reflecting on first UDS session on "rolling releases"

Steve Magoun steve.magoun at
Thu Mar 7 17:40:44 UTC 2013

On 03/06/2013 02:10 AM, Allison Randal wrote:
> On 03/05/2013 07:47 PM, Robert Bruce Park wrote:
>> That's how I've been interpreting this all along... 2-year release
>> cadence, and the current dev release is simply declared "rolling"
>> without any real changes. I don't see any issues with this: it's a
>> huge reduction in SRU burden while allowing more developer time to be
>> spent developing things.
> I don't have a problem with a 2-year cadence either. It's a sound
> engineering plan.
> The risk comes in building up a lot of hoopla about rolling releases
> being a stable replacement for the 6-month cadence, not investing the
> resources required to really develop/support rolling releases "right
> now", and then failing to deliver anything remotely close to the
> stability of the prior 6-month releases. It's better to under-promise
> and succeed beyond expectations, than to over-promise and appear to fail.
> It's easy enough to declare a 2-year cadence, and say that rolling
> releases are an idea we'll be working on and plan to have solid after
> the 14.04 release. That leaves time and space to do things right, and
> only announce they're ready when they really are ready.
> This still leaves the question of how best to support OEMs like
> System76, and the Flavors. But I think jonathan is on the right track
> with LTS + key package sets (or 13.04 + key package sets, if that's
> declared the "final" 6-month release).

I can speak for some (but not all!) of the OEMs that work with Canonical to
ship Ubuntu.

Canonical's OEM preload business works with OEMs like Dell and HP. Those
OEMs have largely shifted away from the interim releases to focus on LTS
releases. For large OEMs shipping in high volume we found that the 6-month
cadence doesn't align well with and was too disruptive for the OEM product
lifecycle. Currently we ship 12.04.2 to our major OEM preload customers.

Some observations from the big-OEM perspective:
1) The support lifecycle of the OS is important; an 18 month support
lifecycle is too short for a product that may be manufactured for 3 years
2) Switching OSes in the factory is expensive and large OEMs like to do it
3) Stability is critical and the quality standards are high. Functionality
like suspend/resume has to be rock-solid. To date, even the LTS releases
need tweaks before they're stable enough to be delivered to OEMs.

>From that point of view, standardizing on the LTS releases is a clear win,
and large OEMs are already pretty well insulated from the interim releases -
we treat the interim releases as a series of technology previews.

That said, I recognize that other OEMs like System76 and ZaReason have
different goals and constraints than the big OEMs. I find that refreshing
and exciting, and I hope they continue to prosper as part of Ubuntu's
growing ecosystem.

Steve Magoun
Engineering Manager

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