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OpenShift Platform Day2 - Upgrade

Upgrade Overview

The upgrade methodology will differ depending upon the type of installation you are working with. A Managed instance of the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, platform may be vendor managed and all upgrades are under their perview. These permutations may be covered in a future version of this document.

  • Patching: The change or upgrade of an OpenShift component that remediates an issue or introduces new features
  • Upgrade: The replacement/upgrade of one or more OpenShift components that are of significant enough impact to warrant a new version number

NOTE: The mechanism behind “Patching” and “Upgrade” is the same on the OpenShift.

The OpenShift Container Platform update service

With the recent releases of Red Hat OpenShift, a new feature of “Over the Air” (OTA), updates are exposed and available for the platform team to pick and choose on what upgrade plans they want to use. The OTA service exposes channels (explained in more detail below), that can maintain the platform at a given version level by only viewing patches for it. Or the platform team can subscribe to a newer version and make a decision to upgrade.

Upgrades are available for Air-Gapped instances via a similar method to Air-Gapped installation. By copying the upgrade binary and then expose it to the platform.

As stated, the OTA service provides multiple channels that the platform operator can utilize to upgrade the OpenShift platform or the Red Hat Core OS (RHCOS) runtimes.

If not air-gapped, the platform contacts the OTA service and updates the upgrades that are available. What the platform operators see are based upon their channel subscription. The primary channels provide a brief explanation, if you were using 4.3.1 and evaluating moving to 4.3.2 version, here is an example:

  • candidate-4.3.2
  • fast-4.3.2
  • stable-4.3.2

Note: Upgrades are only to a higher minor level (i.e. X.0.1 to X.2.0) and there is no rollback feature for a failed upgreade, it can only be recovered via restoring from backups.

Within each channel they contain two types of updates:

  • General Availability Software (or GA) - These versions of OpenShift Container Platform are fully supported and are considered production quality. You may upgrade to the general availability release from either of the fast and stable channels.
  • Release Candidate Software (or RC) - These versions of OpenShift Container Platform are representative of the eventual general availability release and are available only in the candidate-4.3 channel. The release candidate will contain all the features of the product. You are allowed to upgrade from a release candidate to another release candidate and to upgrade from a previous minor version of OpenShift Container Platform to the current release candidate. Release candidate builds are not supported by Red Hat and you will not be able to upgrade from a release candidate to the general availability release of OpenShift Container Platform. Candidates should be used to test feature acceptance and assist in qualifying the next version of OpenShift Container Platform in your infrastructure. Release candidates differ from the nightly builds found on You cannot upgrade nightly builds to nightly builds. Nightly builds are available for early access to features but are not upgradable or supported.

For GA versions, the fast and stable channels present a choice between receiving updates as soon as they are available or allowing Red Hat to control the rollout of those updates.

To allow the OpenShift Container Platform update service to provide only compatible updates, a release verification pipeline exists to drive automation. Each release artifact is verified for compatibility with supported cloud platforms and system architectures as well as other component packages. After the pipeline confirms the suitability of a release, the OpenShift Container Platform update service notifies you that it is available.

Note that this update service may or may not work with the “managed” OpenShift service provided by Cloud Provider such as IBM Cloud. Please check with each Cloud providers if they support it.

OpenShift Container Platform 4 upgrade paths

The upgrade path for OpenShift 4.x is pretty complicated. In the release notes for each release, you may find the information about the upgrade. It will take a time to find out such information if you do it manually for all releases. For your convenience, Red Hat provides a way to create an upgrade path diagram.
You can find the article OpenShift Container Platform 4 upgrade paths in Red Hat Knowledgebase.
For demonstration purpose, we wrote a separate document and it will show you how to find out the upgrade paths based on the instructions in the Knowledgebase from Red Hat.

Day 1 Platform

From a Day 1 (install) perspective, the latest installation application will by default automatically download the latest version of the platform, you have the options to select the previous versions if required.

