Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Upgrading a single mail server to Domino 8.5.2 and why you might not want to do that


By Vladimir Tankhimovich

Last week, after a Domino crash, I upgraded one of my two clustered mail servers from Domino 8.5.1 FP3 to 8.5.2.

It looked like a good idea at the moment: the server is already down, why wait two weeks until the next scheduled downtime? Domino is always very good at backward compatibility, even between major releases. How bad can be one point release difference between two servers?

So I went ahead and did it.

Everything looked fine at first, but a few days later, I noticed strange intermittent glitches. Mail buttons weren't working or giving errors or even doing something totally different (like Refresh button invoking "Create QuickRule" dialog), and most noticeably, Inbox sorting other than default would not work properly.

Clicking on "Date" would sort by "Who" and so on.

Most issues would go away after re-opening the mail database or restarting Notes, but to fix Inbox sorting, I would have to refresh database design. After I had to refresh my mail design two days in a row, I got suspicious. I checked mail template's (mail85.ntf) Replica ID on both servers, and they were different! Here they are:

8.5.1   852573EF:005B3900
8.5.2   85257632:004EACA2

Now I understand what happened

The design task runs every night on both 8.5.1 and 8.5.2 mail servers, refreshing the respective server's replica of my mail database with that server's mail template, and the one that finishes last replicates its design to the replica of my mail database on the other server.

In other words, mail templates do not replicate between servers, because they have different Replica IDs, but mail files do replicate, and I get random mail design every morning.

Most glitches happen when the mail design is replaced while the mail database is open in Notes client and disappear after Mail closing/reopening.

Broken Inbox sorting, on the other hand, happens consistently while using 8.5.1 mail design on an 8.5.2 server. So much for backward compatibility, IBM.

Needless to say, I upgraded the other server as soon as possible.


I opened a PMR with IBM, but they haven't been very helpful so far. The best solutions they came up with are to disable replication of design elements in every (!) mail database or to disable the nightly Design task.

Vladimir Tankhimovich is Postmaster at Columbia Law School. Born in Siberia, he came to US in 1995 and has been a Notes/Domino administrator since 1997. Learn more about him at