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Consultants Corner: Tips for Upgrading to GroupWise 7

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Gregg Hinchman

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Posted: 9 Aug 2005

"Slow down you move too fast, got make the morning last, just skipping down the cobblestones" . . .I was skipping down the cobblestones in France not long ago when GroupWise 7 came to mind. Now you might ask "What does France have to do with GroupWise 7?" The answer is they both look great and excite me!!

I can honestly say that I have never been as excited about a release of GroupWise as I am about 7. The mid-August release date cannot come fast enough. While thinking about GroupWise 7, I thought about the GroupWise community and how this release has so much hype and so many features along with a new look and feel -- organizations are going to want to upgrade as quickly as possible.

So how can I help them? Well they can hire me, of course. A consultant can substantially reduce the upgrade time of a GroupWise system, once they are intimately familiar with its 'quirks' and design. But let me step back from the 'shameless plug' and get to the meat of this article: upgrading.

I have spent long hours upgrading more GroupWise systems than I remember. I have upgraded in mid-day, at midnight, and sometimes even while moving the entire system to new hardware. So let me share some of my tips to make your upgrade easier.

NOTE: Please do not consider this article as the "end all-be all" guide for upgrading. It's written to help you plan for the upgrade to GroupWise 7 and to give you some ideas to make the upgrade easy.

Tip 1: Get to know your GroupWise system

A consultant's life is filled with traveling to different places, sleeping in unfamiliar (hotel) beds and, in my case, getting intimately familiar with an organization's GroupWise system in a very short period of time.

Administrators have it made when it comes to the GroupWise system they support. They know all the history, trials, tribulations and idiosyncrasies of their GroupWise system. Unfortunately, they sometimes are also 'numb' to the day-to-day issues because they work too closely to see the bigger picture.

A fresh pair of eyes often uncovers the root problem or sees the bigger picture. So take a step back from your GroupWise system, take a deep breath, and do a top-down complete review of your GroupWise system. You will be surprised at what you find.

Before you attempt to upgrade your GroupWise system:

  • Review the GroupWise system design, with a thought to how your organization's implementation can be made more efficient and effective.
  • Review the Domain object(s) and all parameters
  • Review the Domain MTA object(s) and all parameters
  • Review the Post Office object(s) and all parameters
  • Review the Post Office POA object(s) and all parameters
  • Review the Gateway Agent object(s) and all parameters

It is very possible that your organization's GroupWise design no longer effectively serves the organization. Design best practices have changed over the years to fit the growing demand for email. Also, WAN/LAN speeds have increased while GroupWise has grown more robust.

Without exception, I can say that every GroupWise system I have reviewed has had improperly configured parameters, such as incorrect or old UNC paths leftover from a previous move. Most of the time they are minor issues, but many times they are big enough issues to cause an upgrade to fail.

A few more things to look at before upgrading:

  • Review the GroupWise System Operations, eDirectory User Sync process
    eDirectory User Synchronization can have an effect upon an end-user's email account. Just think about how many times you have performed a synchronization on an end-user email account to get a parameter pushed out, such as a password change. If you notice such problems, you may also consider an eDirectory health check.

  • Review the GroupWise System Operations, Internet Addressing implementation
    Back in the GroupWise 5 days, Internet Addressing was added to make GroupWise more internet compliant. Some organizations used 'Internet' or 'INET' domains along with 'Internet Addressing Rules', and they are still left over. Or worse, the organization has still not turned on Internet Addressing; I have seen this on several occasions.

  • Review the GroupWise System Operations, LDAP implementation
    Many times organizations will do hardware refreshes when upgrading GroupWise and forget to redo the LDAP servers.

  • Review the GroupWise System Operations, Pending Operations
    The worst, though, is Pending Operations. Pending Operations is another term for 'communication errors.' They can be caused because of network issues, ConsoleOne issues, or improperly configured MTAs and POAs. Clean up and investigate Pending Operations before upgrading.

