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Software release life cycle

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A software release life cycle is the sum of the stages of development and maturity for a piece of computer software. Cycles range from its initial development to its eventual release, and include updated versions of the released version to help improve software or fix software bugs still present in the software.

An example of a basic software release life cycle

Computer users are most likely to be familiar with the beta phase, as software products are sometimes publicly advertised as being beta in order to reduce users' expectations of their reliability.

Contents

Usage of the "alpha/beta" test terminology originated at IBM. Similar terminologies for IBM's software development were used by people involved with IBM from at least the 1950s (and probably earlier). "A" test was the verification of a new product before the public announcement. "B" test was the verification before releasing the product to be manufactured. "C" test was the final test before the general availability of the product. As software became a significant part of IBM's offerings, the alpha test terminology was used to denote the pre-announcement test and the beta test was used to show product readiness for general availability. Martin Belsky, a manager on some of IBM's earlier software projects claimed to have invented the terminology. IBM dropped the alpha/beta terminology during the 1960s, but by then it had received fairly wide notice. The usage of "beta test" to refer to testing done by customers was not done in IBM. Rather, IBM used the term "field test".

Major public beta's developed afterwards, with early customers having purchased a "pioneer edition" of the WordVision word processor for the IBM PC for $49.95. In 1984, Stephen Manes wrote that "in a brilliant marketing coup, Bruce and James Program Publishers managed to get people to pay for the privilege of testing the product." In September 2000 a boxed version of Apple's Mac OS X Public Beta operating system was released. Microsoft's release of community technology previews (CTPs) for Windows Vista, between September 2005 and May 2006. and from 2009 to 2011, Minecraft was in public beta.

In February 2005, ZDNet published an article about the phenomenon of a beta version often staying for years and being used as if it were in production level. It noted that Gmail and Google News, for example, had been in beta for a long time although widely used; Google News left beta in January 2006, followed by Google Apps (now named Google Workspace), including Gmail, in July 2009. Since the introduction of Windows 8, Microsoft has called pre-release software a preview rather than beta. All pre-release builds released through the Windows Insider Program launched in 2014 are termed "Insider Preview builds". "Beta" may also indicate something more like a release candidate, or as a form of time-limited demo, or marketing technique.

Pre-alpha

Pre-alpha refers to all activities performed during the software project before formal testing. These activities can include requirements analysis, software design, software development, and unit testing. In typical open source development, there are several types of pre-alpha versions. Milestone versions include specific sets of functions and are released as soon as the feature is complete.

Alpha

The alpha phase of the release life cycle is the first phase of software testing (alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, used as the number 1). In this phase, developers generally test the software using white-box techniques. Additional validation is then performed using black-box or gray-box techniques, by another testing team. Moving to black-box testing inside the organization is known as alpha release.[better source needed]

Alpha software is not thoroughly tested by the developer before it is released to customers. Alpha software may contain serious errors, and any resulting instability could cause crashes or data loss. Alpha software may not contain all of the features that are planned for the final version. In general, external availability of alpha software is uncommon in proprietary software, while open source software often has publicly available alpha versions. The alpha phase usually ends with a feature freeze, indicating that no more features will be added to the software. At this time, the software is said to be feature complete. A beta test is carried out following acceptance testing at the supplier's site (alpha test) and immediately prior to general release of the software as a product.

Beta

"Beta test" redirects here. For the film, see Beta Test (film).

Beta, named after the second letter of the Greek alphabet, is the software development phase following alpha. Software in the beta stage is also known as betaware. A beta phase generally begins when the software is feature complete but likely to contain a number of known or unknown bugs. Software in the beta phase will generally have many more bugs in it than completed software and speed or performance issues, and may still cause crashes or data loss. The focus of beta testing is reducing impacts to users, often incorporating usability testing. The process of delivering a beta version to the users is called beta release and is typically the first time that the software is available outside of the organization that developed it. Software beta releases can be either public or private, depending on whether they are openly available or only available to a limited audience. Beta version software is often useful for demonstrations and previews within an organization and to prospective customers. Some developers refer to this stage as a preview, preview release, prototype, technical preview or technology preview (TP), or early access.

