go-ipfs is introducing a new release cycle and process to ensure more reliable and frequent releases!


IPFS is growing and maturing. We're seeing many more users in our network and
have recognised the need to level up our release process to deliver a more
production-ready product, on a regular schedule. We're doing this because we shipped
an unusual number of critical regressions in the last three releases (since
fixed). We don't want that to happen again, so we're putting safeguards
in place to maximize our chances of catching a regression before it reaches production.

Here's what happened:

  • go-ipfs 0.4.19 had multiple regressions when used under heavy load:
    1. A regression in the docker container (introduced by
      #6040 (opens new window)) that would have been
      caught by testing the go-ipfs docker image in more production environments.
    2. A CPU utilization regression in bitswap only seen under very high load. This
      would have been caught by testing under production loads.
    3. Panics in the DHT and QUIC modules that only showed up under heavy load.
  • go-ipfs 0.4.20 had a regression where adding multiple independent files in the same
    add command didn't work (#6254 (opens new window)).
    A regression test has since been added, but this also would have been caught
    with better cross-application testing.
  • go-ipfs 0.4.21 had two performance regressions in bitswap:
    1. A throughput regression that should have been caught by regression testing
      (now tested) but almost certainly would have been noticed by downstream
      users given a longer release-testing process.
    2. A CPU utilization regression that only shows up with >10000 peers. Something
      that only really shows up in certain production systems under heavy load.

We found two root causes:

  1. An uptick in development pace with respect to previous quarters without
    matching improvements to our testing practices. Several large refactors
    touching key but poorly tested subsystems landed this year.
  2. A significant increase in the network size and production demands on go-ipfs
    without large-scale testing or network simulation infrastructure. In
    the past all production scale testing has been done by deploying a custom
    go-ipfs build to a bootstrapper or gateway and watching how it behaves.

To address these concerns, we've paused all non-bugfix go-ipfs releases
as we improve our testing practices and build out our testing and network
simulation infrastructure. This is important to ensure improved testing doesn't
become a secondary concern in the face of new features and pressing performance

However, even with our current testing practices, these regressions should have
been caught by rigorous pre-release testing. A better release process (e.g.
the ability to cut patch releases) would also have enabled us to quickly release
fixes for these regressions, and would have enabled our users to quickly deploy
these fixes without worrying about the potential impact of additional unrelated

Therefore, in addition to improving our testing, we're introducing a new release
process (🙏🙌🎉) to ensure that releases have been tested in as many environments as we
can, and that we can quickly release bug fixes without waiting an entire release

# Release Process Changes

We've made three specific changes to the release process:

  1. To address the stability issues, we've introduced a new release process that
    involves extensively testing releases in a wide variety of production
    environments - including with early testers (opens new window).
  2. To address the issue of slow releases, we've introduced a 6 week release
  3. To address the issue of slow bug fixes, we've switched to semver and
    introduced patch releases. The first patch release will be 0.4.22 and the
    next feature release will be 0.5.0.

# New Release Process

The new release process includes 5 stages:

  1. Automated Testing - go-ipfs CI Passes.
  2. Internal Testing - go-ipfs is tested against IPFS infrastructure, internal
    testing and simulation tools, and
    Shipyard (opens new window) applications.
  3. Community Dev Testing - go-ipfs is tested by the community in dev
  4. Community Prod Testing - go-ipfs is tested by the community in production
  5. Release - go-ipfs is released.

If we merge any non-trivial fixes during the release process, we'll start over
at stage 0 with a compressed release process for the stages that have already
been completed once.

We expect stages 1-3 to take a week each, on average - suggesting a 3 week period between cutting and launching a new release.

# Stage 0 - Automated Testing

While we strive to keep master green, issues do occasionally slip through
(usually due to faulty tests or unnoticed issues with CI). Before we even branch
off a release, we expect master to be green.

This is the stage where we branch off a release candidate.

# Stage 1 - Internal Testing

The first real stage of this process is internal testing. In this stage, the
IPFS team will test the release candidate against applications in the IPFS
Shipyard (opens new window)
, on some new testing and simulation
infrastructure we're in the process of building, and on a subset of the IPFS
project's production infrastructure (bootstrappers and gateways).

