Oracle Patchset 10.2.0.4 is released – finally.

So after a loooong wait time, it’s finally available to be downloaded by the SAP customers.
What a relieve!

Over is the time where tens of patches needed to be installed to run the database on a supported patch level and to avoid trapping into a myriad of nasty optimizer bugs that could render the system unusable.
Hooray to the developers!

Well, ok perhaps this ‘event’ is not that fantastic.

From the support perspective, it’s just another patch.
And we already know that there will be a Patchset 10.2.0.5 in which the already available merge fixes for 10.2.0.4 will be included.
So far nothing new.

Having witnessed the advent of many Patchsets, Patches and Releases now, one customer behaviour pattern really sticks out.
During all the usually quite long (from several months to sometimes years) there are only few support messages in which customers seek to know the planned release date for the ‘new version’.
Anyhow, as soon as the expected release date gets closer, more and more requests are opened to get a definitive date.
“We’re in an upgrade/migration right now and want to include the most current patchset.”
or “Should I wait with installing the required patches until the Patchset will be available?”
are just two typical questions here.

As a support person, I can of course only deliver the officially released software versions and information.
There wouldn’t be any benefit to a customer if I would hand out some unsupported piece of software.
The same is true for unreleased information.

Let’s assume we would have an internal fixed date (believe me: there isn’t a fixed date!) on which we plan to release a piece of software.
Now, I hand this information to you (the customer or partner) and you base your planning on that information.

What can happen now are three things:

  1. The release date is matched and your plans won’t break.
    That is the wanted outcome.
  2. The release date is earlier than assumed.
    This would usually be no problem with your plans but it may turn out that there are new bugs in that released software until the date you planned to use it.
    Would you then still want to install this patchset?
  3. The release date is actually later than expected.
    Now what?
    You don’t have any official information that you can use to argue with SAP.
    Neither have you got a good explanation for your customer why you cannot apply the planned patchset as it was planned

Basically, option 1 would be the only option that would not lead to any problems for you.
And would you like to have to handle the other two outcomes?

Another aspect is that you want to be sure that the newly released piece of software is working fine and that SAP has taken all measures to ensure it is.
Now, what if a release date is announced and one day before that date a severe problem occurs?
Should SAP still deliver and hope that a fix is found for that problem before anyone notices?
That’s clearly not an option at all.

That leaves one way of handling the release of new software for the benefit of both SAP and the customers:
“Release the software when it’s ready (so far as we can now)”.

Does that mean bug-free software?
Of course not.
But it means that the software is not released while we actually know that there are bugs in it for which we don’t can tell you how to handle them.

Finally, it does not seem to make sense to try to incorporate the latest patch into your already tight schedules.
You’ll need to have a plan to patch your system anyhow – so why not perform the planning with the patches that are actually released and postpone any upcoming patches to the next maintenance window?

Ok – that wasn’t meant to be a ‘customer bashing’ blog post – so don’t be offended!
Of course, I’m happy if I can boost my productivity record by answering request for release dates 🙂

best regards,
Lars

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