Beta testers are people who actively report issues of beta software. They are usually customers or representatives of prospective customers of the organization that develops the software. Beta testers tend to volunteer their services free of charge but often receive versions of the product they test, discounts on the release version, or other incentives.[citation needed]

Perpetual beta

Main article: Perpetual beta

Some software is kept in so-called perpetual beta, where new features are continually added to the software without establishing a final "stable" release. As the Internet has facilitated rapid and inexpensive distribution of software, companies have begun to take a looser approach to use of the word beta.

Open and closed beta

Developers may release either a closed beta, also called private beta, or an open beta, also called public beta; closed beta versions are released to a restricted group of individuals for a user test by invitation, while open beta testers are from a larger group, or anyone interested. Private beta could be suitable for the software that is capable of delivering value, but is not ready to be used by everyone either due to scaling issues, lack of documentation or still missing vital features. The testers report any bugs that they find, and sometimes suggest additional features they think should be available in the final version.

Open betas serve the dual purpose of demonstrating a product to potential consumers, and testing among a wide user base likely to bring to light obscure errors that a much smaller testing team might not find.[citation needed]

Release candidate

A release candidate (RC), also known as "going silver", is a beta version with potential to be a stable product, which is ready to release unless significant bugs emerge. In this stage of product stabilization, all product features have been designed, coded and tested through one or more beta cycles with no known showstopper-class bugs. A release is called code complete when the development team agrees that no entirely new source code will be added to this release. There could still be source code changes to fix defects, changes to documentation and data files, and peripheral code for test cases or utilities. Beta testers, if privately selected, will often be credited for using the release candidate as though it were a finished product. Beta testing is conducted in a client's or customer's location and to test the software from a user's perspective.

Stable release

Also called production release, the stable release is the last release candidate (RC) which has passed all verifications / tests. The remaining bugs are considered as acceptable. This release goes to production. Some domains (for example, Linux distributions), have two types of stable releases: normal, or stable releases and long-term support (LTS) releases which are maintained for a longer period of time.

Once released, the software is generally known as a "stable release". The formal term often depends on the method of release: physical media, online release or a web application.

Release to manufacturing (RTM)

The term release to manufacturing (RTM), also known as "going gold", is a term used when a software product is ready to be delivered. This build may be digitally signed, allowing the end user to verify the integrity and authenticity of the software purchase. A copy of the RTM build known as the "gold master" or GM is sent for mass duplication or disc replication if applicable. This terminology is taken from the audio record making industry, specifically the process of mastering. RTM precedes general availability (GA) when the product is released to the public. A golden master build (GM) is typically the final build of a piece of software in the beta stages for developers. Typically, for iOS, it is the final build before a major release, however, there have been a few exceptions.

It is typically used in certain retail mass-production software contexts—as opposed to a specialized software production or project in a commercial or government production and distribution—where the software is sold as part of a bundle in a related computer hardware sale and typically where the software and related hardware is ultimately to be available and sold on mass/public basis at retail stores to indicate that the software has met a defined quality level and is ready for mass retail distribution. RTM could also mean in other contexts that the software has been delivered or released to a client or customer for installation or distribution to the related hardware end user computers or machines. The term does not define the delivery mechanism or volume; it only states that the quality is sufficient for mass distribution. The deliverable from the engineering organization is frequently in the form of a golden master media used for duplication or to produce the image for the web.

General availability (GA)

Milestones in a product life cycle: general availability (GA), end of life announcement (EOLA), last order date (LOD), and end-of-life (EOL)

General availability (GA) is the marketing stage at which all necessary commercialization activities have been completed and a software product is available for purchase, depending, however, on language, region, electronic vs. media availability. Commercialization activities could include security and compliance tests, as well as localization and worldwide availability. The time between RTM and GA can be from a week to months in some cases before a generally available release can be declared because of the time needed to complete all commercialization activities required by GA. At this stage, the software has "gone live".

