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What's the Best Way to Patch an E-Business Suite Environment?

Steven Chan
Senior Director

One of our senior Oracle Support engineers recently asked, "What's the best strategy for applying patches to E-Business Suite environments?"  Applying updates and patches is such a major part of an Apps DBA's responsibilities that I assumed that this was already covered in our existing documentation. In looking through our systems administration guides, I was surprised to find that this isn't discussed anywhere.

Here's a general best practices patching strategy for all EBS environments.  In order of priority, you should:

  1. Apply the latest EBS Release Update Pack. For example: 12.1.3 for Release 12.1, 12.0.6 for Release 12.0, 11.5.10.2 for Release 11i.  
  2. Apply the latest EBS Family Packs and all patches on the Recommended Patch List. This includes ATG Release Update Packs and AutoConfig updates.  
  3. Upgrade all technology stack components to the latest certified levels. For example, as of today, the latest certified levels for EBS 12 are Database 11.2.0.2, Forms 10.1.2.3, OC4J 10.1.3.5, Oracle Internet Directory 11.1.1.3.  Check the Certifications database on My Oracle Support or this blog's one page summary of EBS certifications for a snapshot of the latest certified patchsets for technology stack components.  
  4. Apply the latest Critical Patch Updates (CPU) You should always apply the latest security patches.  Always.  These are released quarterly.  
  5. <Optional> Apply the latest Database Patch Set Updates (PSU) and the required EBS prerequisites It's safe to apply Database PSUs to your EBS environment.  Some customers like the convenience of PSUs.  Some don't.  It's up to you.  
  6. Apply specific one-off and interim patches... ... but only if they're really required for your environment.  This applies to both EBS and technology stack component patches.  You're generally better-off waiting for patches to be rolled into the bigger release vehicles listed in #1 to #4, above.  Those consolidated release vehicles are tested more comprehensively with all Apps modules and configurations than one-off or interim patches. 

Pay attention to the ranking

The order of priority is important.  Most customers have difficulties in keeping up with the first four sets of updates.  If you do keep current with those first four categories of patches, the amount of incremental work associated with the remaining two categories is minimal and can generally be avoided entirely.

Why bother patching?

Because it's cheaper and safer in the long run.  I'm always surprised by customers who pay more attention to maintaining their car than a mission-critical enterprise resource planning system.

The E-Business Suite is a large, complex system.  The further you fall behind in maintaining your system:

  • The more work it requires to isolate and resolve issues.
  • The greater the likelihood of encountering an avoidable known issue.
  • The greater the risk of upgrading from an untested configuration to a new version.
  • The greater the effort required to upgrade to new versions.
  • The greater the risk that you will not be able to get patches for your existing configuration.

Use tools to automate your updates

The savvy DBA takes advantage of as many tools as possible to automate these updates.  If you are still applying patches manually to every EBS environment, you're wasting a lot of time.  Check out the Application Change Management Pack for Oracle E-Business Suite (part of the Application Management Suite).  This Enterprise Manager plug-in automates the process of checking for required patches, staging those patches, then applying those patches to multiple EBS environments. 

Yes, it requires additional licencing, but I think that most organisations can recoup those costs very, very quickly.  Patching manually is time-consuming, error-prone, and tricky to keep organized when you have multiple development, staging, QA, and preproduction environments.  In my eyes, automation is really the only solution.

Formal documentation updates are coming

Future versions of our formal EBS documentation will include this advice.  Our Oracle Support team is also working on a set of Life Cycle Advisor documents for the E-Business Suite.  They tell me that this will cover everything a DBA should know if you've never applied patches to EBS before.  I'll profile those new Advisor guides as soon as they're published.

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