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Article Title: Installing Updates to AXIS Software
Article Type: General System  
Article ID #: 367
GGY Contacts: GGY Client Support (416-250-6777)
Last Modified: 16 Sep 15

Article Summary:

Before installing an Update to AXIS system software you should take certain precautions and make preparations to avoid unexpected impact on users.

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Article Detail:

Installing an Update to AXIS system software is a simple process that you can easily perform.  However, you should take certain precautions and make preparations to avoid unexpected impact on users, as with any financial software used in production applications or in other sensitive applications.  This article discusses:

  • Overview of AXIS Update Policies
  • GGY Support for Update Processes
  • Methods of Installing Updates
  • Precautions and Preparations
  • Reconciliation/Regression Testing by Users

An Overview of AXIS Update Policies

We are constantly refining and improving AXIS, both to correct bugs and to implement enhancements in usability, speed, help text, and actuarial functionality. These enhancements may be driven by specific customer requests or by ongoing developments in the industry or in accounting and actuarial standards.  Accordingly, we make available new scheduled releases of AXIS on a monthly or semi-monthly basis, and we may also release a number of incremental updates (i.e. releases with a limited number of changes) between the scheduled releases.

All updates are available to all currently licensed clients without additional charge, although we occasionally charge to implement specific requests. All updates to AXIS are cumulative to form a single current release available to all clients. 

Please note that you may choose to upgrade to a Maintained Version, which from the point of its initial release foregoes the introduction of additional new features and focuses instead on providing the most stable version with all the currently known bug fixes that are subsequently needed. Refer to this link for further information on this option.

You may choose how often you update AXIS, and you do not need to install every new version that we release. A new release of AXIS by itself has no impact on user data located on that computer or elsewhere, but when you start to use it, AXIS will automatically convert your AXIS Datasets to be compatible with the new release.  Since this conversion is irreversible, it is important to follow the precautions and preparations discussed below.

While generally not the case, updating your AXIS software can also have an impact on how existing AXIS applications will perform and the results you will get. This is the second reason that we recommend precautions and preparations before you install an AXIS update in a production environment.

GGY Support for Update Processes

You can get support from GGY both in preparation for the update process and for resolving issues that may arise during the preparation, update and testing processes.

We document all updates through an Enhancement and Bug Fix database available from our website as well in the help text installed with the system.  You can research the possible impact of an update in advance for the specific modules you are using and the release numbers you are upgrading from and to.  In the case of Bug Fixes, we will also immediately notify users of any significant bugs we have found and corrected in the system that we conclude are "alertable", using our best judgment.

You may also contact GGY support staff directly for assistance in any of the following areas:

  • For further details about documented Bug Fixes and Enhancements.
  • For assistance with any unexpected error messages or other difficulties in the actual installation of the update.
  • For assistance in understanding the impact of the update on calculated results in specific cases.

Methods of Installing AXIS Updates

You can install AXIS interactively by executing an update executable file, which you can extract from a compressed file downloaded from the GGY website.  Frequently, customers of GGY with many users will organize and coordinate the implementation of new updates to AXIS, including a preliminary testing and approval process, and then place the update executable file in a convenient network location for users to apply at their convenience.  When you have moved to the EnterpriseLink centralized AXIS environment, new versions of AXIS would normally be tested and made available through EnterpriseLink in a planned and coordinated fashion. 

If you are working with AXIS on a standalone PC, the interactive execution of the single update file on that PC will quickly and easily install that version of AXIS in a designated directory.  You should install the new release to a separate directory to be able to run and compare versions to facilitate reconciliation work. If you do not want to compare then you should still install to a different directory and then delete the old version if it is no longer needed after you have the new one up and running.

Preparations and Precautions

You need to plan and prepare for the installation of an update to avoid any unanticipated impact on regular production applications, which in unusual circumstances could cause production batch processes to fail, or change the results of the calculations performed.

a) Compatibility with environment

AXIS is compatible with all currently supported versions of the Windows operating system and seldom causes conflicts with other resident applications.  You need Administrator rights to perform the initial library installation of drivers, and updates to some Windows components. We seldom change these update libraries, and we try to provide advance notice of any planned driver updates that may require acceptance testing by IT support to confirm desktop compatibility.