This stage allows us to rapidly find, diagnose, and fix issues within a
constrained sphere of control before asking the wider community to begin

# Stage 2 - Community Dev Testing

At this stage, we announce the impending release to the community and ask for
beta testers. This stage exists to give a new IPFS release candidate some
low-stakes testing on as many environments as possible.

This is also the first stage where we involve members of the early testers
program. Here, we ask them to test the go-ipfs release in their dev
infrastructure and work with us to resolve any issues.

# Stage 3 - Community Prod Testing

Once the go-ipfs release candidate has been thoroughly tested in dev
environments, we ask members of the early testers program to deploy the release
candidate to a subset of their production environment. This stage gives us a
chance to test on production workloads while retaining the ability to quickly
roll back changes and fix any issues that might arise before the final release.

# Stage 4 - Release

At stage 4, we make sure all the documentation has been updated, cut the final
release, and announce it to the community.

# Early Testers Program

We're introducing an early testers program that allows groups using go-ipfs in production to
self-volunteer to help with testing go-ipfs release candidates in development
and production environments. While we invite the entire community to help test
releases, members of the early testers program participate directly and actively
in every release.

Early testers will deploy release candidates to dev and prod environments,
giving us quick feedback on any regressions or performance changes they notice.
This means we can get some quick feedback from heavy users before we cut the
official release and these heavy users can work with us to make sure the new
release doesn't introduce any regressions into their systems.

This program currently includes:

# Release Cycle

Baring any feature freezes, go-ipfs will now cut a new release approximately
every 6 weeks. Specifically, we will aim to branch off a new release every 6 weeks and
then run through the release process in an expected 3 weeks.

If the release process runs under or over the expected 3 weeks, the next release
will aim to branch at the 6 week mark, regardless. That way, even if we don't
release on schedule, we can still maintain a 6 week release cadence.

# Patch Releases

Given the increased structure and extensive testing in this release process, we need a way
to quickly release fixes for critical regressions, should they arise. If we fix
a critical regression in a go-ipfs release, we will create a patch release for
this regression based on the current stable release.

This patch release will still undergo an abbreviated release testing process, but we expect
it to take 2-3 days, rather than weeks:

  1. Less than a day for internal testing.
  2. 1-2 days for production testing by members of the early testers program.

Note: This release process does not introduce long term support releases.
Patches will only be applied to the latest release and will not be backported.
Furthermore, the next feature release will likely include additional bug fixes not deemed critical to fix in
a patch release.

# Semver

This release process finally switches go-ipfs over to
semver (opens new window). Like many pre-1.0 project, go-ipfs has reserved
MINOR releases for large breaking changes or significant milestones. However,
this means we can't distinguish between true patch releases (bug fixes applied
to the previous release) and feature releases (minor releases).

This means that until go-ipfs reaches 1.0:

  • Minor releases will no longer signal significant milestones or large breaking
    changes. Instead, minor releases will be normal feature releases.
  • Patch releases will now be just that: patches on the previous stable release.

As an historical tidbit, we held a somewhat romantic hope that 0.5.0
would mark feature completeness ("beta") and that the next non-patch release
after that would be 1.0. However, the next feature release, 0.5.0, does not mean
anything special, and will not be a major milestone.

# Communication

We have several communication points in this process:

  • When we cut each RC, we will create an associated GitHub
    release (opens new window)
    . You can follow along by
  • At stage 0, we will create an issue with a copy of the release
    checklist (opens new window)
  • At stage 2, we will announce the release candidate on IRC/Matrix.
  • At stage 3, we will announce the release candidate on IRC/Matrix and Twitter for a wider audience.
  • At stage 4, we will continue to publish a blog post announcing the highlights in the release

# Where To Learn More

If you're interested in seeing this release process in action, we trialed the
full (not patch) release process for the latest patch release (0.4.22):
#6506 (opens new window).

If you'd like to read through the official release process, you can find it in
docs/releases.md (opens new window).

Finally, if you're using go-ipfs in production and would like to join the the
Early Testers program, please read
docs/EARLY_TESTERS.md (opens new window) and submit a PR to join if interested.