ServiceNow – Zero Defect Upgrade to Istanbul

To ensure that you derive full benefits out of your ServiceNow license, it is important that you upgrade your ServiceNow installation to the next release. Upgrading helps improve stability, fixes problems faced by users of previous release and adds new features. Here are few suggestions that will help you upgrade your ServiceNow instance.

Upgrade overview

Each ServiceNow release includes major additions and we should always consider the impact of new functionality on an instance. Instance Upgrading implements enhancements to all features that are part of the base system or are already active, unless the feature is customized on the instance.

Upgrading from previous families

If the instance is more than one family behind, we can upgrade directly from the current release to the target release. For example, if our instance is on Geneva, we can upgrade from Geneva directly to Istanbul.

Rollbacks and backups

It has to be borne in mind that ServiceNow does not provide the option for a universal rollback. Rollback can be done for upgrades (e.g. Istanbul patch to patch).The rollback window is 10 days by default. Avoid restoring a production instance from backup. When a problem cannot be solved using other methods, restoring a production instance from backup is a final option.

Reviewing upgrading phase

The upgrading process consists of three major phases. Every phase is built on the previous phase moving the code to the production instance making sure that the system stability is not compromised.

Review Upgrading Phases

Prepare for upgrade

The instance upgrade requires the following processes to be executed:

  1. Determine current release version: System administrators can check which release is running on an instance at any time
    • Walk through the following path: System Diagnostics > Stats > Stats
    • Look for and identify the Build name, Build date, and Build tag
  2. Review Release Notes: ServiceNow provides release notes for every release. Read the release notes to determine whether an upgrade contains functionality we need and fixes that resolve any issues affecting the instance
  3. Create System Benchmarks and Comprehensive Test Plans: After deciding which release we should upgrade, create a comprehensive test plan that includes test cases for all core instance functionality and integrations. Perform the tests before and after upgrading and focus on
    • Key functionality
    • Integrations
    • Instance performance
  4. Evaluate Log Data: While performing an upgrade, it is vital that we check general system performance and operating information besides specific business functionality.
    • Check the log data by following path: System Logs > System Log > Errors.
  5. Review Prior Upgrade History: Each upgrade cycle is an opportunity to evaluate prior upgrade history records. The module under System Diagnostics > Upgrade History helps you track all upgrades that have been applied to an instance and identify what has been skipped, updated, inserted, or deleted.
    Review Prior Upgrade History
  6. Manage Customization: If viewing the upgrade history shows that a base system object was skipped during the previous upgrade, determine if we want to revert the object back to base system status so that it gets upgraded automatically in the future.
    Navigate to System Diagnostics > Upgrade History to determine the base system objects those were skipped in a specific upgrade
  7. Review Scheduled Job for upgrading: Within the system scheduler, the Upgrade and Check Upgrade Script scheduled jobs execute the upgrade process across all nodes of an instance. It is imperative that one should verify that the two scheduled jobs are set properly for upgrading.
    Review Scheduled Job
  8. Create Implementation Plan: It is quite important to document an implementation plan that enlists in detail all the upgrade steps in the correct sequence for the instances. Ensure that all unique and individual steps are mentioned in detail. Each step should include the following information:
    • Date and time the step actually took place.
    • Individual or team responsible for completing the step.
    • Current step status and any details about the step that would be helpful in the future.

Upgrade and Validate Sub-Production/Test Instances

It is important that we ensure preparation and testing is done on sub-production instances to enable a successful upgrade on the production instance.

  1. Clone Production over Sub-production/Test Instance:
    To perform accurate tests, clone the production instance over sub-production environments such as development and test. The System Clone application automates much of the process and enables users with the admin or clone_admin role to clone data from one instance to another.
  2. Request an Upgrade for Sub-Production/Test Instances: Request an upgrade using the ServiceNow Customer Support system named HI at hi.service-now.com. While you are requesting for an upgrade, make sure to set the upgrade to be initiated 10-15 min before the scheduled job runs, which happens every 60 minutes. This will allow the upgrade request to update HI before the Upgrade scheduled job runs.
  3. Validate Sub-Production/Test Instance Upgrade:
    To view the status of the current upgrade, use the Upgrade Monitor application. It is supposed to be used when the upgrade state is Complete, Running, or Failed. Another option is to go through the Upgrade History module to confirm whether upgrade is in progress and then confirm that the process is completed.
    Upgrade History
    Once the upgrade process is finished, you need to perform the following steps in order to ensure the sub-production instance:

    • Immediately after the upgrade is applied, use the Upgrade History module to understand the changes made to the instance. The upgrade record can be viewed to understand what has been modified and the changes made.
    • Work with the testing team to run all test cases against the newly upgraded sub-production instance. Closely compare the test results to the data gathered during the pre-upgrade testing.

Upgrade and Validate Production Instance

After completing the steps to prepare, test, and resolve issues on sub-production instances upgrade and validate the production instance.

  1. Request an Upgrade for Production Instances: Request an upgrade using the ServiceNow Customer Support system named HI at hi.service-now.com/.
  2. Configure a Complete Upgrade Notification: To configure an instance to send an email when an upgrade is successfully completed: Navigate to System Policy > Email > Notifications. Open the System Upgraded notification.
  3. Confirm an Upgrade:
    • Follow the path: System Diagnostics > Upgrade Log/ System Upgrades/ Upgrade History and identify the message Notifying HI that upgrade has been completed.


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