14 Apr, 2023

NetSuite Releases: Essential Info and Strategies

Staying informed about the latest NetSuite releases is crucial for businesses looking to optimize their operations and gain a competitive edge in today's fast-paced market. By understanding the new NetSuite release, businesses can take advantage of cutting-edge technology to automate their workflows, improve collaboration, and optimize their performance.  

So, let's dive in and explore the exciting new features and valuable insights that NetSuite has to offer with its releases. 

1. NetSuite's Release Process: A Four-Part Journey 

NetSuite carries out two major upgrades or ‘dotted’ releases each year, namely the ‘.1’ release in Q1 and the ‘.2’ release in Q3 of the calendar year. It is important to note that each release takes several months and is completed in multiple phases. Phase 0 is an internal phase where NetSuite prepares for public releases and validates the roll-out process by internally upgrading to the new version. In addition, select development accounts are also upgraded in this phase. After resolving any issues and validating the process, NetSuite proceeds with client-facing releases in Phase 1, 2, or 3, with each customer account scheduled for upgrade in the same phase as the previous time. The timing of the public-facing release phases is roughly as stated below, but customers should refer to the New Release Portlet on their NetSuite dashboard for the exact upgrade date. Email notifications will also be sent to the addresses configured in the administrative notification settings. 

Phases  ‘.1’ Release  ‘.2’ Release 
Phase 0 (Internal)  Mid-January  Mid-July 
Phase 1  Mid-February  Mid-August 
Phase 2  Mid-March  Mid-September 
Phase 3  Mid-April  Mid-October 

2. NetSuite Release Notes: Subject to Change 

The beginning of the Release Notes document commonly states that the notes are subject to change every week, and this statement should be taken seriously. Although most alterations are minor, there have been occasions when significant features were eliminated midway. Therefore, it is crucial to regularly check the help center's weekly updates throughout the release cycle. Make sure to thoroughly examine the release notes and stay alert for any updates during the release cycle.

3. Understanding Your Ability to Delay Your Release 

If you are in the midst of a crucial internal project or have not had enough time to conduct adequate testing before your planned release, you might be able to request for your release to be rescheduled to a later phase. However, please note that deferring beyond Phase 3 is not permitted. This option is only helpful if you were initially scheduled for Phase 1 or Phase 2. 
If your account has been transitioned to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), you can directly request a change to the release date from your account. It is recommended to submit your request promptly and not wait until the last minute. 

4. The Importance of Test Driving Before Going Live 

NetSuite strongly advises its users to test out new features before going live, and this is their standard pre-release phrase. Upgrades on the cloud-based ERP platform do not require any installation, but users should carefully review release notes and assess the impact on their environment. To properly test new features, NetSuite offers a free Release Preview environment that includes a snapshot of the user's Production environment with the NetSuite version applied to it. It is crucial to test new features in this environment because each account has customizations and integrations that make it unique, and there is a risk of something breaking. NetSuite even provides a test plan template to assist users in this process. 

5. The Frequency of NetSuite Upgrades: More Than Twice a Year 

The two ‘dotted’ releases are definitely significant, but it's crucial to remember that the NetSuite team is continually updating its platform. In addition to the major releases, they also have ‘e-Fix Releases’ that occur periodically. This will address customer-reported issues that are not immediate but should be resolved before the major biannual releases. These e-fixes are for both the core NetSuite platform and SuiteApps managed by NetSuite and happen roughly twice a month, usually on Thursdays, with the scheduled dates available.

6. Early Release Preview: Available When You Need It 

In the past, NetSuite used to generate a Release Preview environment automatically based on specific conditions, such as its usage in the previous release cycle. However, NetSuite has now changed its practice and made opting-in mandatory, without notifying users. If your account status on the release preview page says, ‘Opt-in Required’, you need to explicitly request a Release Preview environment. Note that the standard procedure is for account administrators to receive a notification when the Release Preview environment is created, but this notification may not always come. If you don't receive a notification about a week after opting in or requesting a release preview environment, log in as an Admin and check; it may have been silently provisioned. 
Finally, it's essential to remember that the Release Preview environment is temporary and will disappear shortly before or after your upgrade, so it's not a persistent Sandbox. 

 7. Keep Your Preview Environment Current: Refresh It When Needed 

You can ask for a new snapshot of your Production data to be transferred to your Release Preview environment, similar to a Sandbox refresh. Although it's not the same as a Sandbox refresh, it doesn't matter much to users. While you may not need to do this often, there may be times when refreshing your Release Preview is necessary. For example, if you're working on a project that relies on new features in the upcoming release, you may need fresh production data for your final validation. Alternatively, you may have requested a Release Preview environment too early, and by the time you're ready to begin testing, the data is no longer relevant. However, refreshing your Release Preview should only be done if it's necessary. Unlike a Sandbox refresh, which can be completed by an Administrator in NetSuite, you must contact support to reset your Release Preview.

8. The Option to Request a Separate Release Preview Environment for Your Sandbox 

In addition to requesting a Release Preview (RP) account for your Production account, it's possible to ask for a separate RP account for each of your Sandbox accounts. This can be beneficial for more rigorous release preparations. For example, the NetSuite Admin can request an RP for Sandbox as early as possible for initial validation, and later request an RP for Production for the actual UAT. There are several other use cases for this. 
The process for requesting a Sandbox RP is the same as for Production, except that you must initiate the RP request from your Sandbox. The Sandbox RP will be initialized with data from your Sandbox, not Production. Additionally, it's crucial to name your RPs clearly, so you can differentiate between them. 

9. The Inability to Bundle Changes Outside of a Release Preview Environment 

By design, it is impossible to bundle changes from a Release Preview environment to a non-Release Preview environment. The implications of this limitation might not be apparent; however, an alternative solution is to use SDF. 

10. Possible Variations in Upgrade Schedules for Sandbox and Production 

While the Sandbox environment is also upgraded, it usually doesn't happen on the same day as Production. The release date displayed in the New Release Portlet pertains to your Production account, and you may or may not receive a separate email about your Sandbox upgrade schedule. Based on past experiences, the Sandbox upgrade usually takes place a few days after the Production upgrade, but it could also occur before. However, be aware that there are cases where a Sandbox was upgraded without prior notice. As for Development environments, it's unclear whether a notice of the upgrade schedule is provided, but it's possible that it occurs at the same time as the Sandbox upgrade. 

11. Release Preview: The Free Sandbox Alternative for Half a Year 

By using insights from previous information, it is possible to utilize Release Preview environments for a total of 6 or more months per year. To do this, request an RP environment as soon as they become available in mid-January for the .1 release and mid-July for the .2 release. This environment will be accessible until your account is upgraded, and with some luck or by using the premium feature to defer upgrades, you can gain up to 3 months of RP access during phase 3. While this method can mimic having a persistent Sandbox, it is risky and the exact date when the RP account becomes unavailable is undefined. Additionally, changes cannot be bundled out of an RP environment, so it is important to have a strategy for retrieving changes and to make regular backups using tools like the SuiteCloud CLI. 

12. Get Previous Release Notes with Ease 

Have you ever thought about where to find the release notes for older versions? The structure of the URL for the release notes has stayed the same over time and we can locate them using the method described below. 
By substituting the <YYYY> placeholder with the desired year, 
for instance, 2023, and <number> with 1 or 2, you can access the release notes up to the 2013.2 Release. However, no release notes beyond that were found. 

If you want to be more informative about the NetSuite release and future updates, feel free to contact Jobin & Jismi, your complete assistant with Oracle NetSuite ERP.