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Update channels are the mechanism by which users declare the OpenShift Container Platform minor version they intend to update their clusters to. They also allow users to choose the timing and level of support their updates will have through the fast, stable, candidate, and eus channel options. The Cluster Version Operator uses an update graph based on the channel declaration, along with other conditional information, to provide a list of recommended and conditional updates available to the cluster.

Update channels correspond to a minor version of OpenShift Container Platform. The version number in the channel represents the target minor version that the cluster will eventually be updated to, even if it is higher than the cluster’s current minor version.

For instance, OpenShift Container Platform 4.10 update channels provide the following recommendations:

  • Updates within 4.10.

  • Updates within 4.9.

  • Updates from 4.9 to 4.10, allowing all 4.9 clusters to eventually update to 4.10, even if they do not immediately meet the minimum z-stream version requirements.

  • eus-4.10 only: updates within 4.8.

  • eus-4.10 only: updates from 4.8 to 4.9 to 4.10, allowing all 4.8 clusters to eventually update to 4.10.

4.10 update channels do not recommend updates to 4.11 or later releases. This strategy ensures that administrators must explicitly decide to update to the next minor version of OpenShift Container Platform.

Update channels control only release selection and do not impact the version of the cluster that you install. The openshift-install binary file for a specific version of OpenShift Container Platform always installs that version.

OpenShift Container Platform 4.13 offers the following update channels:

  • stable-4.13

  • eus-4.y (only offered for EUS versions and meant to facilitate upgrades between EUS versions)

  • fast-4.13

  • candidate-4.13

If you do not want the Cluster Version Operator to fetch available updates from the update recommendation service, you can use the oc adm upgrade channel command in the OpenShift CLI to configure an empty channel. This configuration can be helpful if, for example, a cluster has restricted network access and there is no local, reachable update recommendation service.

Red Hat recommends upgrading to versions suggested by OpenShift Update Service only. For a minor version update, versions must be contiguous. Red Hat does not test updates to noncontiguous versions and cannot guarantee compatibility with earlier versions.

Update channels

fast-4.13 channel

The fast-4.13 channel is updated with new versions of OpenShift Container Platform 4.13 as soon as Red Hat declares the version as a general availability (GA) release. As such, these releases are fully supported and purposed to be used in production environments.

stable-4.13 channel

While the fast-4.13 channel contains releases as soon as their errata are published, releases are added to the stable-4.13 channel after a delay. During this delay, data is collected from multiple sources and analyzed for indications of product regressions. Once a significant number of data points have been collected, and absent negative signals, these releases are added to the stable channel.

Since the time required to obtain a significant number of data points varies based on many factors, Service LeveL Objective (SLO) is not offered for the delay duration between fast and stable channels. For more information, please see "Choosing the correct channel for your cluster"

Newly installed clusters default to using stable channels.

eus-4.y channel

In addition to the stable channel, all even-numbered minor versions of OpenShift Container Platform offer Extended Update Support (EUS). Releases promoted to the stable channel are also simultaneously promoted to the EUS channels. The primary purpose of the EUS channels is to serve as a convenience for clusters performing an EUS-to-EUS update.

Both standard and non-EUS subscribers can access all EUS repositories and necessary RPMs (rhel-*-eus-rpms) to be able to support critical purposes such as debugging and building drivers.

candidate-4.13 channel

The candidate-4.13 channel offers unsupported early access to releases as soon as they are built. Releases present only in candidate channels may not contain the full feature set of eventual GA releases or features may be removed prior to GA. Additionally, these releases have not been subject to full Red Hat Quality Assurance and may not offer update paths to later GA releases. Given these caveats, the candidate channel is only suitable for testing purposes where destroying and recreating a cluster is acceptable.

Update recommendations in the channel

OpenShift Container Platform maintains an update recommendation service that knows your installed OpenShift Container Platform version and the path to take within the channel to get you to the next release. Update paths are also limited to versions relevant to your currently selected channel and its promotion characteristics.

You can imagine seeing the following releases in your channel:

  • 4.13.0

  • 4.13.1

  • 4.13.3

  • 4.13.4

The service recommends only updates that have been tested and have no known serious regressions. For example, if your cluster is on 4.13.1 and OpenShift Container Platform suggests 4.13.4, then it is recommended to update from 4.13.1 to 4.13.4.

