Here are the Concepts of Exadata Patching to Make Exadata DBA Life Easy

Patching Database is a common task for a Remote DBA, but when we talk about Exadata Patching it involves lot of complications. The reason behind complexity of Exadata Patching is number of components in Exadata Systems.

In traditional Database Environment, Database Administrator used to patch GRID_HOME and ORACLE_HOME and patching is done, but in Exadata Patching following are the components.

1. Exadata Storage Server
2. Database server
3. InfiniBand switch
4. Additional components like Ethernet switch, KVM, PDU

So Database Administrator has to patch all these components. Before knowing how Exadata Patching works We must know, What is Exadata and it's components. Here I am discussing about How patches are delivered for Exadata Machine and How they are suppose to applied by Exadata DBA.

Let's talk about Each component patching in detail

1. Exadata Storage Server Patches: These are the intelligent storage devices which is also known as Cell or Cell Server. An Exadata Storage Server patch contains updates for firmware, operating system, and Exadata Storage Server software which are supposed to apply on Exadata Storage Server. 

An Exadata Storage Server patch may contain updates to firmware and operating system to apply on database servers known as a database server minimal pack.

Installation of Exadata Storage Server Patches can be done in two ways: rolling and non-rolling

In rolling fashion, at one time only one Cell node will be down and patching will be done on this node other nodes will be working fine. So, No downtime for patching.

In Non Rolling fashion, All database and Real Application will be down and then patching will be done on cell server one by one. This approach needs database downtime.

Each Exadata Storage Server Patches has a fixed compatibility with other Components patchs. i.e. An Exadata Storage Server Patches require Database Server patch to support.

To uderstand in detail, Let's take an Example of Latest Quarterly Full Exadata Stack Release "Patch 16346054 - Quarterly Full Stack Download For Oracle Exadata (April 2013)". This Patch has following Sub Patches under it.

Component Latest Release

Exadata Storage Server:-DBA has to just install one patch for every requirement of Cell patching. Here you can see patch number which DBA Has to download and install using Read Me. Patch 14522699 - Exadata Storage Server software Read Me for Patch: Note 1485475.1
Database Server:-All three versions of Oracle 11g, Oracle, Oracle and Oracle are supported in this Quarter patch, but with some limitation on Bundle patches. Each Database Server Patch has two patches to download, One for Database and another for System firmware and Software. Example: Patch 10404530 for Oracle is for Database and Patch 16474946 is for System firmware and Software. Oracle Database 11g Release 2 ( Patch Set 2 (Patch 10404530)
Patch 16474946 - Quarterly Database Patch for Exadata (Apr 2013 –               OR
Oracle Database 11g Release 2 ( Patch Set 1 (Patch 10098816)
Patch 16310984 - Bundle Patch 20 for Exadata                                        OR
Oracle Database 11g Release 2 (
Patch 12849492 - Database Bundle Patch 12 for Exadata
Patch 12832566 - Grid Infrastructure Bundle Patch 6 for Exadata
InfiniBand Switch
InfiniBand switch software updates are delivered as Exadata software patches. InfiniBand switch software is installed independent of Exadata Storage Server software.
Exadata Database Machine - Sun Datacenter InfiniBand Switch 36
Patch 12373676 - Switch software version 1.3.3-2 (requires Patch 11891229 content)
Additional componentsEthernet switch, KVM, PDU Oracle Power Distribution Unit (PDU)
Patch 12871297 - Metering Unit firmware and HTML interface v1.04

2. Database Server Patches: Database Server patches has two types of patches in it.

    a. Oracle Database Software Patches
    b. Firmware / Operating System Patches

Oracle Database Server software patches contain updates to Oracle Database and Oracle Clusterware software. They are supplied as one or more downloadable patches from MOS. Oracle Database Software Patches are same patches which are release for Normal Database, they don't have any specific code related to Exadata.

Firmware / Operating System Patches supplied is an Exadata Specific patch which has to applied on Database Server Operating system and firmware.

In the above diagram, Database Administrator can observer for Each database patch there are two patches available One for Database and another for OS and Firmware. So DBA has to apply both patches on Database Server. 

Oracle Database Server software may require a minimum Exadata Storage Server software version for compatibility purpose.

3. InfiniBand Switch Patches: An InfiniBand switch patch contains updates to the software and/or firmware for InfiniBand switches.Prerequisites and instructions for installing a patch are provided in a README supplied with the patch.

4. Additional Component Patches: Additional components refer to the Ethernet switch, KVM, and PDU, Remote DBA has to follow read me for patch installation. When you successfully complete Exadata patching check Exadata Image version, Grid and Oracle S/W version.

Below is the patch Release frequency for Exadata Patches:

Software Patch Release Frequency

Quarterly Full Stack Download Quarterly
Exadata Storage Server Quarterly
Database Server Grid Infrastructure / RDBMS Bundle Patches - Recommended quarterly (1) - Quarterly (2) - No further bundle patches (3)
InfiniBand Switch Semi-annually to annually

Does this helps you to understand Exadata Patching Concepts ? Please share ..