Zimbra have released 8.8.9 today, July 10, 2018, with a bevy of new features. NOTE: THIS POST UPDATED AUGUST 7, 2018 TO INCORPORATE ZIMBRA’S NEWLY ANNOUNCED PRODUCT LIFECYCLE POLICY!

What’s New?
The Release Notes and a Zimbra Blog Post provide the nitty gritty details of what’s included included in 8.8.9, what’s Production and what’s still Beta, so rather than repeat all that here, take a moment and follow the links, and then come back here!

Should You Upgrade?
In early August, Zimbra clarified their new Lifecycle Policy in a Blog Post, which now explains the differences between a Long Term Release and a Standard Release, and when/how a Standard Release becomes a Long-Term Release. This information was not available when I first wrote this blog post, so the new Lifecycle Policy changes my recommendations a little.  Here’s how:

If you are hosting Zimbra on AWS, you will save a lot of money on hosting costs if you do a side-by-side migration to 8.8.9.  This is due entirely first to 8.8.9’s storage engine that leverages Amazon S3 storage for Primary and HSM storage, and second; due to the new backup engine which can store 30 days’ of backups using 70% – 80% of the mailstore size (versus the old Network Edition backup engine in 8.7.11 and previous hat typically needs 3.5x the mailstore size for a backup partition).

That’s terrific, but 8.8.9 is a Standard Release, and Standard Releases reach end of General Support (no more security/bug fixes) after six months. 8.7.11 however is a Long Term Release, and so has a 3-year+ window of General Support that expires on October 9, 2019.   According to that new Zimbra Life Cycle blog post, on October 9, 2019, whatever is the current Standard Release (8.8.13?) is promoted to a Long Term Release.

So here are the tradeoffs:

If you want the new features in 8.8.x, to remain under Support, you’ll need to schedule a maintenance period to run the Zimbra installer every six months to upgrade to the current supported minor version — until October next year, and then you can avoid full-fledged upgrades thereafter for three years.

If you are currently on Zimbra 8.7.11 you can wait a year if you wish.  If you have some complex customizations, you can use this coming year to practice doing side-by-side upgrades to 8.8.x, and getting some experience with the new features in 8.8.x.  On the other hand, if your 8.7.11 system is long in the tooth, has some issues and has for example been upgraded in place over the years, you may want to upgrade to 8.8.9 to “start fresh” with a clean system (no in-place upgrades!).

If you are on 8.6.0, there are no more bug fixes nor security patches in under a month, so it might make sense to get on the 8.8 freight train now, get the cost savings and a fresh system, instead of upgrading to 8.7.11, and then having to do a major version upgrade again a year from now.

If you are on any 8.8.x version earlier than 8.8.8, I’d upgrade to 8.8.9 during your next maintenance cycle, but by using the ZeXtras Suite to migrate to new, fresh servers (I’m not a fan of in-place upgrades to 8.8.x in general). The 8.8.x series is now well-seasoned, and quite stable.

If you are currently on Zimbra 8.8.8 however, I would wait before doing an in-place upgrade to 8.8.9.

Why Should 8.8.8 Users Wait To Upgrade to 8.8.9?
First, unlike patches, version upgrades require downloading and running the full Zimbra installer.  This involves more downtime and more fundamental changes to your Zimbra server(s) than just installing patches by running “apt-get update; apt-get dist-upgrade”.

Second, a number of the new features in Zimbra 8.8.9 are still Beta. Perhaps the most anticipated improvement in 8.8.9 is Click-to-Run support in the Zimbra Connector for Outlook.  “Click-to-run” is Microsoft’s new distribution method for Office applications versus a traditional msi-based installation. If you upgraded your Outlook in the past year or so, likely you have a Click-to-Run version of Outlook. The Zimbra Connector for Outlook now works with all Click-to-Run versions of Outlook 2013 and 2016, as well as the Office 365 version of Outlook, leaving only a small subset of Outlook installations unsupported. Once Click-to-Run support leaves beta and becomes GA Stable, then there will be no reason not to upgrade to 8.8.9 forthwith.

The third reason for 8.8.8 users to defer their upgrade to 8.8.9 is that some new features that are Production, like the new Zimbra Docs, require the deployment of a dedicated server to host a customized LibreOffice binary.  The documentation to do this hasn’t yet been released, at least as of this writing.  Better to prototype this in a lab environment first and let this new enhancement season a bit. (You have probably by now caught on that I am very conservative when it comes to upgrades…)

Again, and to be fair to Zimbra, I am very conservative when it comes to version upgrades, so I take no offense if you are on 8.8.8 and decide to upgrade to 8.8.9 this weekend. 🙂  All I ask is that you post in the Zimbra forums regarding your upgrade experience.

Hope that helps!

L. Mark Stone
Mission Critical Email
10 July 2018 – Updated 13 July with ZCO clarifications and 7 August with Zimbra’s new Life Cycle Policy

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