Do not rely on consecutive patch numbers. In this example, 4.13.2 is not and never was available in the channel, therefore updates to 4.13.2 are not recommended or supported.

Update recommendations and Conditional Updates

Red Hat monitors newly released versions and update paths associated with those versions before and after they are added to supported channels.

If Red Hat removes update recommendations from any supported release, a superseding update recommendation will be provided to a future version that corrects the regression. There may however be a delay while the defect is corrected, tested, and promoted to your selected channel.

Beginning in OpenShift Container Platform 4.10, when update risks are confirmed, they are declared as Conditional Update risks for the relevant updates. Each known risk may apply to all clusters or only clusters matching certain conditions. Some examples include having the Platform set to None or the CNI provider set to OpenShiftSDN. The Cluster Version Operator (CVO) continually evaluates known risks against the current cluster state. If no risks match, the update is recommended. If the risk matches, those updates are supported but not recommended, and a reference link is provided. The reference link helps the cluster admin decide if they would like to accept the risk and update anyway.

When Red Hat chooses to declare Conditional Update risks, that action is taken in all relevant channels simultaneously. Declaration of a Conditional Update risk may happen either before or after the update has been promoted to supported channels.

Choosing the correct channel for your cluster

Choosing the appropriate channel involves two decisions.

First, select the minor version you want for your cluster upgrade. Selecting a channel which matches your current version ensures that you only apply z-stream updates and do not receive feature updates. Selecting an available channel which has a version greater than your current version will ensure that after one or more updates your cluster will have updated to that version. Your cluster will only be offered channels which match its current version, the next version, or the next EUS version.

Due to the complexity involved in planning upgrades between versions many minors apart, channels that assist in planning upgrades beyond a single EUS-to-EUS update are not offered.

Second, you should choose your desired rollout strategy. You may choose to update as soon as Red Hat declares a release GA by selecting from fast channels or you may want to wait for Red Hat to promote releases to the stable channel. Update recommendations offered in the fast-4.13 and stable-4.13 are both fully supported and benefit equally from ongoing data analysis. The promotion delay before promoting a release to the stable channel represents the only difference between the two channels. Updates to the latest z-streams are generally promoted to the stable channel within a week or two, however the delay when initially rolling out updates to the latest minor is much longer, generally 45-90 days. Please consider the promotion delay when choosing your desired channel, as waiting for promotion to the stable channel may affect your scheduling plans.

Additionally, there are several factors which may lead an organization to move clusters to the fast channel either permanently or temporarily including:

  • The desire to apply a specific fix known to affect your environment without delay.

  • Application of CVE fixes without delay. CVE fixes may introduce regressions, so promotion delays still apply to z-streams with CVE fixes.

  • Internal testing processes. If it takes your organization several weeks to qualify releases it is best test concurrently with our promotion process rather than waiting. This also assures that any telemetry signal provided to Red Hat is a factored into our rollout, so issues relevant to you can be fixed faster.

Restricted network clusters

If you manage the container images for your OpenShift Container Platform clusters yourself, you must consult the Red Hat errata that is associated with product releases and note any comments that impact updates. During an update, the user interface might warn you about switching between these versions, so you must ensure that you selected an appropriate version before you bypass those warnings.

Switching between channels

A channel can be switched from the web console or through the adm upgrade channel command:

$ oc adm upgrade channel <channel>

The web console will display an alert if you switch to a channel that does not include the current release. The web console does not recommend any updates while on a channel without the current release. You can return to the original channel at any point, however.

Changing your channel might impact the supportability of your cluster. The following conditions might apply:

  • Your cluster is still supported if you change from the stable-4.13 channel to the fast-4.13 channel.

  • You can switch to the candidate-4.13 channel at any time, but some releases for this channel might be unsupported.

  • You can switch from the candidate-4.13 channel to the fast-4.13 channel if your current release is a general availability release.

  • You can always switch from the fast-4.13 channel to the stable-4.13 channel. There is a possible delay of up to a day for the release to be promoted to stable-4.13 if the current release was recently promoted.