint 2010 to run on. It results in have what Todd called ‘URL craziness” as you move the content databases over one by one to run on the SharePoint 2010 farm, whilst still running the remaining databases on SharePoint 2007 from the 2007 farm.

However the advantage of the database attach upgrade is that you have more control over the whole process. You isolate each content database and move them over one by one. If the upgrade to one database fails it doesn’t mean that you have to roll back the whole of the rest of the upgrade. And it is much easier to diagnose problems because you know which content database the problem has occurred in.

Todd and Shane said that if they were a hardware manufacturer like HP or Dell they would be rubbing their hands at the thought of all those upgrades from SharePoint 2007 to 2010, and all the extra hardware that organisations will be buying.

2 thoughts on “The practicalities of upgrading to SharePoint 2010

  1. The key reason why new hardware is required is that SharePoint 2010 requires 64 bit servers rather than the chosen upgrade path requiring new hardware. Most SharePoint 2007 users are still using 32 bit servers.

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