Quarterly Patching Program | Customer FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions
ServiceNow is constantly working to protect our customers’ information and the integrity of our product. A quarterly schedule gives you the latest security, performance and functionality benefits for your instances between full upgrades. The intent is to give you a consistent schedule and advanced notice so that you can plan ahead.
Table of Contents
In the Quarterly Patching Program (QPP), ServiceNow patches customer instances on a quarterly scheduled interval throughout the year. With this program, your instances will have the latest security, performance and functional fixes to keep your business running at its peak.
1. What is the Quarterly Patching Program (QPP), and how is it different from previous programs focused on upgrades?
Unlike an upgrade, which is typically intended to provide enhanced or increased functionality by moving from one release family to another, this program is focused on ensuring that customer instances are optimized for functionality, performance, and security by moving to the newest available version within the same release family.
In the Quarterly Patching Program, instances on a supported release family will be patched to a target version within the same release family.
2. What is the difference between a Release, Patch, and Hot Fix, and how does that relate to upgrades vs patching?
- Release Family: A complete solution including new features that customers can implement to add value to their organization. The release family also incorporates available fixes to existing functionality.
- Patch: Supported existing functionality within the release family with a collection of problem fixes and generally does not include new features.
- Hot fix: Supports existing functionality within the release family with a targeted, specific problem fix. It may or may not include any previous fixes within the release family. It does not include new features. For example, Kingston Patch 1 Hotfix 2 is part of the Kingston family.
- Upgrades: Moving a customer's instance from one release family to another. For example, moving from Jakarta to Kingston.
- Patching: Moving from one patch level to another within a release family. For example, moving from Kingston Patch 2 to Kingston Patch 4.
- Applying a hot fix (or hot fixing): Applying a hot fix to a current patch level. For example, moving from Kingston Patch 3 to Kingston Patch 3 Hot Fix 1.
ServiceNow is constantly working to protect our customers' information and the integrity of our product. A quarterly schedule gives you the latest in performance, security, and functionality between full family upgrades. The schedule consistency and advanced notice allow you to plan ahead and ideally perform your patching before we do it.
4. How does this patching program affect me?
The basic goal is to keep instances on a recent patch version, within a supported release family.
Around 2 weeks before the start of the quarter, ServiceNow sends a communication to each customer announcing the target patch level for each supported release family and the time period when ServiceNow will apply the patch to the customer's instances.
Each customer has a standard week when the patching occurs each quarter (for example, week 2 of Q3, week 2 of Q4, and so on). If ServiceNow does the patching, non-production instances are patched first, followed by production instances ~2 weeks later.
Two weeks prior to the patch date, for each instance, we check the version of the instance. If the instance is on the target patch version or higher, we do nothing. If the instance is not up to the target patch level, ServiceNow creates a CHG ticket to perform the patching.
When the CHG ticket is created, we send the customer a 14-day notification of the patch date. Customers can still move earlier to the target version or higher. Or, they can move out the patch date by a fixed number of days.
Instances on an unsupported release family are subject to our existing Upgrade and Update Policy. ServiceNow is not required to build a patch for unsupported versions, but may choose to when it makes sense. If we do not build a patch, an instance on an unsupported version must upgrade to a supported release family.
This consistent approach and timing allows customers to better manage to their business’ schedule.
5. How is ServiceNow communicating and tracking this program each quarter?
We use the “Communication Record" or "COM" which is a two-way, private communication between the customer and ServiceNow. Customers should use this record to communicate any questions or comments about the quarterly patching.
Each quarter, a Communication Record is created for each company. ServiceNow uses the Communication Record to:
- send notifications to the customer about quarterly patching
- track all of the customer's instances requiring patching
- communicate with the customer about their particular upgrade or patching schedule for the quarter
- provide two-way communication with the customer so that they can ask questions, request extensions, etc.
Customers can get to this record through their Upgrade Instance dashboard on HI. In the status field for each instance, there is a link to the Communication Record. Although there is a link with each instance, the same record is used for all of the customer's instances.
6. How can I have parent companies, subsidiaries or partners get added to the communication list for patching?
Any parent companies, subsidiaries or partners need to be added to the communication list on your company record in HI to receive notifications of version changes. Only the Customer Administrator can do this. For details, see KB0547446: How to add or remove company and partner notifications in HI.
7. What if I am on an unsupported release family?
ServiceNow maintains product support in the form of patches and hot-fixes for supported release families only. Please upgrade your instance if on one of the obsolete versions, as these can not receive product upgrades and bug fixes. For more information please visit KB0610454: Unsupported (End-Of-Life) Upgrades FAQ and KB0598977: Patching & Upgrades Program - Definition of Unsupported Release.
8. Why is the target version lower than the currently available version?
We choose the target version prior to the quarter and plan to keep the target consistent throughout the quarter. If other patch versions are released later, the target version for the quarter usually does not change. We do recommend that if you are patching on your own that you patch to the highest available target.
9. Can we have smaller patches covering only security?
It is important that each instance has all of the latest available fixes on a regular schedule and, for that reason, we include other fixes in our patches.
