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How to Manage Oracle Updates in the Cloud

Hand hovering below an illustration of a cloud

Sue Shaw, Sue Shaw Consulting Ltd., is the Vice President of ERP Cloud Special Interest Group (SIG). She and other board members recently presented how to manage Oracle updates in the Cloud.

Executive Summary

Even after moving to the Cloud, your ERP system will require management. You’ll need to know what is happening, and when it will impact your ERP. The types of updates that can occur include:

  • Refreshes
  • Oracle Infrastructure (PaaS & IaaS) Updates
  • Vertex Updates
  • Oracle SaaS Updates
  • Integrated systems upgrades/patches/refreshes
  • Your configuration changes
  • Externally driven required changes, ie regulatory
  • Exception updates for all of the above
  • Others

Some of these happen automatically, some have notifications, and some have information—but not all of them. You need to understand what’s happening in your environment. Change is a risk, and it could cause problems for your company.

Refreshes

Refreshes are an Oracle performed copy from Production to a non-production environment. Generally, Oracles calls these a T2T (TEST to TEST). Refreshes are used in order to have an up-to-date environment with which to support PROD or to do project work. They are usually created with a MyServices request or Oracle SR, which is required if you want more than one on the same date.

For Refreshes, it’s imperative that you plan ahead.

  • Once you’re in the Cloud, you don’t have as much control as to when refreshes take place.
  • The Source environment does not have an outage, and the backup for refresh copy is taken 4 hours in advance.
  • While it can take up to 48 hours, the actual amount of time is usually around 12 hours. However, you have to assume the 48.
  • You’ll want to avoid quarterly (or any other) maintenance updates because these do not include a refresh—you’ll have to plan the refreshes yourself.
    • Use non-prod environments to plan timing, such as support of month end, projects that may not want a refresh, and training schedule.
  • You can schedule multiple dates in advance, and then cancel as needed.
    • This is really only necessary to align to possibly shifting project requirements.
  • Communication is absolutely essential to scheduling your refresh.
    • Anyone working in non-prod environments could lose things during refresh if they’re not paying attention.

Again, you must plan ahead for a refresh. Scheduling occurs on a first-come, first-serve basis. You’ll want to schedule it 3–12 weeks ahead of time. Sue considers 2 months the sweet spot. After you enter the SR, it could take 3–7 days to receive date options on or around your requested date.

Oracle recommends using MyServices to schedule refreshes.

Make note that:

  • Source and Target environments must be at the same patch level
    • No refreshes while you are in quarterly update month, at least until PROD is updated
    • Final patch level check happens 1–5 days prior to the start of scheduled refresh
  • Refreshes must be scheduled at least 5 days before an update is applied
  • Refreshes must be scheduled at least 3 days after an update is applied
  • Cancellations require a minimum of 7 days notice
  • To avoid conflict with a potential weekly patch, don’t schedule on a Friday.

Sue suggests creating a pre- and post-refresh task list. The pre-refresh list should contain tasks such as reminder emails or notifications and export of anything to be restored. Post refresh task lists should include turning off notifications, removing read-only PROD access limitations or similar security changes, ensuring service accounts are still working in TEST, any required job scheduling changes, changing the color on the background (a best practice), and restoring anything that was backed up.

Oracle Updates

There are a lot of updates, not just quarterly ones. The image below shows several of the updates that occur with Oracle:

You must understand what is happening to your environment and when it will take effect. Quarterly updates with Oracle are mandatory. While it takes a shift in mindset to appreciate a mini-upgrade every quarter, the positive side effect is that you won’t ever take another monolithic upgrade. It’s no longer possible to go 5 or 6 years without an update. Now,  you’ll stay up-to-date, all the time.

Quarterly updates include new features, as well as fixes. You can pick which month you want. Sue recommends avoiding your quarter-end.

The quarterly update applies to your Non-Prod environments on the 1st Friday of your selected month, and Production on the 3rd Friday of the same month. Oracle is working to get the duration of application of the patch down to 8 hours. Currently, it takes no more than 12 hours.

