Thursday Oct 22, 2009

Major PatchFinder enhancements available now!

I'm delighted to announce the release of the 2nd phase of our PatchFinder tool enhancements, which include:

  • The ability to see the "Entitlement Classes" of patches and get information on the support contracts necessary to access and use them.  
  • A "Patch Basket", into which you can add selected patches from multiple search results.
  • When you click on the "Go To Patch Basket" link, the patch dependencies for all the patches you have in your Patch Basket will be dynamically resolved, including filtering out redundant dependencies.   This saves you having to manually transfer patch dependency trees!   If you already have some of these installed, you can de-select them.
  • You can then click the "Download Selected" button to download a 'wget' script and instructions which you can use to download all of the selected patches from SunSolve.   Once you make sure you install the latest version of the patch utilities patch first, you can then use "patchadd -M" to install all the patches in the correct order on your target system.

Sample Searches

Let's assume you applied the Solaris 10 SPARC Recommended Patch Cluster on August 15th 2009.  So what Solaris 10 SPARC Recommended Cluster patches have been released since then ?   To find out, for "OS Release" select "Solaris 10", for "Architecture" select SPARC", select "Recommended Only", and select August 15th 2009 from the calendar beside the "Released After" box.   (Select view 50, 100, or 200 to see the entire list in one page.)   You can then decide if you want to download some of all of these patches to add to your system.  Coupled with the dynamic dependency resolution and 'wget' download capability, this effectively enables you to create customized patch clusters for yourself with just the patches you need, rather than having to download the entire Recommended Cluster each time.

Or you could bookmark a search to show you all the patches released in the last day: Simply enter the number "1" into the "Released After" box and select any other selection criteria you are interested in and click "Search".  Depending on timezone differences with respect to California and your local time of day, you may need to enter the number "2" in the "Released After" box.

You can also use PatchFinder to see what Solaris 8 Vintage patches Sun has released since Solaris 8 entered End-Of-Service-Life (EOSL) Phase 2 on April 1, 2009.   Simply select "Solaris 8" for "OS Release", select "OS Patches Only" and click "Search".  Since the patches are listed in date order, most of the patches with a release date after April 1, 2009, including patches delivering security fixes, will have the "Solaris8VintageSoftwareUpdate" Entitlement Class associated with them if you mouse-over the red padlock symbol shown for them (assuming you don't have a Solaris 8 Vintage Patch Service Plan associated with your Sun Online Account).   You will see a couple of non-Vintage patches released after April 1, 2009.  This is a transition phase and these patches address issues escalated by customers prior to April 1, 2009.

Some other sample searches to satisfy your curiosity:

Ever wondered how many patches Sun has ever released ?   To find out, simply select "Show Obsolete" and then click "Search".

How many current "active" patches does Sun have ?   De-select "Show Obsolete" and then click "Search".

How many patches can be installed on Solaris 10, including application product patches ?   For "OS Release" select "Solaris 10" (and optionally "Show Obsolete" ) and then click "Search".

How many current "active" Solaris 10 OS patches there are for SPARC ?  For "OS Release" select "Solaris 10", for "Architecture" select "SPARC" and then select "OS Patches Only" and then click "Search".

Patch Access Entitlement Classes

You need a support contract or have hardware under warranty in order to access and use patches.

When you look at the list of patches returned from a search, a green open padlock symbol shows the patches you have access to thanks to the support contracts which you currently have associated with your Sun Online Account (SOA).  A red closed padlock shows the patches which you are not currently entitled to access or use with the support contracts you currently have associated with your Sun Online Aaccout.

You can mouse-over these symbols for any patch and it will show you the "Entitlement Classes" associated with the patch. 

Read the "What is it?" help link and the SunSolve "How Entitlement Works" wiki to find out about the support contracts which you need to buy in order to access and use these patches.

Feedback

I hope you'll find the new PatchFinder enhancements useful.

We are really interested in your feedback as to what further enhancements you would like to see, so feel free to post your comments here or else use the feedback link on the PatchFinder page.

Many thanks to Brian Kidney and Julien Colomb for all their work on this - nice work guys!

Wednesday May 27, 2009

New PatchFinder tool now available

The new PatchFinder tool is now available on http://sunsolve.sun.com/patchfinder/

It's linked off the main SunSolve Patch page, http://sunsolve.sun.com/show.do?target=patchpage.  Look for the following link immediately under the old PatchFinder search box:

The PatchFinder

Why a new PatchFinder tool ?

The old PatchFinder tool was a pet peeve of mine.  You needed to know at least the 6 digit base PatchID of the patch you were trying to find in order to find it.   Rather self defeating IMHO.

The new PatchFinder tool directly leverages Sun's internal Patch Metadata Web Services to provide a much richer search experience.

Features of the new PatchFinder tool

You can still search by PatchID if you want.  This will override all other search options.

But you can also search for all Recommended or Security patches, and restrict that search, for example, to Solaris 10 SPARC.