ServiceNow also releases a series of incremental security patches each quarter to bring you the latest improvements in security. The applicable target will be reflected in your change (CHG) record. Please visit KB0635379: Patching & Upgrades Program - Security Patching FAQ for more information on security patches.
10. How does this impact my freedom of choice around when to upgrade or patch?
Our multi-instance architecture allows customers to choose when to move, and to what version. At the same time, we have a responsibility to keep our customers on the latest versions to keep them secure and functioning at a high level.
11. What if our organization does not have enough time to perform full regression testing on a quarterly basis?
Quarterly patching provides shorter hops to versions within supported families. We are working on improvements to the information available with patches, including more robust information about fixes provided in patches and better information about areas of impact for targeted testing. For more information on best practices, see Upgrade your instance (Kingston).
12. What else can I do to prepare?
Plan ahead and patch your non production instances ahead of your production instances if you are self-scheduling your patching. For more information on best practices, see Upgrade your instance (Kingston).
13. Can I reschedule a patch?
Yes. After receiving the 14-day notification for an instance, you are permitted to reschedule a set number of days beyond the scheduled date. You can modify a scheduled patch from the Manage Instance dashboard on HI.
14. How do I make modifications to the scheduled change in order to patch to a higher version than the quarterly target?
The Communication Record outlined in Question #5 should be the primary communication tool for all requests, questions and comments regarding instance patching.
You can also modify the Change (CHG) record itself once it has been created by ServiceNow.
15. Where can I find information about the latest patch?
Release notes are available in the ServiceNow product documentation pages.
16. Where can I find information about the schedule?
At the beginning of each quarter, we send a notification including the target patch version and quarterly schedule. This information is also available on your Communication Record.
17. I'm already in the middle of an upgrade - how will this affect me?
An existing upgrade project can be accommodated if the upgrade is to a supported release family and to the latest target patch.
18. What if I do not want all of my non-production instances patched at once?
As mentioned earlier, the intent of the QPP is to give you lead-time. You can plan ahead and patch your non-production instances in any order you choose, prior to your set date. You can also push out the set date by a fixed number of days.
19. What happens if I have a change freeze?
Since you generally know when your change freezes are, you can move earlier to the target version or you can push out the set date by a fixed number of days.
20. Can we have more information about what is included in a patch and specific information about where to focus our testing?
We are working to include more robust information about fixes included in patches, along with better information about areas of impact for targeted testing. We are also working on a solution to add metadata to our release notes to make them more usable and searchable based on specific context.
Release notes include an "Affected Plugins" column for fixes. This provides more visibility into what areas of the product were involved in patches' fixed problems.
For Security release notes, we include specific problem categories and short descriptions that explain what the issue is and where it was found.
21. What kind of monitoring and assistance does ServiceNow provide during an upgrade?
ServiceNow monitors upgrades to make sure they complete successfully. If there is upgrade error, we automatically create an Incident record, notify the customer and start working on a fix.
We encourage you to monitor the progress of your patch and, if there is an issue with your instance during or after the patching process, please contact ServiceNow Customer Support.
22. How do I monitor and check the status of the patching on my instance?
There are several methods for confirming that patching has been completed:
|To determine whether a patch has completed||
Navigate to System Diagnostics > Upgrade Log and locate the message Notifying HI that upgrade has been completed.
To review all history related to all previous upgrades/patches
|Navigate to System Definition > System Upgrades.|
To search for the history of the most recent upgrade/patch
|Navigate to System Diagnostics > Upgrade History.|
Refer to the Upgrade History module documentation for details.
23. What happens if a patch does not execute properly?
If a patch does not execute correctly by the end of the change window, our upgrade monitoring will catch the issue. ServiceNow Customer Support will create an incident on your behalf and will begin the troubleshooting process.
We encourage you to monitor the progress of your patch and, if there is an issue with the patching or an issue with your instance after or during the patching process, please contact ServiceNow Customer Support.
24. Will the patch cause an outage or service disruption?
No. Your instance will remain online during the patching. Some performance impact may be observed, but there should be little to no impact after a patch has been applied.
25. Will the patches contain additional functionality?
As a policy, ServiceNow does not allow new features or functionality in patches. Features and functionality are reserved only for the release of a new release family. We have done this to give our customers confidence in our patches being non-disruptive to their business.
26. During the patching process, which party is liable if a patch breaks business function?
In general, ServiceNow is responsible for base functionality being patched and functional with no issues. We are not responsible for customization, as we did not build the customization. That said, we do extend support and help where we can on customizations. The ServiceNow Community is a fantastic place to get quick answers on customizations as well.
27. In the past, patching resulted in issues. How will we ensure we do not have any further issues with the patching?
We never want a patch to cause an issue and, most of the time, there is no issue. Our patches are fully tested prior to release. We patch non-production instances prior to production to give customers a chance to “kick the tires”. If there is an issue with a patch on any instance, contact ServiceNow Customer Support immediately.
Ask ServiceNow in our Patching & End of Life Upgrades Community