By Gerry Haskins-Oracle on Sep 18, 2009
The new Patching Pre-flight Checks ('ppc') tool is now available to all customers who have a support contract.
The idea for this tool comes directly from customer feedback.
The customer wanted to reduce the cost of patching Solaris systems by enabling more junior Sys Admins to successfully patch Solaris 10 zones systems. Their concern was that potential zones patching issues in versions of Solaris prior to Solaris 10 8/07 (Update 4) meant that they needed to assign senior System Administrators to patch such systems to identify and resolve potential issues.
Furthermore, the customer was concerned that such issues had the potential to derail planned maintenance windows - for example, if during the patching session an unexpected issue was encountered and the patching session couldn't be completed as planned.
To address these concerns, my colleague, Ronan O'Connor, has written the Patching Pre-flight Checks tool, 'ppc'. It can be run prior to a planned patching session to check that the target system is in a clean state ready for patching.
It's important to understand the scope of the tool. It checks a target system (and a patch set, if supplied) for a variety of inconsistencies which could cause problems.
It looks for left over lock files from previously aborted patching or packaging operations, inconsistencies in the contents database, IDRs installed on the target system, zones "mountability", space issues, etc. Some of these issues can occur on early versions of Solaris 10, particularly in a Zones environment. Many of the underlying causes of such issues are fixed in the latest versions of the patch utility patches (119254 SPARC / 119255 x86), which is why we always recommend you apply the latest patch utility patches before applying other patches.
If you have a directory of patches to be applied, 'ppc' checks the integrity of those patches, and cross-checks whether any of the patches patch pkgs which have been locked down by any IDRs on the system and warns if there is a conflict.
The 'ppc' Release Notes provide information to help interpret the messages produced.
The idea is that 'ppc' can be run by a junior Sys Admin prior to a planned patching session, and any potential issues uncovered can then be analyzed by a more experienced Sys Admin. This helps avoid nasty surprises during patches sessions and also helps to reduce the level of expertise required to patch Solaris systems, leading to cost savings for customers.
It is outside the scope of the 'ppc' tool to do root cause analysis of why the inconsistency arose or what actions may be needed, if any, to correct the situation.
If 'ppc' returns without noting any problems, you can be pretty confident that the patching session will succeed. If 'ppc' notes potential issues, they can be investigated prior to the planned maintenance window.
The next version of 'ppc' will include a Zones consistency check to check that all zones are at a consistent patch level. It will also contain a more sophisticated space checking algorithm. There's no planned release date yet for Version "2.0" yet as we're awaiting feedback on Version 1.0.x first.
Some of the ideas in 'ppc' may find their way back into 'patchadd',
although it's probably appropriate to keep 'ppc' as a separate tool.
You can download the Patching Pre-flight Checks tool, 'ppc', here. It's an attachment to the knowledge article. The Patching Pre-flight Checks tool, 'ppc', and the Customer Patch Forum are only available to customers with a support contract, so you'll need to login to SunSolve to access the knowledge article.
We're very interested in your feedback as to the usefulness of this tool and how you'd like to see 'ppc' develop going forward.
Many thanks to Ronan O'Connor for all his work on the tool!
Director, Software Patch Services