By the way, "Recommended" means it's part of the Solaris Recommended Patch Cluster, which contains the latest revision of all Solaris OS patches which fix Security, Data Corruption, or System Availability issues.  See the cluster inclusion criteria definitions by clicking the appropriate heading on the Patch Clusters & Patch Bundles download page, http://sunsolve.sun.com/show.do?target=patch-access.

"Security" includes all patches which address Security issues, including Solaris OS patches and application and middleware patches for other products.

If you click the "OS Patches Only" box, the search results can be restricted to patches for the Solaris OS only, which will exclude application and middleware patches which are not bundled as part of the Solaris OS.  

Advanced Search Capabilities

Click on "Show Advanced Search" for more options.

This gives you options such as searching by CR (Change Request, a.k.a. BugID) number, so if you suspect you've hit a particular bug, you can check whether a patch for that CR is available yet.

Or you can search for patches with particular words in the patch synopsis or keywords fields - e.g. ldap, "patch util", "package util", "pkg util", etc.  These options have limited value as it's difficult to guess the values.

The "Released Before" option is handy if your company has a policy of waiting for patches to "age" a specified number of days after release before you consider applying them.

The "Released After" option is useful to restrict the search to patches released since the last time you checked for patches.

The "README Modified After" option is subtly different to the "Released After" field and is a superset of the "Released After" results in that is also shows patches whose README or patchinfo metadata files have been updated since the patch was initially released - for example, Special Install Instructions may have been added to the README to specify workarounds for issues found post-release which do not warrant the patch being withdrawn from SunSolve (i.e. the patch still does more good than harm for the majority of customers).

You can filter the search further to see only those patches whose README file was modified since you last downloaded patches by using the following search filter combination: For example, if you downloaded patches 30 days ago, you can see which patches which were release 30 or more days ago have had their READMEs modified since then by using the combination: "Released Before" == 30 && "README Modified After" == 30

In all of these time related fields, you can specify actual dates instead of a specified number of days.

The "Patch Property" field enables you to search for things like "Interactive" patches which require manual intervention during installation, "NonStandard" which means they aren't applied using the standard 'patchadd' utility (e.g. firmware patches), or patches which require downtime (Single User Mode, Reboot\*) if applied to the live boot environment.  (Remember, Live Upgrade can be used to minimize the downtime and risk associated with applying patches by applying the patches to an inactive boot environment, thereby avoiding such downtime requirements during or immediately after patch installation.  You can reboot to set the inactive boot environment live at a time that suits you.)

By default, only patches which are currently available for download (i.e. patches which haven't been withdrawn due to issues) are returned in the search results.    You can select "Withdrawn" patches instead to get a list of patches which have been withdrawn from SunSolve due to serious issues.   This is useful to ensure you don't have any withdrawn patches installed on your systems.  I recommend you also select "Show Obsoletes" along with "Withdrawn" so withdrawn patches which have been superseded by replacement good patches aren't masked.  (Note, a Sun Alert is issued whenever a patch is withdrawn, so if you keep abreast of Sun Alert notifications as is advisable, this step is simply a check and balance.)

Fields such as "OS Release", "State", etc., allow multiple options to be selected concurrently from the drop down menu.

Patch Metrics Gathering 

The new PatchFinder tool is also useful for helping you to calculate patch metrics - e.g. the number of Solaris 10 SPARC OS patches released in the last year.

Display and Bookmarking Options

You can also select the number of patches to display in each page of search results returned (default 20), hide the search form so that only the results are displayed (the option is in the top right hand corner of the tool), and order the results by PatchID, Released date, or Synopsis, in either ascending or descending order (by clicking on the appropriate column heading of the results returned).

You can click on a PatchID in the search results returned to display the Patch README.

You can also bookmark the search results returned for future reference.  This is handy if you wish to run the same query regularly. 

Help! 

There's a "Help" summary in the top right hand corner and each search field has it's own help summary marked "?".

What's next ? 

I hope you find this initial version of the new PatchFinder tool useful.

This is a start, not the finished article.   In future versions we plan to provide options to resolve patch dependencies and patch installation order, enable patch download, etc.  

Feedback - what else would you like to see ?

Feel free to provide feedback on features which you'd like to see to the software-update-finder-feedback@sun.com alias or directly to me, Gerry.Haskins@sun.com .  

Our goal is to improve your patching experience.

About

This blog is to inform customers about patching best practice, feature enhancements, and key issues. The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle. The Documents contained within this site may include statements about Oracle's product development plans. Many factors can materially affect these plans and the nature and timing of future product releases. Accordingly, this Information is provided to you solely for information only, is not a commitment to deliver any material code, or functionality, and SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON IN MAKING PURCHASING DECISIONS. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described remains at the sole discretion of Oracle. THIS INFORMATION MAY NOT BE INCORPORATED INTO ANY CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENT WITH ORACLE OR ITS SUBSIDIARIES OR AFFILIATES. ORACLE SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIMS ANY LIABILITY WITH RESPECT TO THIS INFORMATION. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gerry Haskins, Director, Software Lifecycle Engineer

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