ArcGIS

Esri compatibility testing to reduce IT risks

Most of our users are aware that software testing occurs throughout Esri’s development and release processes. One level of this testing that’s especially important to GIS administrators and IT professionals is compatibility testing, which evaluates your software’s compatibility with different environments. Esri performs forward and backward compatibility tests on operating systems, databases, browsers, and other system software (e.g. graphic drivers, web servers, mobile devices, etc).  

Esri’s compatibility testing reduces risk and saves time as you deploy Esri software. It is also a key benefit of the Esri Maintenance Program, which guarantees ArcGIS software compatibility by providing software updates that keep organizations current on leading-edge, tested ArcGIS technology. This blog post explains what compatibility testing is, how Esri approaches it, and how you can take advantage of it as an active user in the Esri Maintenance Program. 

Overview

For each new release of ArcGIS software, web apps, APIs, and developer SDKs, there’s a large amount of behindthescenes work that happens to make sure new versions perform well on a wide variety of hardware, operating systems, browsers, databases, and more. Accounting for these variables helps us continue to provide a great software experience for you. 

What’s more, this is not just an initiative that happens during new software development. There are ongoing efforts to ensure that the software we have already releasedthe software you’re using todaycontinues working well in our fast-paced tech environments years after it was first created. When a new update comes out for an operating system or database, a new browser version is released, or new graphics drivers are made available, we want to make sure that ArcGIS Pro continues working, that ArcGIS Enterprise continues to connect to your database, that your new browser renders your complex 3D scene correctly, and that your new ruggedized Linux laptop runs that custom-build ArcGIS Runtime application just as well as previousgeneration devices. 

Today’s IT environments change much more rapidly than those 10 years ago. Like clockwork, you can depend on a new update patch for Windows 10 and Windows Server every second Tuesday of every month. Each day can bring with it patches for your Linux servers. Even browsers update on a regular four-to-eight-week cycle with a myriad of continuous changes to the APIs that web apps rely on for advanced features.  

Esri’s commitment to you in this regard is codified in the Product Lifecycle Policy and is a big part of the value of being a member of the ArcGIS user community.  

Compatibility testing evaluates Esri’s software compatibility within different environments including: 

Having clear definitions of compatibility is important to us because we know that its important to your work. Those definitions come through in our system requirements such as the ones for ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Pro. 

We also know that many of you run environments with mixed versions of ArcGIS software such as ArcGIS Desktop 10.6.1, ArcGIS Pro 2.6, and ArcGIS Enterprise 10.7.1 and many other combinations. This is where we do the work to ensure forward and backward compatibility between different versions of ArcGIS software.  

As part of the Esri Maintenance Program, users can always be assured of staying current on the latest innovationsand included in this is the peace of mind that Esri is doing compatibility testing to ensure our products are working as planned in your environment. These efforts will ultimately reduce risk in your software implementation and save time for your GIS administrators and IT professionals. 

Compatibility Testing Q & A

Q: What is compatibility testing and why is it important?
A: Thirdparty compatibility testing is the work involved to ensure that ArcGIS software is capable of running on different operating systems, databases, browsers, system software, and much more. Backward compatibility testing verifies behavior of new releases of ArcGIS when working with older systems, while forward compatibility testing verifies behavior of older releases with newer systems.  

Compatibility testing is important to ensure expected performance or operation of software across different platforms and environments. 

Q: What is Esri’s process for compatibility testing?
A: Esri maintains a robust compatibility testing approach to its entire product stack. At every product release, we run rigorous backward and forward compatibility testing. At the beginning of our product development cycle, we research all the recent and upcoming updates of supported operating systems, databases, browsers, and graphics drivers, and we assess whether we will be able to support these updates in our upcoming releases. The decision to support an update is based on a variety of factors such as general availability of the new update, how it coincides with our schedule, any technical limitations, and customer demand.  

Throughout a product’s development cycle, we run compatibility tests to ensure that we don’t break something that used to work. We also make sure that our latest software works with any new updates that we will support. At the end of our development cycle and before our products are delivered to you, we run through one final set of tests against our various supported environments. For more details on this, we’ve documented our lifecycle definitions and processes for all ArcGIS products. 

Operating Systems

Q: What is Esri’s approach to supporting operating systems of vendors such as Microsoft Windows or Red Hat?
A: Esri supports a wide variety of operating systems for different parts of the ArcGIS platform. ArcGIS Pro supports all current versions of Windows including Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and even current releases of Windows Server. Similarly, ArcGIS Enterprise also supports the same versions of Windows and Windows Server while adding support for multiple different Linux distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and its derivatives like CentOS. Esri’s mobile applications and ArcGIS Runtime SDKs support Android as well as iOS and iPadOS 

When new versions of operating systems are released, Esri typically adds support for the new version in the next releases of ArGIS software. We also listen to customers for the level of urgency and their upgrade plans. In many cases, this means going through a test effort to ensure compatibility of the new operating system with existing ArcGIS software and adding a support statement to the system requirements for the software already in the field.  

