[all][tc] Relmgt team position on release cadence

Thierry Carrez thierry at openstack.org
Fri Nov 5 14:26:13 UTC 2021

Hi everyone,

The (long) document below reflects the current position of the release 
management team on a popular question: should the OpenStack release 
cadence be changed? Please note that we only address the release 
management / stable branch management facet of the problem. There are 
other dimensions to take into account (governance, feature deprecation, 
supported distros...) to get a complete view of the debate.


The subject of how often OpenStack should be released has been regularly 
debated in the OpenStack community. OpenStack started with a 3-month 
release cycle, then switched to 6-month release cycle starting with 
Diablo. It is often thought of a release management decision, but it is 
actually a much larger topic: a release cadence is a trade-off between 
pressure to release more often and pressure to release less often, 
coming in from a lot of different stakeholders. In OpenStack, it is 
ultimately a Technical Committee decision. But that decision is informed 
by the position of a number of stakeholders. This document gives 
historical context and describes the current release management team 

The current trade-off

The main pressure to release more often is to make features available to 
users faster. Developers get a faster feedback loop, hardware vendors 
ensure software is compatible with their latest products, and users get 
exciting new features. "Release early, release often" is a best practice 
in our industry -- we should generally aim at releasing as often as 

But that is counterbalanced by pressure to release less often. From a 
development perspective, each release cycle comes with some process 
overhead. On the integrators side, a new release means packaging and 
validation work. On the users side, it means pressure to upgrade. To 
justify that cost, there needs to be enough user-visible benefit (like 
new features) in a given release.

For the last 10 years for OpenStack, that balance has been around six 
months. Six months let us accumulate enough new development that it was 
worth upgrading to / integrating the new version, while giving enough 
time to actually do the work. It also aligned well with Foundation 
events cadence, allowing to synchronize in-person developer meetings 
date with start of cycles.

What changed

The major recent change affecting this trade-off is that the pace of new 
development in OpenStack slowed down. The rhythm of changes was divided 
by 3 between 2015 and 2021, reflecting that OpenStack is now a mature 
and stable solution, where accessing the latest features is no longer a 
major driver. That reduces some of the pressure for releasing more 
often. At the same time, we have more users every day, with larger and 
larger deployments, and keeping those clusters constantly up to date is 
an operational challenge. That increases the pressure to release less 
often. In essence, OpenStack is becoming much more like a LTS 
distribution than a web browser -- something users like moving slow.

Over the past years, project teams also increasingly decoupled 
individual components from the "coordinated release". More and more 
components opted for an independent or intermediary-released model, 
where they can put out releases in the middle of a cycle, making new 
features available to their users. This increasingly opens up the 
possibility of a longer "coordinated release" which would still allow 
development teams to follow "release early, release often" best 
practices. All that recent evolution means it is (again) time to 
reconsider if the 6-month cadence is what serves our community best, and 
in particular if a longer release cadence would not suit us better.

The release management team position on the debate

While releasing less often would definitely reduce the load on the 
release management team, most of the team work being automated, we do 
not think it should be a major factor in motivating the decision. We 
should not adjust the cadence too often though, as there is a one-time 
cost in switching our processes. In terms of impact, we expect that a 
switch to a longer cycle will encourage more project teams to adopt a 
"with-intermediary" release model (rather than the traditional "with-rc" 
single release per cycle), which may lead to abandoning the latter, 
hence simplifying our processes. Longer cycles might also discourage 
people to commit to PTL or release liaison work. We'd probably need to 
manage expectations there, and encourage more frequent switches (or 
create alternate models).

If the decision is made to switch to a longer cycle, the release 
management team recommends to switch to one year directly. That would 
avoid changing it again anytime soon, and synchronizing on a calendar 
year is much simpler to follow and communicate. We also recommend 
announcing the change well in advance. We currently have an opportunity 
of making the switch when we reach the end of the release naming 
alphabet, which would also greatly simplify the communications around 
the change.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the impact on the stable branch work. 
Releasing less often would likely impact the number of stable branches 
that we keep on maintaining, so that we do not go too much in the past 
(and hit unmaintained distributions or long-gone dependencies). We 
currently maintain releases for 18 months before they switch to extended 
maintenance, which results in between 3 and 4 releases being maintained 
at the same time. We'd recommend switching to maintaining one-year 
releases for 24 months, which would result in between 2 and 3 releases 
being maintained at the same time. Such a change would lead to longer 
maintenance for our users while reducing backporting work for our 

Thierry Carrez (ttx)
On behalf of the OpenStack Release Management team

More information about the openstack-discuss mailing list