Also consider and investigate the following:

  • Current GroupWise servers, for RAM and processor utilization
    GroupWise administrators are often so focused on the daily routine of their GroupWise system they forget to check server parameters. If a processor is pegged at a continuously high utilization, something is wrong or the box is in need of replacement.

  • Current disk space used by GroupWise
    Have you ever been surprised by a volume that runs out of disk space on a GroupWise server? Imagine running out in the middle of an upgrade.

  • Log files from Schedule Events
    There are many post office maintenance routines you can run for the post office. Contents Checks, Structure/Index Checks, Statistics, etc. are a few. Review the log files for these events to see if they report any 'uncorrectable' conditions. It's better to find issues in the middle of the day before you upgrade, then to scramble in the middle of the night while upgrading.

Next, let's deal with the discovered issues.

GroupWise 7 "Spoiler"

Throughout this article I will present a couple of little "spoilers" or information about GroupWise 7 to whet your appetite. Here is the first one.

GroupWise WebAccess in a Mixed Environment

Wait till you see the new GroupWise 7 WebAccess. It looks great!! And works even better! Why wait? Take a gander at Figures 1 and 2 below.

Figure 1: GroupWise 7 WebAccess Mailbox View

Figure 2: GroupWise 7 WebAccess Calendar View

If you want to upgrade to the GroupWise 7 WebAccess look, you need not wait until the rest of your GroupWise 6.5 system is upgraded. Just upgrade the WebAccess Application to GroupWise 7 and you will give all your GroupWise users the same look and feel of GroupWise 7 WebAccess. The GroupWise 7 WebAccess Application is smart enough to know if it is working with a GroupWise 6.5 WebAccess Agent, in which case certain new GroupWise 7 features will not work, but the look and feel will. The GroupWise 7 features will just not appear.

Here is a list of the new features in GroupWise 7 WebAccess that will not be available to a GroupWise 6.5 user:

  • Name completion
  • Posted Items
  • In-line calendar item creation
  • Work in Progress/Draft Item support
  • Mark Read

It's important to note though, that the GroupWise 6.5 WebAccess users did not have any of this functionality before, so they won't feel as though they are missing anything.

Now, let's say you are in the midst of upgrading your GroupWise system. Several post offices are GroupWise 6.5 and a few are GroupWise 7. You can install a new GroupWise 7 WebAccess Agent, and designate it as the preferred WebAccess Agent for the GroupWise 7 post offices. Then the GroupWise 7 users will get all the new functionality of the GroupWise 7 WebAccess. If you need more guidance on WebAccess design, take a look at the Novell Press GroupWise 6.5 Administrator's Guide, found at

End "Spoiler"

Tip 2: Fix GroupWise before you break it

Now that you have found issues, major or minor, it's time to fix them. Obviously, if there is a need for more or better hardware, get it ordered and in place before upgrading. Resolve eDirectory issues and other communication problems as well. Clear out the Pending Operations. Most importantly, document your findings and fixes so that you can refer back in the middle of the upgrade should an issue arise.

GroupWise 7 "Spoiler"

In GroupWise 7, you will start to see more MSGnnn.DB files in the OFMSG directory below your post office directories. GroupWise 7 supports 255 message databases MSG0.DB through MSG254.DB. In fact, what's interesting is that as soon as you begin upgrading to GroupWise 7 in your environment you will see additional MSGnnn.DB files popping up even on your GroupWise 6.0x and GroupWise 6.5x post offices.

For example, a customer that has only upgraded their primary domain to GroupWise 7 during the 'Beta' testing phase has already seen MSGnnn.DBs popping up on all of their GroupWise 6.5 post offices. The simple reason, in this customer's case, is their Internet mail flows through the primary domain.

MSGnnn.DB's work on older versions of GroupWise because the code for support of more message databases was actually in place for quite a while; it just was not fully activated until GroupWise 7. I would call this excellent foresight by the development team.

End "Spoiler"

Tip 3: Tricks are for kids, and so are wizards

In the GroupWise 5 days, to upgrade or service pack a GroupWise system you had to rely upon the wizards; the files were not portable. Then GroupWise 6 came along with portability for GroupWise files. Let me explain. When I say portability I mean the ability to copy any file(s) from a service pack or new version to any place I desire. This makes upgrading, not to mention clustering, GroupWise easier.