Updates are also released for current operating systems on a regular basis. Esri keeps a close eye on both functional patches and security patches. While it is exceedingly rare for an operating system patch to cause any problems, we constantly monitor bug reports and stand ready to work with our industry partners to resolve any issues that do come up.  

Databases

Q: What is Esri’s database support and compatibility policy?
A: ArcGIS supports a wide variety of traditional SQL databases including Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, SAP HANA, IBM, Dameng, SQLite, and Teradata. For each of these databases, we support multiple versions with each release of ArcGIS. You can learn more about the supported versions and using them in the cloud here. 

As a general policy, we add support for new versions of databases in the next one or two releases of ArcGIS after the new database version is made publicly available. Because of the deep integration between ArcGIS and the underlying database, we need to ensure that the full breadth of geodatabase functionality works well and as intended on the publicly released database version. Based on customer feedback and needs, we sometimes also add support for a newer version of a database to an existing, alreadyreleased version of ArcGIS.  

Q: If a customer is running an ArcGIS deployment with an older version of a database, can the customer upgrade their ArcGIS deployment without a database upgrade?
A: The answer is often yes; however, it depends on both the old and new version of ArcGIS supporting your database version. For example, ArcGIS 10.6.0 and ArcGIS 10.8.1 both support PostgreSQL 9.6, so it is possible to upgrade directly from 10.6.0 to 10.8.1 without having to do any work with your database. 

We have heard from many customers that upgrading their database versions can be challenging, especially if it has to be part of a larger upgrade that also includes upgrading ArcGIS software and potentially even more third-party software at the same time. We want to make it as easy as possible to upgrade your ArcGIS software, so we try hard to give you an easy upgrade path that minimizes the amount of other changes required at the same time. For this reason, we strive to provide the ability to upgrade directly between three major releases of ArcGIS software: in the example from earlier, you could go directly from ArcGIS 10.6.0 and skip ArcGIS 10.6.1, 10.7, 10.7.1, and 10.8 by upgrading directly to 10.8.1 without having to upgrade the underlying version of PostgreSQL. In the case of SQL Server, you’d even be able to jump directly from ArcGIS 10.5.0 to 10.8.1 if you are using SQL Server 2017.

Browsers

Q: What browsers does Esri support?
A: Esri supports all current versions of the major browsers including Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple’s Safari. Support for these browsers includes both desktop and mobile versions. 

New browsers are released almost every month or two, so compatibility testing includes ensuring that older version of our softwaresuch as older releases of ArcGIS Enterprise and the associated appscontinue to work as intended as new browser versions come out.  

Graphics Drivers

Q: What makes graphics drivers important?
A: This one is interesting, particularly for users of ArcGIS Pro. Because ArcGIS Pro is a modern application for visualizing and working with both 2D and 3D data, it makes full use of the capabilities of modern computers including their graphics cards and the advanced rendering capabilities they support. 

The drivers that power those graphics cards are often the ones that came with the computer when it was first purchased and are typically not something that many people give a second thought. This is a challenge because old graphics drivers are notorious for having a lot of bugs that can affect the performance and reliability of the software. 

The ArcGIS Pro development team does a lot of work to ensure that ArcGIS Pro runs well on machines that barely meet the minimum system requirements, while also being able to harness all the power of a high-end workstation. This includes compatibility testing for running on stock graphics drivers that are often many years old. Even so, you will find that the ArcGIS Pro system requirements contains this note: “Be sure to use the latest available driver.That’s our pithy way of saying that newer drivers will help you take full advantage of this powerful software. 

In general, however, system requirements differ depending on your Esri product. Please make sure to check the recommendations for graphics drivers on individual Esri product pages. 

Support and Upgrades

Q: What is Esri’s product lifecycle?
A: Esri’s product lifecycle outlines the level of technical and software support that Esri will provide for customers during the lifespan of a software product. The four phases are General Availability, Extended, Mature, and Retired. This document details Esri’s approach to supporting on-premises and online products. The ArcGIS Enterprise product lifecycle was updated to differentiate between short-and long-term support releases.

Q: What is the Esri Maintenance Program?
A: Every perpetual product comes with 12 months of complimentary maintenance. The Esri Maintenance Program extends that support annually with benefits like technical support services, software and data updates with compatibility testing and the latest security, unlimited e-learning opportunities via Esri Training, and access to events such as the Esri User Conference. Keeping maintenance active on your licensed Esri products and utilizing these benefits helps you maximize your use of ArcGIS technologies, as you will receive the latest compatibility tested versions. You can learn more about the program on the Maintenance page.

Closing

We hope this has been a helpful look into how Esri approaches compatibility testing as part of your maintenance investment. Our priority is to save you time and reduce risk: you can focus on your mission while our team ensures that your software works when you need it to, in the supported environment you need it in. We know you as our users are busy changing the world for the better, so it’s important to us that we provide trusted, reliable, and consistent tools that help you achieve your goals. Thank you for the work you do; it is our privilege to continue supporting you. 

About the author

Tripp Corbett

Tripp spent the first 8 years of his career at Esri working in support of users across a variety of industries in the National Government Sector. He knows users need transparency and details to help advocate for the benefits of maintenance and subscriptions inside their organizations.

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