Simon Haslam's Oracle Fusion Middleware blog

UKOUG Middleware SIG - All About Patching

I don't usually write about UKOUG Middleware Special Interest Groups (SIG) meetings - they're much more about face-to-face discussions - but in this case I thought I'd write up some notes mostly of things from the flip-chart for the benefit of those who attended (and anyone else interested).

Firstly, the Middleware SIG target audience is mostly production Fusion Middleware administrators and infrastructure designers/architects. Yesterday we had a turnout of 30 or so, which I thought was quite respectable considering that the agenda was a little late (my fault - a shortage of spare time 12 weeks ago).

Our theme was patching and upgrades: we started with sessions in the morning about patching vs upgrades, patching methods, where to find help and some worked examples. After lunch we had presentations from Oracle about what's coming up in Fusion Middleware and some of the upgrade approaches.

I'm very grateful as ever to our excellent and knowledgeable speakers, and in particular have a special thanks to Phil Wilkins from Specsavers for his first presentation at a SIG.

Oracle City Office, 1 South Place, London
Oracle City Office (London)

During the group discussion we did some polls to see what Fusion Middleware products people were using in production. This of course is not at all scientific: delegates attending were not a random sample of the user base (they'd chosen to be there probably based on particular content), some organisations might have 2 people at the SIG so there would have been double counting, and the sample size was small. Nevertheless the counts were:

  • SOA 11 (of which including BPM 3 and including or standalone OSB ~2)
  • Forms/Reports ~10
  • ODI & OBIEE 8
  • ADF 7
  • Discoverer or Portal 4-5
  • IAM/IDM 4
  • WCC/WCP 3 (WCS 0)

I've never seen such a high proportion of SOA at a Middleware SIG before. Whether this indicates more widespread use of the SOA now and people's enthusiasm to find out what's ahead, or just that Forms administrators are less interested in (or in need of) patching, I don't know!

We asked Forms users which versions they were on and found: 3@11g R2, 4@11gR1 and 5 on 10g (some had multiple versions). We also asked the same question to SOA users with: 2@11.1.1.7, 3@11.1.1.6, 1@11.1.1.5 and 1@11.1.1.4. However, as someone pointed out, I hadn't given the option of "don't know" (some architects may not actually know exact production versions).

Then we started talking about Patch Set Updates (PSUs aka Bundle Patches) and Critical Patch Updates (CPUs) and it seemed that hardly anyone was applying these. So we discussed reasons:

  • SOA is so central and critical to operations it has a very large impact if it goes wrong
  • It is costly to run a regression testing cycle for a patch set (full or update)
  • There is a perceived risk to the business of applying patch sets (but not of not applying them...)

One administrator who was applying CPUs said they passed it to development/testing and gave it a quick regression test, but that this was still a 7-10 day cycle.

None of this really came as a surprise to anyone, but did prompt the thoughts of what tools are already out there that could help. This then rolled into a proposed theme for the next SIG which will be along the lines of "Using Enterprise Manager for Middleware Environments" (mostly meaning Cloud Control, rather than the EM Fusion Middleware Console). The topics requested were:

  • Patch advice for managed middleware environments
  • Middleware performance management (SOA, WebLogic, JVM, Web Tier etc)
  • Packs and licensing
  • Reporting, e.g. creating custom BIP reports
  • EM architecture & installation (and implications for licensing)
  • HA options (")
  • SOA error management/notifications & middleware diagnostics advisor

There's obviously rather a lot of potential content in there so let's see what we can do. Of course if you'd like to talk on your experiences of any of those then please get in touch.

Oh, and by the way, we do have a Twitter account for the Middleware SIG: @fmwSIG

So I look forward to seeing many of you again at the next UKOUG Application Server & Middleware SIG (its official name) - themed around Enterprise Manager - on 9th October in Reading (only 16 weeks away!).

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