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Tech Talk


Comparing and Migrating Projects

One of the easiest ways to create instability in your PeopleSoft environments is to misuse the migration features in Application Designer. Today I'd like to talk about some of the basic features.

We migrate objects between environments either when applying updates from PeopleSoft or when applying customizations. Delivered changes (upgrades, service packs, bundles, updates, tax updates, patches, fixes—how many other names for these things are there?) come with their own instructions, but it is still important to understand the different options we have. While the compare reports may be a little rough, App Designer's compare and migration options are very comprehensive and give us a great deal of control over the process.

Some new developers—and even some who have been using App Designer for years—may be a little confused about some of the options. I'll admit to having a few misconceptions myself for a long time. There are still areas that I don't fully understand. Part of the problem, I believe, is that PeopleSoft thinks of the migration process as a way of automatically applying delivered changes. Even the term "upgrade" used on the menus reveals this way of thinking. On the other hand, most of us approach it as a way of applying customization, or of merging customization with delivered changes. That's the approach I'll take while discussing the process here.

Before starting a major migration, it doesn't hurt to clear your local cache, which is probably stored at C:\PS\CACHE\your-environment-name. This is especially true if you have done any sort of database refresh. Have you ever seen a case in which two obviously different versions of an object compare as "same/same," or a new object that doesn't even exist in the target database compares as "same/same"? That's bad cache.

The most important view for migration is under the Upgrade tab in App Designer. Open a project, select that tab, and open an object type. The columns are:

Source:  The state of the object in this database (more on this later)
Target:  The state of the object in the target database
Action:  What App Designer would do if you started the migration right now
Upgrade:  A checkbox that instructs App Designer to do the "Action"
Done:  A checkbox that indicates whether the "Action" has been done

When you first insert an object into the project, App Designer has not yet compared it with any other database. It assumes that you will want to migrate the object. Therefore, it sets the object initially to Source=Unknown, Target=Unknown, Action=Copy, Upgrade=Yes, and Done=No. The "Unknowns" simply mean that App Designer doesn't know whether the versions in your two environments are the same or have been changed (by you or by PeopleSoft). In fact, it doesn't even know what the target environment is. The situation is unknown.

Before doing any migration, run a Compare and Report (Tools | Upgrade | Compare/Report). This operation asks you to log on to the target database and then does two things. First, it compares the object between the current (source) database and the target, and sets the items described above. Then it produces a report of the differences.

I generally use the reports for PeopleCode objects only. I find most of the other reports difficult and some of them impossible to read. Just a personal opinion. So I just automatically close them. (The reports are still available for review or printing later. Go to the menu and select File | Report From File. The reports are stored in the "Upg" files. These must be opened and/or printed from within App Designer.)

So why run the Compare/Report if you're not going to read the reports? Because it also performs the very important function of setting the migration options. Look under the Upgrade tab again. Now an object might be shown as Source=*Changed, Target=Unchanged, Action=Copy, Upgrade=Yes, Done=No. If you then do the migration using Tools | Upgrade | Copy, the object will be copied to the target database and the Done checkbox will be checked. Or, for example, the object may have been found to be the same in the two databases. In this case, you will see Source=Same, Target=Same, Action=None, Upgrade=No, Done=No. App Designer won't bother copying this object unless you tell it to.

If you want an object to be copied, three things must be true: Action=Copy, Upgrade=Yes, and Done=No. You can set these manually as needed. Even if the objects compared the same and Action is set to None, you can still force the copy. Click on the Action field and it changes to a dropdown list from which you can choose Copy. (If you find this necessary, refer back to the discussion about clearing the cache. App Designer might be confused, forcing you to override its decisions.)

Now, I skipped one important step. There are certain options that should be reviewed before any Compare/Report or Copy. These are available either at Tools | Upgrade | Options, or via an Options... button within the Compare/Report and Copy dialogs. However you get to it, go to the Compare Options tab. In the Target Orientation frame, select "Keep Customizations." I said earlier that I'd approach this from the point of view of someone who is either migrating customizations or merging them with delivered changes. As a client-side developer, I would rarely if ever select "PeopleSoft Vanilla" here. The effect of this option is very simple. If you select "Keep Customizations," then a custom object will be marked with Upgrade=Yes. If you select "PeopleSoft Vanilla" (which is, unfortunately, the default), then a custom object will be marked with Upgrade=No. If you don't check the Upgrade box, your carefully customized object won't be migrated.

Some of the other options on this dialog can be a little confusing. I'll discuss them next week. And how should you set those 24 little checkboxes under the Report Filter tab? I'll also try to tackle that one. What's the difference between "Changed" and "*Changed"? How can a customized object be "*Unchanged"? What's the one migration operation that App Designer is afraid to do? And then there's the lesser-known but very important option of the database compare...

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