Day 2 Platform

From a Day 2 Platform perspective, there are a number of key processes that must be implemented from both a technical and business perspective.
Note: These functions are applicable for an air-gapped installation, but require significant manual processes to download and synch the Red Hat patch system and expose it to the air-gapped platform. Key tasks include:

Day 1 Application

  • n/a

Day 2 Application

As with any upgrade process, the impact to applications (either via a new/deleted feature or some unexpected consequences), must be built into the upgrade process. For that reason, upgrade should follow the normal software release cycle from Dev, Test, to production.

Mapping to Personas

SREDetermine what upgrade channels will be subscribed to
SREDefine a backup/recovery process to enable rollback if needed
SREPerform the Upgrade via Web Console
SREUpdating a cluster by using the CLI

Key Processes

Determine what Patch/Upgrade Channels will be subscribed to [ SRE ]

As explained earlier, the upgrade channels allow the Platform team to determine what types of upgrades they want to see. This can be only for their current platform version, only stable upgrades, early release upgrades, Etc. Or, the SRE can subscribe to a new version (say they’re currently on 4.3.1 and want to upgrade to 4.3.2). The selection of the channels and the upgrade possibilitis is purely under the SRE.

Define a backup/recovery process to enable rollback if needed [ SRE ]

While every effort is made to ensure that an upgrade is benign. It is a well defined operational pattern to have a backup/recovery plan in place. The link referenced above points to the complete documentation on how to do so (remember, it is not possible to revert a minor upgrade other than via a backup/restore). However, by using a dev, test and then production rollout, show mitigate or ensure that any issues are caught and mitigated prior to updating.

One viable pattern seen in the industry is the use of many small clusters versus monolithic. With that scenario, it is easier to bring up a new cluster and migrate applications to it if they are extremely business critical and must be protected at all costs.

Perform the Upgrade via Web Console [ SRE ]

If your OpenShift is managed by yourself and if it’s accessible from the Internet, then you can find out which of your clusters can be upgraded on the Red Hat OpenShift Cluster Manager as depicted in below.


Before you go father, please read the document from Red Hat OpenShift 4.2 Upgrades phased roll out for detail.

To execute actual upgrade task for your cluster, you can use the OpenShift Dashboard as shown in below.


Unlike OpenShift on IBM Cloud, this upgrade task will take care of both Masters and Worker nodes upgrade with a One-Click.

Updating a cluster by using the CLI: [ SRE ]

If updates are available, you can update your cluster by using the OpenShift CLI (oc) as follow.

# oc get clusterversion
version 4.2.4 True False 8d Cluster version is 4.2.4
# oc adm upgrade --to-latest=true
Updating to latest version 4.2.7
# oc get clusterversion

There is another article which would help you in Red Hat Knowledgebase.
How to Upgrade OpenShift 4 between different minor versions via “oc” cli

RollBack: [ SRE ]

Note that reverting your cluster to a previous version, or a rollback, is not supported. Only upgrading to a newer version is supported.

Implementing Update management

As we mentioned, there will be different ways to update OpenShift. We will show you some examples in below.


OpenShift provide their own upgrade feature. Which means that OpenShift administrator doesn’t need to upgrade Kubernetes by themselves.


We demonstrated how to upgrade your cluster via Web Console and via CLI. Note that those are customer managed cluster. If you are using managed OpenShift Cluster on your cloud provider such as IBM Cloud and Azure, you need to follow the instrucstions from those provider.

IBM Managed OpenShift on IBM Cloud

For the managed OpenShift on IBM Cloud, you can use IBM Cloud Console (or ibmcloud command) to apply OpenShift upgrades. The Worker nodes upgrade and Master upgrade are separate tasks. You can find detailed steps in the official document.

You can find the updates for OpenShift on IBM Cloud in the official document. As you can see in the doc, the update for Worker nodes and Masters were released separately. Which means that you may see different versions on Masters and Workers as follow.