The unfortunate part of update timing is that it’s usually during month-end for financial people. That gives you two weeks to test. However, it’s really only one week when you consider using week two for finding workarounds on issues that emerged from one week of testing.

It’s recommended that you have a concurrent maintenance cadence as a prod for a non-prod environment (SR) if you have more than one non-prod environment. For example, DEV1 and TEST on the 1st Friday and DEV2 and PROD on the 3rd Friday to have an environment that matches Prod for support between 1st and 3rd Fridays.

Quarterly updates bring new optional features. Documentation listing the new features is available at https://cloud.oracle.com/en_US/saas/readiness/overview.

Review the HTML or PDF docs in New Feature Summary and What’s New.

Once you decide what you want, enable the offerings in your cloud environment:

  • Setup and Maintenance
    • Actions > Offerings
    • Click into the offering and enable it
      • You may be able to enable certain portions of an offering

Some optional offerings change to mandatory over time. A warning is given in the readiness documents.

Along with quarterly updates, there are optional monthly maintenance packs. This is the way to take fixes between quarterly updates. You can do it for one month and then switch back to quarterly. Oracle needs 10 days of notice to switch you to monthly.

Weekly updates are available, but there is no documentation for the update content. In a weekly update, you’ll get every fix included through the end of the week, even if you only want one of them. They’re a risk to your environment.

Emergency one-off updates are possible for unexpected issues that disable a business-critical process with no workaround. There is no documentation for the update content. It could be the weekly cumulative patch, not a specific one-off fix, so be careful.

  • Raise the exception request through the SR for your initial problem.
  • Oracle will approve exception requests on a case-by-case basis.
  • EOO updates will create differences in update levels between your environments which may impact planned refresh timing. They could require additional outages, and all exception updates are included in the quarterly update & monthly maintenance packs that come next. EOOS are rare, partly due to the fact that a problem you find has likely been discovered already and will deliver in a weekly or monthly maintenance pack to come.

You can find Oracle changes in the following docs.

Managing Changes

Configuration Set Manager

Configuration Set Manager (CSM) or sandboxes can be used to test configuration changes.

Functional Setup Manager (FSM)

Functional Setup Manager (FSM) – Setup and Maintenance

Visual Builder

  • Configure and extend Oracle Cloud Applications
  • Visual Builder Studio lets you extend your applications using the same development that Oracle Cloud Applications are built on
  • Build web and mobile applications
  • Use cloud-based visual tools to rapidly create and host web and mobile applications with minimal coding required
  • Enable team collaboration and CI/CD automation
  • Manage development processes with issue tracking, agile and spring planning, wikis, and development dashboards. Manage code, lifecycle with Git repositories, peer code review, and continuous integration and delivery pipelines
  • https://www.oracle.com/application-development/visual-builder-studio/

Integrations

Your ERP is likely connected to other systems. Make sure you understand the impact of quarterly updates in general, and for communication with integrated systems. You may want to include integrated systems in quarterly testing. Additionally, if an integrated system gets patched, it may impact the data coming through to your ERP. Generally, external integrations with banks, payroll, etc., aren’t impacted, but they should be taken into account just in case.

Notifications

Oracle is improving notifications, but there is still a long way to go. Notifications are not always timely. They can be cryptic, and email subject titles tend to be generic. Notifications don’t always come, duration times are inaccurate, and they should be an area of focus for Oracle. Lobby for notification improvement through ERP Cloud SIG.

Key Takeaway

Being in the Cloud does not mean that you can avoid managing technical changes. Research and understand what impacts you, plan ahead, and communicate, communicate, communicate for best results.

Additional Resources

Mark your calendars for BLUEPRINT 4D taking place June 6-9, 2022 in Las Vegas, NV! This conference is designed for PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Oracle Cloud applications, Oracle Commerce, and Oracle Database & Technology users from around the world. Former COLLABORATE attendees will recognize the breadth of strategic insights and information found at this event, while RECONNECT and INFOCUS fans will appreciate the opportunity to get hands-on with practical how-to learning.

Call for Presentations and registration for BLUEPRINT 4D are open now!

How to Manage Oracle Updates in the Cloud