Portable NLMs

Here is what I do. First I create a GWx directory on my desktop, where x is the version and service pack level (in our case 'GW70'). Next, I copy all files from CD under the AGENTS directory to the GW70 directory. Under AGENTS are several subdirectories; I just copy all files from the following directories: (Assuming you are running GroupWise on NetWare)

  • HELP
  • NLM

I do not copy subdirectories (there is no need), but I do drill down into the subdirectories to get all the files. For example: Under NLM| LANGUAGE are the language files needed. I just copy them directly to GW70.

Figure 3: Building a Portable GW70 directory

Now that I have all the basic files for the MTA and POA, I go to the INTERNET directory on the CD, under GWIA and WEBACCES in the NLM directory, including files under subdirectories and copy those files to the GW70 directory on my desktop.

This gives me a complete set of files in one directory. I then copy this directory to all servers where GroupWise will be upgraded. When I am upgrading and get to the step to reload the MTAs and POAs, I call them from the GW70 directory. I then set the GRPWISE.NCF or whatever file I use to auto load GroupWise on the server.

If making this directory manually concerns you, then use the wizards the first time you upgrade a domain, post office and the gateways. Just point the wizard to the GW70 directory. The wizard will then copy the files for you. Then you just have to copy the GW70 directory to all your GroupWise servers. You will not have to use the wizards again.

Upgrade Configuration Files

In the GW70 directory mentioned above are the STRTUPUS.MTA and STRTUPUS.POA files. These are the templates for the MTA and POA configuration files. I like to prepare these in advance of an upgrade and save them. Then when I do the reload of the MTAs and POAs, they are ready to go. This goes for the GWIA.CFG and WebAccess.WAA files as well.

Backup the DBs and DCs

Also a helpful little tip is to make a copy of the WPDOMAIN.DB and the WPHOST.DB with the agents unloaded, before you upgrade. Common sense tip for sure, that will save you a lot of time should you need to back out of the upgrade. When you do this, consider doing a Validate and then a Recover on the DBs first. Then unload the MTA and/or POA. Next, try renaming the DB files. If you can rename them, then you have a good copy without a file lock on it. If you cannot, use NetWare Monitor to find out what connection has a lock on the file and free up that connection.

As a consultant I am a bit more paranoid, so I make a copy of the DBs before an upgrade and then directly after the upgrade. This provides me with a couple of snapshots from which to recover from should there be an issue. I also like to have a copy of the DC files before the upgrade. The DC files can be found on the previous version CD or service pack. DC files define the database file records. Check them out. Take a copy of a DC file and place it on your desktop, then open it with a Text Editor.

Get the right View (*.VEW)

Do not forget to copy the *.VEW files into the OFVIEWS directory under their appropriate subdirectory. The *.VEW files give the GroupWise client the new look and feel. No point in upgrading clients if you cannot take advantage of the look and feel. The wizards will do this for you, or you can do it manually.

GroupWise 7 "Spoiler"

GroupWise Monitor now runs on both the Linux and Windows platform. As before there are two GroupWise Monitor components, the GroupWise Monitor Agent and the GroupWise Monitor Application. In the past there were not too many compelling reasons to implement the GroupWise Monitor Application. But now in GroupWise 7, the GroupWise Monitor Application has the ability to very simply integrate with graphic images called "Maps".

Let's say your site is spread all over Europe. You could pull your map of Europe into the GroupWise Application, and draw lines that represent the links between your domains, etc. When the links are up, the lines are green. When the links are down, the lines are red. The possibilities are almost endless, but it's the kind of thing you either have to play with yourself or see someone demonstrate to fully appreciate.

End "Spoiler"

Tip 4: Spelling counts, so check your work

I do not know how many times in my school years I heard teachers say 'check your work.' The true meaning of this finally sank in when I became a consultant. (Ok, so I was a bit slow -- 10+ years slow.) My point here is, do your prep work in advance of the upgrade and double-check your work. Things like creating MTA and POA configuration files and GW70 directories can be prepped. Then before you upgrade, recheck these and make sure you did not "fat finger" them. I always triple-check my configuration files in the course of an upgrade to make sure there are no surprises. I hate surprises when upgrading.