Release to the Web (RTW)

Release to the Web (RTW) or Web release is a means of software delivery that utilizes the Internet for distribution. No physical media are produced in this type of release mechanism by the manufacturer. Web releases are becoming more common as Internet usage grows.

During its supported lifetime, software is sometimes subjected to service releases, patches or service packs, sometimes also called "interim releases" or "maintenance release" (MR). For example, Microsoft released three major service packs for the 32-bit editions of Windows XP and two service packs for the 64-bit editions. Such service releases contain a collection of updates, fixes, and enhancements, delivered in the form of a single installable package. They may also implement new features. Some software is released with the expectation of regular support. Classes of software that generally involve protracted support as the norm include anti-virus suites and massively multiplayer online games. Continuing with this Windows XP example, Microsoft did offer paid updates for five more years after the end of extended support. This means that support ended April 8, 2019.

End-of-life

When software is no longer sold or supported, the product is said to have reached end-of-life, to be discontinued, retired, deprecated, abandoned, or obsolete, but user loyalty may continue its existence for some time, even long after its platform is obsolete—e.g., the Atari ST and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

After the end-of-life date, the developer will usually not implement any new features, fix existing defects, bugs or vulnerabilities (whether known before that date or not) or provide any support for the product. If the developer wishes, they may release the source code, so the platform will live again, and be maintained by volunteers, and if not, it may be reverse-engineered later when it becomes abandonware.

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  4. "Microsoft Windows Vista October Community Technology Preview Fact Sheet" (Press release). Microsoft. October 2005. Archived from the original on 2011-04-30. Retrieved2011-02-22.
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  6. "Google Apps is out of beta (yes, really)". Google Blog. 2009-07-07. Archived from the original on 2011-01-21. Retrieved2011-01-12.
  7. The inconvenient truths behind betas Archived 2011-04-30 at the Wayback Machine
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  10. "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 29. Alpha software generally barely runs and is missing major features like gameplay and complete levels.
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  12. "Definition of betaware in the Free Online Encyclopedia". thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved2015-04-06.
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  14. "Technology Preview Features Support Scope". Red Hat. Retrieved2015-03-18.
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  • Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation by Jez Humble, David Farley; ISBN 0-321-60191-2

