Why are there so many P releases in ONTAP lately?

If you’ve been paying any attention, you’d notice that ONTAP 9.1P8 just released last week. That’s insane, right? I mean, ONTAP 9.1 just went GA┬áless than a year ago! And ONTAP 8.2.4 only had 5 or 6 P releases ever! What’s going on???

It’s simple… ONTAP has a different software release cadence.

Starting with ONTAP 9, the release cadence model changed to accelerate the release of new ONTAP features. Now, instead of a major release (think 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, etc.) coming out every year and a half, we ship feature-rich major releases every 6 months. This means that NetApp can be more agile with their development cycles and more aggressive in releasing new features.

This also means, no more “maintenance releases.”

What’s a maintenance release?

A maintenance release was one of the “dot” releases you’d see in between major releases. Remember, it was usually 18 months between a major release, so while you were waiting for 8.2 to ship, NetApp was releasing 8.1.1, 8.1.2, 8.1.3, etc. These releases were generally devoid of new features, but instead included bug fixes. That was in addition to the “patch” releases, which were intended to be releases made to fix major bugs faster than a maintenance release could.

So, instead of seeing 9.1.1, 9.1.2, and so on, you’re going to get P releases. And that’s why you’re seeing an uptick in P releases for ONTAP 9.x in a shorter time frame. So, no worries! ONTAP 9.x is still one of the most stable family of releases we’ve seen for clustered ONTAP, regardless of the number of P releases.

General P release/upgrade guidance

If you’re trying to determine whether you should upgrade to a P release of ONTAP, here are some helpful tips:

  • P releases are fully production ready and QA tested
  • If you are trying to decide whether to upgrade to a P release, be sure to review the bug fix list on the P release download page to see if you’re exposed to any of the bugs and if you think it’s worth your time to upgrade
  • Make use of the “upgrade recommendation” found in MyAutoSupport.
  • ONTAP provides the ability to perform non-disruptive upgrades, so updating to a P release should take minimal downtime. This is especially true of ONTAP versions running in the same major release family, as there are no version mismatches to worry about in the upgrade.
  • System Manager now provides automated upgrade utilities to provide for a simpler upgrade process
  • Be sure to review the software version support policy for your release to make the most informed decision you can.

Hopefully this clears up any questions you have about P releases. Ping me in the comments if you need clarifications!