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 less 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!

Non-disruptively upgrading ONTAP

Be sure to also check out:

How to Perform Continuous ONTAP Upgrades Without Sacrificing IT Stability

A while back, I wrote about why you’d want to upgrade to ONTAP 9.2, especially if you are using ONTAP for VMware environments. I mentioned the ability to do non-disruptive upgrades as a motivating factor.

Then, someone asked in the comments for a post on performing an upgrade… Unfortunately, the systems I have that can be upgraded to 9.2 is already on 9.2 (because 9.2 is awesome). The other systems I have are FAS3270s, which are not supported with 9.2. But, I’ll still show you how to get there. I just can’t give you screenshots or video of me doing the actual upgrade.

Before you start

Whenever you want to upgrade any software, you should do some planning. NetApp provides some tools to help with that, such as the Interoperability Matrix and Upgrade Advisor.

From the KB:

The Data ONTAP Upgrade Advisor is a tool within My AutoSupport that will provide a plan with steps and commands to successfully perform a Data ONTAP upgrade or revert. The plan also contains context-sensitive links to the following:

  • Pre and post upgrade checks
  • Issues and risk exposures
  • Data ONTAP Release Notes
  • Data ONTAP binaries
  • Links to shelf module, system, and diagnostic FW

Note: AutoSupport must be enabled and working for the tool to work. Data ONTAP Upgrade Advisor  uses the information within the latest AutoSupport available from the system to generate the plan. To enable or configure AutoSupport, visit the AutoSupport page on the NetApp Support site.

Interoperability Matrix (IMT)

Start with this first to save yourself some time and headaches. Why try to generate an upgrade plan for your systems if you don’t even know what versions are supported for your platform? In the new IMT, you have several choices in how to search:

imt-search

Choose the one that works best for you.

My AutoSupport

Keep in mind that there is a new My AutoSupport interface, so be sure to check out this short video overview:

Finding Upgrade Advisor

When you open up a NetApp system in MyAutoSupport, there are two places you can access Upgrade Advisor.

The side menu:

upgrade-advisor-menu.png

And the “Upgrade Recommendation” section:

upgrade-advisor-button

Once you click on either, you will be taken to a screen where it will auto-populate the cluster’s serial numbers and allow you to start the upgrade process. From this page, click next:

upgrade-advisor-addsn

The next page will take you to a screen that shows your your systems. From here, you can deviate from the recommended version and select your desired ONTAP version.

upgrade-advisor-change.png

Click on the hyperlinked target version and choose your desired version. Click the check box to apply to all systems.

upgrade-advisor-target.png

After the version is selected, click next.

The following page allows you to specify what type of upgrade you want (ANDU is non-disruptive; DU is disruptive), as well as if you want to generate a revert plan, what file format, etc. Once you’re done, select “Generate” and a plan will be emailed to you.

upgrade-advisor-generate.png

In the case of my system, I can’t upgrade straight from 8.3.2 to 9.2. I have to go to 9.1 first. Upgrade Advisor will warn me, but ideally I’d have checked the Interoperability Matrix first.

upgrade-advisor-unsupport.png

I click previous, select 9.1P6 (the current latest 9.1 patch release) and click next and then “Generate.”

I’ll see a green box telling me the request was successful. Then I can navigate to t he “Upgrade Request Status” page to see the progress.

ua-request-status

From here, I can download the plan or wait for the email to arrive. The email will send a zip file, so if your email servers block .zip files, use the download process above.

The zip file will have the PDF or XLS versions of the upgrade and revert plans for each system you requested. These files will have a slew of pre-upgrade checks for you to perform. Once those are complete, you can begin your non-disruptive upgrade, as per the guide.

Here’s a nifty Datalink video of upgrades and best practices:

You can also get more info upgrading from 8.3.x to 9.x in this post:

https://community.netapp.com/t5/Data-ONTAP-Discussions/Upgrading-Clustered-Data-ONTAP-8-3x-to-ONTAP-9-1-Using-Automated-Nondisruptive/td-p/128391

While that post shows upgrading to 9.1, the same process works for 9.2.