Patching Fusion Applications – What Types of Patches Exist and How Often Should They Be Applied

Introduction

When deploying Fusion Applications, or any suite of software for that matter, careful thought and planning must go into understanding the life cycle management of that product, and in particular, choosing the right cadence for patching.  In this article we will discuss the types of patching required for Fusion Applications, as well as the frequency with which those patches should be applied.  Additionally, we’ll discuss how to use the patch naming conventions to ensure you have the right patch and we’ll describe how to use My Oracle Support (MOS) to find the patches you need.

Main Article

Let us begin with a discussion of the types of patches delivered for Fusion Applications. In any Fusion Application installation there are two categories of patches.

  • Functional Patches
  • Technical Patches

Functional patches are geared toward delivering new or fixing existing functional capabilities within Fusion Applications, whereas technical patches are geared toward delivering new or fixing existing technical capabilities in the underlying Fusion Middleware components that Fusion Applications sit atop.  For example, delivery of a bug fix for a problem with session management would come through a technical patch, whereas delivery of a bug fix for say a tax classification code not defaulting properly would come through a functional patch.

For both functional and technical patches there are several sub-categories as depicted below:Patch Type Diagram

Let’s go through each type in more detail.

 

One-Off Patches

One-off patches are patches that contain a single bug fix.  One-off patches can be either functional or technical in nature.  In the context of a functional patch, a one-off is applied using Fusion Application’s Patch Manager (see the Fusion Applications Patching Guide for a more detailed description of Fusion Applications Patch Manager).  In the context of a technical patch, a one-off is applied using Opatch (see the Fusion Middleware Patching Guide for a more detailed description of Opatch).

 

CPU Patches

CPU patches are a specific type of technical patch.  Oracle provides quarterly technical patches to address security vulnerabilities as part of the Critical Patch Update (CPU) program.  They are released on the Tuesday closest to the 17th day of January, April, July and October.  Additional information about CPU Patches can be found here:

http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/topics/security/alerts-086861.html

 

Patch Bundles

Patch Bundles can take the form of either a technical or a functional patch bundle.  Functional patch bundles, also known as BPs (Bundle Patches), are a collection of patches grouped into a single distribution for a specific baseline release.  Functional patch bundles are cumulative in nature and will often contain previously released one-off patches, including aggregated one-off patches (as described below).    Functional patch bundles are specific to a given family such as HCM, CRM, or Financials, whereas technical patch bundles are NOT specific to a given family.

Technical patch bundles are commonly referred to as P4FA (Platform for Fusion Applications) patches and are a collection of tech stack fixes (bundles or one-offs) for Fusion Applications customers.  P4FA patches are NOT specific to any product family but are specific to a release.

 

Aggregated One-Off Patches

Aggregated one-off patches (otherwise known as AOO’s) can be thought of as “mini functional patch bundles”.  As their name implies, they are a collection of functional one-offs.  The key difference between these and functional patch bundles is the frequency with which they are released.  AOO’s are released on a weekly basis whereas functional patch bundles are released on a monthly basis.  It should be noted that functional patch bundles will include aggregated one-offs.  The primary benefit of AOO’s is that they provide early access to particular fixes where waiting for the monthly patch bundle presents an undesirable time delay.

 

Timing of Patch Bundle Releases

Fusion Applications releases will have interim patch releases of both a technical and functional nature.  These patches are specific to a given release.  For example, patch bundles released for  11.1.8 cannot be applied to a release 7 (11.1.7) environment nor can they be applied to a release 9 (11.1.9) environment.  Additionally, functional patch bundles are provided for each family within Fusion Applications.  For example, HCM will release specific functional patch bundles for a given release, as will SCM, as will CRM.  Each family will release its own functional patch bundles.