Nonetheless, we recommend the routine precaution of installing any updates of AXIS in a test environment, and rerunning a sample production application to confirm that there are no software conflicts, and that production batch routines operate smoothly.

b) Changes in Structure and Object definitions

We frequently introduce new functionality or improvements in existing functionality, which may involve adding new objects to define processes or to hold assumptions.  User workspaces (called datasets ) are always converted automatically to make use of any new or changed objects so as to produce the same calculated results as before the enhancement, except when we are correcting errors or we consider the changed results more technically accurate.

The changes in structure and format of user data are limited however to the objects found within the AXIS dataset, and it is possible to design a production dataset, which creates or updates AXIS objects using externally stored data. You would normally import this external data through the AXIS import/export database, or generate it from within a DataLink routine, which updates AXIS objects automatically.

It is the user's responsibility to make the corresponding changes to the externally stored data or to any DataLink procedures that create or update objects, to be consistent with the internal changes to AXIS whenever AXIS updates are to be installed. You may search the database of enhancements to AXIS prior to installing a release to determine which enhancements may impact the assumption screens and which therefore may require updates to the externally stored data.

Reconciliation/Regression Testing

Each new release of the AXIS software contains new features and bug fixes.  Some of these changes may cause a change in the calculated results that AXIS produces.

Since you often depend on having consistent results between versions, it is important for you to know that your results might change prior to updating to a newer version, and why.

While we carry out a comprehensive testing plan prior to releasing a version and we provide a list of changes both on our web site and within AXIS, we recommend that you implement your own reconciliation/regression testing procedures before adopting a new version of AXIS as a company standard.

Here is a recommended general approach to internal testing:

  1. Install or obtain access in EnterpriseLink to both the current release of AXIS that your company is currently using for production application purposes, and the newly released version of AXIS, using separate folders or work areas.
  2. Obtain a backup file of a sample representative workspace (called a 'dataset' within AXIS) or transfer a copy of the most recent production dataset into your work areas.  You should co-ordinate with the AXIS users in order to obtain this data, if in fact the users do not carry out this reconciliation process themselves.
  3. Open this dataset in each of the versions of AXIS that you have installed and want to compare.  The newly released version will attempt to automatically convert and update the model data to the new release.  Look for reports of any complications in this update process. 
  4. Run both versions of the data (i.e. execute a predefined batch process that recalculates all the cells, and reproduces a representative report), store those reports to the same import/export database, and compare the results.

Some additional notes:

  • AXIS contains 'Batch' objects that allow you to select various result-producing objects, recalculate them, and export the results to an import/export database.
  • AXIS also contains a 'Comparator' feature, which allows you to compare the exported results from both versions and isolate changes from version to version with a user-specified tolerance. The comparator feature can be found from the View Import/Export Database from Import/Export menu item within AXIS, and information on using it can be found in the associated Help.
  • Representative data referred to in step 2 should normally reflect all the various products and types of calculations performed.  This should usually be based on the latest actual production dataset, with a view to confirming that all calculated values arising from the full in force file are consistent.  Another option, however, is to prepare a small dataset of dummy or real test policies, perhaps including those you used for external acceptance testing performed when you first implemented AXIS.  The advantage of this approach is that if changes arise, detailed calculations will be available in a form that can assist in understanding the cause of the change. .

You can report any changes in results to the users, and they can investigate further, or in many cases, the users will perform this reconciliation testing themselves, and determine what investigations are necessary.

Descriptions of the changes we make to AXIS that may impact calculation results are available both within AXIS itself (in the Help/Bug Fixes and Enhancements option) and on our web site (in the Tech Support/Enhancements and Bug Fixes section).

When there are differences, you can also help narrow down where the differences are coming from by looking at a comparison of subfunds, cells or even individual seriatim records results. Exported AXIS reports from all levels can be compared including the Calendar year results, the Policy year results, reserve reports and calculated table values.

 


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