Mark Reinhold on the new release schedule
Whew! I can just about hear the collective sigh of relief from everyone, both inside and outside of Sun, who contributed to this amazing product. We hope you enjoy working with it. As I've said before, I think Tiger is the highest-quality JDK that we've ever built -- and I've been helping to build these things since JDK 1.1.Read more in Tigers and Mustangs and Dolphins, Oh My!
This seems an appropriate time to look forward, and in particular at some changes that we're making to the J2SE release model.
The current model has three kinds of releases:
Going forward we're going to simplify this model and increase the rate at which we ship releases. In particular:
- Feature releases are the big ones (1.3, 1.4, 1.5 5.0), with tons of bug fixes and lots of new features. These have generally been about 24-36 months apart.
- Maintenance releases, the so-called "dot-dot" releases (1.4.1, 1.4.2, etc.), have lots of bug fixes but no new API features. Lately these have been about 8-10 months apart.
- Update releases, the so-called "underscore" releases (1.4.2_01, 1.5.0_01 5.0 update 1), which contain a very small number of bug fixes (typically around 100) carefully chosen to meet urgent customer needs. Sun has shipped these about every 3-4 months.
Changing the release model is not something we've done lightly; this is the result of several months of investigation and many conversations with partners and developers in the community. A couple additional expected benefits of these changes are:
- Feature releases will ship every 18-24 months. This will allow the platform to evolve more rapidly so as to better meet the needs of the developer community and compete with .NET.
- There won't be any more maintenance releases. Starting with Tiger (5.0) there won't be any more releases the size of 1.4.1 and 1.4.2, i.e., with 1500-2000 bug fixes. There still might be a release called "5.1", but it will just be a special update release.
- Update releases will ship every 2-3 months. This will make it possible for critical bug fixes to be delivered to customers in a more timely manner.
These are not easy changes to make. We're still in the middle of figuring out a bunch of the details, so reality over the next couple of years might not exactly match what I've described above. Overall, however, we think that the improved focus and increased agility of the new release model will bring big benefits to the platform and to the Java community.
- Releases will more likely ship on time. Within the J2SE engineering organization we've long wrestled with the difficult choice of making the current maintenance release as perfect as possible versus working on great new features for the next big feature release. This conflict has been the proximate cause of many schedule slips over the years. The new release model finally resolves this fundamental tension: J2SE engineers will, by default, always be working on the next feature release. There will be times when they're asked to fix a critical bug in an update release, and even rarer times when some nontrivial work (e.g., to improve performance) will be done in an update release, but these will be the exceptions rather than the rule.
- Release adoption will improve. The existing medium-sized maintenance releases have long been a big adoption barrier. Due to the level of change in these releases many users have only been confident enough to adopt them after requalifying all of their applications -- in other words, by treating them much like feature releases in terms of testing. Most users are confident enough in the update releases to just "drop them in" without doing a lot of testing; now they'll be able to do so for a longer time in between feature releases.