The below diagram depicts the variety of patch bundles (both technical and functional) that may be published for a given release over a period of time.  In the below example, release 7 and 8 are used for illustrative purposes and only HCM and SCM patch bundles are depicted in order to simplify the diagram but it should be noted that separate patch bundles are released for each of the product families:

FA Patch Release Timings

 

As you can see from the above diagram multiple patch bundles for both the technical and the functional side are published for each release.  That raises the natural question of how often should these patches be taken up?  The answer, like many things, is it depends.  The best practice is to establish a cadence that minimizes the amount of downtime taken to apply the various patches while maximizing the uptake of key patches for your organization.  For example, a particular HCM patch bundle may contain a critical fix but will not be released for another few weeks.  You may opt to apply an HCM AOO patch to a test environment to allow for completion of a critical project milestone while choosing to wait for the functional patch bundle for your production environment.   Another facet of the decision could be that your particular organization may not allow for a maintenance window every month but instead every other month.  Given that both the functional and the technical patch bundles are cumulative, patching every other month still ensures a pro-active approach while minimizing the needed maintenance windows.  A six month patching cycle is an example of too long a cadence while a weekly cycle may prove too short a cadence.  Determining the right frequency is a combination of your organization’s maintenance windows and the need to consume a particular fix.

This concept is best summarized in the below table:

FA Patch Application Concept Summary

 

A summary of the how often each patch type is released is below:

FA Patch Application Release Frequency Summary

 

Finding the patches

Now that we’ve discussed the types of patches and how frequently to apply them let’s review how to find them.  To begin with let’s review the naming convention used, in particular for patch bundles, as they are of the most interest when discussing a patching cadence.

Be they technical or functional, patch bundles will follow a standard naming convention as shown below.  Functional patch bundles will follow the naming convention of “FA <<name of the family>> Patch Bundle <<number of the patch bundle>>.<<number of the patch bundle>>.<<date in the form of yymmdd>>”.  Technical patch bundles will follow the naming convention of “P4FA System Patch <<release>>.<<yymmdd>>”.  Items in purple are constants – meaning these strings will always appear in the name just as they are.  Items in green (between  <<   >> ) are dynamic and will vary.  See below for an example.

Patch Naming Convention Example

As discussed previously, there will be several releases of both technical and functional patch bundles for a given Fusion Applications release.  Since they are cumulative you want to be sure you are choosing the most recent patch.  The easiest way to confirm this is to ensure the date portion of the patch description, formatted as yymmdd, is the most recent in the list.

Finding the Technical Patch Bundles (P4FA)

To find the latest technical patch bundle (P4FA) go to My Oracle Support (MOS), log in and navigate to “Patches and Updates”.  On the Patch Search panel choose “Product or Family (Advanced)” and type in “Oracle Fusion Applications Technology Patches” in the drop down labeled Product.  Choose the release for which you want the P4FA patch.  Next, choose the platform for which you are interested and then hit search as shown below.

Finding P4FA Patches

 

In the Search Results screen (shown below), find the patches with the P4FA naming convention and choose the most recent one.  Notice in the example below the search results include a CPU technical patch.  Also notice that in the below example the most recent P4FA patch has a date of March 11th, 2014.

P4FA Search Results

 

 

Finding the Functional Patch Bundles

To find the latest functional patch bundle for a given family go to My Oracle Support (MOS), log in and navigate to “Patches and Updates”.  On the Patch Search panel choose “Product or Family (Advanced)” and type in “Oracle Fusion Applications XXX Operations” where XXX is the name of the family for which you need the functional patch bundle. For example to find the HCM functional patch bundles type in “Oracle Fusion Applications HCM Operations”.  Select the release of interest, choose the platform, and hit search as shown below.

Finding Functional BPs

In the Search Results screen (shown below), find the patches with the functional patch bundle naming convention and choose the most recent one.  Notice in the example below the search results include an AOO functional patch.  Also notice that in the below example the most recent HCM  patch bundle has a date of March 12th, 2014.

Functional BP Search Results

Conclusion

Establishing a regular patching cadence is an important part of any lifecycle management strategy.  In this article we discussed the various patch types, the frequency with which they get released, how often to uptake each type, their naming conventions and how to find them. Armed with this information you are well are on your way to effectively and efficiently maintaining your Fusion Applications environment.

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