FAQ about Sun patches

The following are some questions that I frequently get asked by software partners.

1. Q. Is the patch process the same for all Sun software?

A. There are 2 separate Sun software update models - Java is one model and everything else uses the other model.

2. Q. What is the model used for addressing Java change requests (CR's)?

A. The Java team introduces new features and bug fixes into the current J2SE under development. Existing Java versions are updated every quarter with bug fixes deemed important.

3. Q. How are other CR's treated?

A. Other development tools (including compilers) are updated at more frequent intervals as needed. Bugs and new features are first introduced into the current version under development (Studio 12). Then patches are built for existing versions to address important bugs. These patches do not follow a quarterly schedule, but are released "as needed".

4. Q. How frequently are compiler patches created?

A. The complexity of the compilers and the large user base results in regular updates to one or more compilers. There is usually a new patch under construction for the most recently released version of a compiler. The schedule for that patch to be released depends on the urgency as defined by customers/partners, the promptness with which the customers respond with tentative patch test results, and unforeseen problems that are created when multiple fixes are bundled into the same patch.

5. Q. Will a patch be created that contains just the fix for my CR?

A. Probably not, unless the problem it fixes will affect many users. Since compiler patches are widely distributed and used by a large community, Sun takes great care to thoroughly test each such patch. We generally do not issue a patch in response to a single reported bug. The patch QA effort is too extensive to allow that mode of operation. So the fixes to several CR's are usually bundled in a single patch.

6. Q. What happens when it is decided that a compiler related CR will be addressed by a patch?

A. The following events occur:

1. The compiler sustaining team will build a tar file containing modified compiler binary files that are intended to address the problem. The customer is sent this file, and copies the modified files to their system. (The original version of the modified files are saved to a tar file for restoration after the test is done).

2. The customer builds their executable and verifies the modified files fix the problem. They feed this info back to Sun.

3. The Sun patch team builds a T-patch which is delivered to the customer for testing. The T-patch contains all of the CR fixes that will be included in the formal patch. The customer uses standard patch installation tools to install the temporary patch and repeats step 2.

4. The Sun patch team builds a formal patch, performs a robust QA process, and releases the patch.

7. Q. What happens if I delay in testing the binary fix or T-patch or in reporting the results back to Sun?

A. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible that a customer who is slow to test a tentative patch may have the fix to their problem dropped from the current patch and they will have to wait for the next version of the patch to be released.

8. Q. Isn't that a little harsh?

A. Yes and no. If the fix to your problem gets dropped, it may seem that way. If you are another customer who has a critical bug being fixed in the patch, you certainly don't want the patch release to be delayed by someone in another company. Likewise, if you're a member of the compiler sustaining team, you don't want to introduce changes in a compiler patch if you don't know that the changes actually fix the problem.

9. Q. How come Sun can't tell me far in advance when a formal patch will be released?

A. If you've read all the answers up to this point, you can begin to understand that the patch creation process involves not only Sun employees and yourself, but also customers from other companies. It is a joint effort coordinated by the Sun patch management team that results in well tested patches being released at frequent intervals. After you have tested the binary fix to your CR, your Sun contact can begin to work with the Sun patch management team to give you increasingly more accurate estimates on when the patch will be available.

10. Q. Is this absolutely how it works all the time?

A. No. The information that I've put in writing corresponds to my experiences working with Sun partners and the Sun patch management over the past 4 years. The OS patch management scheme is similar (and may be identical) to the compiler patch management scheme. My experience has been focused in the compiler area.

11. Q. What do I do if you haven't answered my question?

A. Send your question to william.aiken@sun.com , and I'll the answer to this blog.

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