Something (funny) happened on the way to 5.1.0^H1^H2

Some time back we, or to be perfectly honest, I, decided that in the future we would do two varnish releases per year, march 15th and september 15th and damn the torpedoes.

The 5.1.X release was the first real test of this and it went a little less smooth than I would have preferred, and it is pretty much all my own fault.

As you may have heard, we’re in the process of building a new house and that obviously takes a lot of time on my part, most recently we have put up our “old” house for sale etc. etc.

So I was distracted, and suddenly it was march 15th but come hell or high water: We cut the release.

… and almost immediately found that it had a total show-stopper bug which would cause the worker process to restart too often.

Ok, fix that and roll 5.1.1

… and find another two, not quite as severe but still unacceptable problems.

Deep breath, fix those, and a lot of HTTP/2 stuff reported by simon & xcir, who kindly subject that part of the code to some live traffic … and roll 5.1.2.

This one will stick I hope. Next release will be September 15th.

… unless something truly horrible lurks in 5.1.2.

Success, Failure or Meh? (strike out the not applicable)

Seen from a release engineering point of view we live a very sheltered life in the Varnish Project.

Our code base is small, 120 thousand lines of code and we wrote almost all of it ourselves, which means that we control the quality standard throughout.

Thanks to our focus on code-quality, we have never had to rush out a bug/security-fix in the full glare of the combined scorn of Nanog, Hackernews, Reddit and Metasploit [2].

We also don’t link against any huge “middleware” libraries, I think the biggest ones are Ncurses and PCRE [1], both of which are quite stable, and we don’t depend on any obscure single-compiler languages either.

So while rushing out point releases with short notice is pretty routine for many other projects, it was a new experience for us, and it reminded us of a couple of things we had sort of forgotten [3].

I am absolutely certain that if we had not had our “release by calendar” policy in place, I would probably not have been willing to sign of on a release until after all the house-building-moving-finding-where-I-put-the-computer madness is over late in summer, and then I would probably still insist on delaying it for a month just to catch my bearings.

That would have held some pretty significant new code from our users for another half year, for no particular reason.

So yeah, it was pretty embarrasing to have to amend our 5.1 release twice in two weeks, but it did prove that the “release by calendar” strategy is right for our project: It forced us to get our s**t toggether so users can benefit from the work we do in a timely fashion.

And thanks to the heroic testing efforts of Simon and Xcir, you may even be able to use the HTTP/2 support in 5.1.2 as a result.

Next time, by which I mean “September 15th 2017”, we’ll try to do better.

Poul-Henning, 2017-04-11