This content is part of the Essential Guide: Implementing successful Oracle E-Business Suite applications upgrades

Doing an Oracle patch update the right way is no easy task

Knowing which Oracle patch update is the right one, and how often to apply them, is key to keeping IT and end users happy.

DENVER – According to Kaberi Nayak, the action of actually applying an Oracle patch update isn't even the hard part. What's more difficult is figuring out which patch is the right one.

"Applying the patches doesn't take that much time," said Nayak, a senior Oracle application DBA and member of the Oracle Applications Users Group board of directors. "What takes up the most time is the research into finding the right patch."

The confusion over Oracle patches comes from several different directions, according to Nayak, who spoke at this week’s Oracle Collaborate users’ conference. But there are a few pieces of advice that can help administrators ensure that the process of finding and applying the right patch goes as smoothly as possible.

Oracle patch update depends on application version

For one, IT must implement the correct patches for all relevant product lines. If you're running Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS), you must stay up-to-date on Oracle patch updates for EBS as well as Oracle Database, Fusion Middleware, Identity Management and Java.

Additionally, the correct Oracle patch update depends on what version of the application and database you are running. Nayak gave the example of an organization running Oracle Database For the most recent Oracle patch update, you would apply a different patch if you were on Exadata then if not, or if you were running on Microsoft Windows or Windows x64.

Another example: If you're running Oracle Fusion Middleware, you'll have to first patch the installer before you can install the patch for the middleware itself. With Fusion Middleware, you don't have to patch the installer.

"I do get a lot of people asking me questions about security patches," Nayak said. "I even get confused myself sometimes."

Which Oracle patch update: CPU, PSU, SPU?

The alphabet soup around the Oracle patch update can confuse IT managers and DBAs. Which is the right one to apply, and how often should you apply it?

During her talk at the conference, Nayak explained the various kinds of patches:

  • Critical Patch Update (CPU): The quarterly release of security fixes, rather than just the cumulative database security patch. It is the overall quarterly Oracle patch update, not a single patch.
  • Security Patch Update (SPU): This is new terminology that Oracle introduced in October, and is the same as the CPU. Expect SPU and CPU to be used interchangeably.
  • Patch Set Update (PSU): Cumulative patches that include security and priority fixes. These are minor version upgrades for particular products, and once they are applied, only they (and not CPUs) can be applied in the future until you upgrade to a new base version of the database.

Those are the major ones, but there are also others. Bundle patches are cumulative patches issued between PSUs. Diagnostic patches are created to diagnose a specific problem that often has been logged by a customer and which Oracle feels applies to all customers. Finally, an interim patch may be available for certain customers who need specific fixes to a product but cannot wait for the next PSU.

How often you patch your system is up to you. While Oracle releases quarterly CPU/SPU and PSU patches, many organizations may only apply patches two or three times a year. Nayak said that is fine, as the Oracle patch updates are built to bring user systems back up to speed, even if it means skipping over a patch.

"With EBS you don't want downtime and with patches you have downtime," she said. "So you might not want to patch every quarter. What you should do is build it into a regular process, where say you do it every six months."

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