Let's Discuss Interim Releases (and a Rolling Release)

Rick Spencer rick.spencer at canonical.com
Thu Feb 28 15:31:49 UTC 2013

= tl;dr =
Ubuntu has an amazing opportunity in the next 7-8 months to deliver a Phone
OS that will be widely adopted by users and industry while also putting
into place the foundation for a truly converged OS.

To succeed at this we will need both velocity and agility. Therefore, I am
starting a discussion about dropping non-LTS releases and move to a rolling
release plus LTS releases right now.

= Role of the LTS Releases =
Many users prefer their OS does not change very often. We have a great
system in place for these users. Every 2 years Ubuntu release an LTS and
users can ride that LTS for the whole support period. Since the LTS comes
out every 2 years, they can set a 2 year cadence of updates if they want to
stay "up to date" with LTS releases. I think this 2 year cadence works out
very well for these users. So, this proposal maintains those LTS releases
as anchors for those users.

= Role of the Interim Releases =
But what about the 3 releases we do every six months in between (what I
call the "interim releases")? Who are they for? Why do we invest so much in
supporting multiple interim releases at a time?

I think the value of the interim releases has run its course:
 * Customers (people who pay Canonical and others to support Ubuntu) like
OEMs and Enterprises have all adopted an LTS to LTS cadence.
* Many community members recommend only LTS releases to new users because
of its longevity and stability, but the interim releases cause confusion
about what is the “right” version for someone to install.
* As Scott James Remnant pointed out some time ago, the six month cadence
causes features to be either rushed, or to have to wait for six months to
be released (along with other problems). (
* Due to Daily Quality efforts, the development release is now usable every
day, so enthusiasts and community members don’t have to wait for a stable
release to get the latest software and can participate more fully in the
development of Ubuntu
* Supporting interim releases is a costly distraction from future
development, a cost in both time and attention.

= Ubuntu NG =
In the meantime, with Ubuntu Touch, the Phone, the Tablet, and convergence
of these device experiences with the Desktop, we are in the process of
inventing what is essentially a next generation Ubuntu. There will be lots
of new code written and code integrated from new sources to accomplish
this. The 13.04 Desktop would not have any of this new code, and therefore
will be "old" before it is even released.

Therefore, I think we should keep LTS releases, but starting now, stop
doing interim releases and start a rolling release.

More clearly, I think we should:
 * Stop making interim releases.
 * Keep doing daily quality and keep improving our daily quality.
 * Take a monthly snapshot of the development release, which we support
only until the next snapshot

That means users could choose:
 * The LTS release
 * The rolling release updated daily or as frequently as desired
 * The rolling release updated at least monthly

= Benefits of Moving to a Rolling Release =
A rolling release instead of interim releases will benefit users, community
members, and developers.

== For Users ==
Users who prefer the LTS releases will be unaffected by this change, at
least directly. For users who prefer more up to date software, the rolling
release will truly provide the latest and greatest software that they are
looking for, but without the 6 month wait for a new release. Developers
won’t be under pressure to rush a feature in before the release deadline,
so users will be receiving more complete software when they do get updates.

== For Community ==
The community will benefit from the simplified model. They will be able to
recommend either the LTS or the rolling release, and the users of each will
be clear. People who need to provide support may find their lives
dramatically simplified, because on any one day, there will essentially be
2 releases with clearly differentiated user bases instead of their user
base being distributed across a minimum of 3 supported releases. For
example, on any one day, an ISV typically would only have to worry about
the LTS releases and the current rolling release, instead of 11.10, 12.04,
12.10 and the current development releases, Raring.

== For Core/MOTU Developers ==
For the people who are actually making Ubuntu (the people on this thread I
hope) there are some clear wins as well.

1. Only 2 releases to support, the LTS and the rolling releases. That means
fewer SRUs to worry about, and only for LTS releases. More time and
attention to focus on what we are building instead of what we had built.
2. Features land when they are ready, not earlier or later.
 3. No one will get stuck supporting "old" software that is not part of an
LTS release.

= Why Now? =
There are two answers for this.
 1. Because of Convergence
 2. Because we can

== Convergence ==
The vision before us is feasible, and we can do it if we are smart about
focusing our resources on the future.  We can make a Free and Open Source
OS that uses the same code base to power phones, tablets, desktops,
workstations, servers, clouds, and services in clouds! We can ensure a
place for Free and Open Source software in the future where people are
running desktops off their phones, televisions off their tablets, and all
the other combinations that convergence will bring us. We *can* do this.

But to do this, we need to continue quickly down the path that we have
started on, making Ubuntu the best client OS on any form factor. Winning
our place among the new industry leaders delivering devices to end users
will take copious focus and effort on our part. We can't afford to let our
focus and effort to get siphoned off into releasing and supporting software
that is not taking us closer to that future.

== Because we Can ==
Daily Quality means that developers can ensure their components are stable
and useful before they upload, and our processes protect us from most
mistakes these days. The result is that 13.04 has been as robust a release
over the last many weeks as 12.10 was when we delivered. We have achieved
rolling release quality in our development practices, so we can capitalize
on this capability now.

= Next Steps =
Such a change needs to be discussed in the Ubuntu community. Therefore, I
asked my team to put together a strawman proposal for how such moving to a
monthly cadence with rolling release might work. I will be discussing a
rough outline of  this proposal on Friday 27th Feb at 6pm UTC / 10am
Pacific / 1pm EST at http://www.ubuntuonair.com<http://www.ubuntuoneair.com>.
Then we can talk specifics next week at UDS.
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