Check out the Version

Once I have reloaded the MTA or POA I always perform an F10 and make sure the logging is set to Verbose. I also like to check out the Admin Status and monitor it. A recover process should kick off as the agents are upgrading the DBs. Once the Admin Status shows a recover count of 1, the upgrade of the DB will be finished.

Next I verify this by connecting to the upgraded domain (or the upgraded post office's parent domain), right-clicking on the domain or post office object, and selecting Properties. On the GroupWise Information screen in the Version attribute I should see 7. If I do, then I connect to the Primary domain and perform the same procedure to make sure the Primary is aware of the upgraded domain or post office.

Remember, each domain has its own point of view of the GroupWise system and all domains should have the same view as the Primary domain. If they do not have the same point of view, then you have inconsistent DBs and need to investigate and fix them.

GroupWise 7 "Spoiler"

Imagine having the ability to run two GWIAs that will provide fault tolerance for outbound Internet email. GroupWise 7 will provide the ability to have more than one outbound SMTP path which will be used dynamically, if a GWIA happens to be down. GroupWise Administrators have been begging for this feature for years, and it's finally here!

GroupWise Outbound SMTP failover is a big topic that's difficult to convey in a few sentences. I would recommend reading the Novell Press GroupWise 7 Administrator's Guide for a full discussion on this topic. The Novell Press GroupWise 7 Administrator's guide will be available in the October timeframe. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled to for the actual release date.

End "Spoiler"

Tip 5: When in doubt, rip it out.

Ever say or do something you wish you could take back? I know I have. Upgrading GroupWise is no different. The one advantage you have with upgrading GroupWise is that if you have planned the upgrade well, documented the process and done all the preparation, then you should not have any regrets. Regret, in this case, equals backing out of the upgrade.

Backstroke, backstroke

So how do you back out of a GroupWise upgrade? It's pretty easy. First, unload the agents. Next, revert to the pre-upgrade copy of the DB files -WPDOMAIN.DB or WPHOST.DB. At this point, you are back to a place where you can try a second time to upgrade.

Or, if you need to back out further you will have to place the older (non-GroupWise 7) DC files into the appropriate directories. DC files are the dictionary files for the various databases. Then you will have to back out the VEW files, if you used the wizards or manually copied them. Now you can start the upgrade over again from the beginning.

NOTE: I will give you a warning here. Do not wait too long to back out of a GroupWise upgrade. The longer you wait the more difficult it will become and the bigger the potential for inconsistent information in the databases. I have only backed out within the first hour after an upgrade, and I always perform the upgrade process immediately after backing out. Waiting days or weeks is not recommended.

GroupWise 7 "Spoiler"

GroupWise 7 WebAccess supports the notion of "Themes", similar to a "skin" for a cell phone. As administrator, you have a handful of themes you can specify as the default theme in the WEBACC.CFG file of the WebAccess Application. However, with a little bit of creativity with an HTML page you can provide your users the choice to log into GroupWise WebAccess with the theme of their choice. The HTTP URL needs to be constructed in the following manner:<theme number>

Here are two examples:


With this information, you can easily construct a webpage in your HTML editor that allows users to choose their own theme. See Figure 4 below.

Figure 4: GroupWise 7 WebAccess 'skins'

End "Spoiler"


So let's recap.

  1. First make sure you know your GroupWise system and perform a GroupWise health check prior to upgrading.
  2. Fix the issues you find so your upgrade process will not be hindered.
  3. Then prepare for the upgrade by building a portable NLM directory, setting the configuration files.
  4. Make sure to backup your DB files before and directly after the upgrade.
  5. Verify the upgrade was successful by checking the GroupWise version.

Lastly, make sure you have a back out plan just in case you run into problems. If you keep these tips in mind then you will be "looking for fun and feelin' groovy".

Hope your upgrade goes well!

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