Software release life cycle
Software release life cycle Language Watch Edit This article has multiple issues Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page Learn how and when to remove these template messages This article includes a list of general references but it remains largely unverified because it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations May 2012 Learn how and when to remove this template message This article s lead section may be too short to adequately summarize the key points Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of all important aspects of the article November 2017 Learn how and when to remove this template message A software release life cycle is the sum of the stages of development and maturity for a piece of computer software Cycles range from its initial development to its eventual release and include updated versions of the released version to help improve software or fix software bugs still present in the software An example of a basic software release life cycle Computer users are most likely to be familiar with the beta phase as software products are sometimes publicly advertised as being beta in order to reduce users expectations of their reliability 1 Contents 1 History 2 Stages of development 2 1 Pre alpha 2 2 Alpha 2 3 Beta 2 3 1 Perpetual beta 2 3 2 Open and closed beta 2 4 Release candidate 2 5 Stable release 3 Release 3 1 Release to manufacturing RTM 3 2 General availability GA 3 3 Release to the Web RTW 4 Support 4 1 End of life 5 See also 6 References 7 BibliographyHistory EditUsage of the alpha beta test terminology originated at IBM Similar terminologies for IBM s software development were used by people involved with IBM from at least the 1950s and probably earlier A test was the verification of a new product before the public announcement B test was the verification before releasing the product to be manufactured C test was the final test before the general availability of the product As software became a significant part of IBM s offerings the alpha test terminology was used to denote the pre announcement test and the beta test was used to show product readiness for general availability Martin Belsky a manager on some of IBM s earlier software projects claimed to have invented the terminology IBM dropped the alpha beta terminology during the 1960s but by then it had received fairly wide notice The usage of beta test to refer to testing done by customers was not done in IBM Rather IBM used the term field test Major public beta s developed afterwards with early customers having purchased a pioneer edition of the WordVision word processor for the IBM PC for 49 95 In 1984 Stephen Manes wrote that in a brilliant marketing coup Bruce and James Program Publishers managed to get people to pay for the privilege of testing the product 2 In September 2000 a boxed version of Apple s Mac OS X Public Beta operating system was released 3 Microsoft s release of community technology previews CTPs for Windows Vista between September 2005 and May 2006 4 and from 2009 to 2011 Minecraft was in public beta In February 2005 ZDNet published an article about the phenomenon of a beta version often staying for years and being used as if it were in production level 5 It noted that Gmail and Google News for example had been in beta for a long time although widely used Google News left beta in January 2006 followed by Google Apps now named Google Workspace including Gmail in July 2009 6 Since the introduction of Windows 8 Microsoft has called pre release software a preview rather than beta All pre release builds released through the Windows Insider Program launched in 2014 are termed Insider Preview builds Beta may also indicate something more like a release candidate or as a form of time limited demo or marketing technique 7 Stages of development EditPre alpha Edit Pre alpha refers to all activities performed during the software project before formal testing These activities can include requirements analysis software design software development and unit testing In typical open source development there are several types of pre alpha versions Milestone versions include specific sets of functions and are released as soon as the feature is complete Alpha Edit The alpha phase of the release life cycle is the first phase of software testing alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet used as the number 1 In this phase developers generally test the software using white box techniques Additional validation is then performed using black box or gray box techniques by another testing team Moving to black box testing inside the organization is known as alpha release 8 better source needed Alpha software is not thoroughly tested by the developer before it is released to customers Alpha software may contain serious errors and any resulting instability could cause crashes or data loss 9 Alpha software may not contain all of the features that are planned for the final version 10 In general external availability of alpha software is uncommon in proprietary software while open source software often has publicly available alpha versions The alpha phase usually ends with a feature freeze indicating that no more features will be added to the software At this time the software is said to be feature complete A beta test is carried out following acceptance testing at the supplier s site alpha test and immediately prior to general release of the software as a product 11 Beta Edit Beta test redirects here For the film see Beta Test film See also Software testing Beta testing Beta named after the second letter of the Greek alphabet is the software development phase following alpha Software in the beta stage is also known as betaware 12 A beta phase generally begins when the software is feature complete but likely to contain a number of known or unknown bugs 13 Software in the beta phase will generally have many more bugs in it than completed software and speed or performance issues and may still cause crashes or data loss The focus of beta testing is reducing impacts to users often incorporating usability testing The process of delivering a beta version to the users is called beta release and is typically the first time that the software is available outside of the organization that developed it Software beta releases can be either public or private depending on whether they are openly available or only available to a limited audience Beta version software is often useful for demonstrations and previews within an organization and to prospective customers Some developers refer to this stage as a preview preview release prototype technical preview or technology preview TP 14 or early access Beta testers are people who actively report issues of beta software They are usually customers or representatives of prospective customers of the organization that develops the software Beta testers tend to volunteer their services free of charge but often receive versions of the product they test discounts on the release version or other incentives citation needed Perpetual beta Edit Main article Perpetual beta Some software is kept in so called perpetual beta where new features are continually added to the software without establishing a final stable release As the Internet has facilitated rapid and inexpensive distribution of software companies have begun to take a looser approach to use of the word beta 15 Open and closed beta Edit Developers may release either a closed beta also called private beta or an open beta also called public beta closed beta versions are released to a restricted group of individuals for a user test by invitation while open beta testers are from a larger group or anyone interested Private beta could be suitable for the software that is capable of delivering value but is not ready to be used by everyone either due to scaling issues lack of documentation or still missing vital features The testers report any bugs that they find and sometimes suggest additional features they think should be available in the final version Open betas serve the dual purpose of demonstrating a product to potential consumers and testing among a wide user base likely to bring to light obscure errors that a much smaller testing team might not find citation needed Release candidate Edit A release candidate RC also known as going silver is a beta version with potential to be a stable product which is ready to release unless significant bugs emerge In this stage of product stabilization all product features have been designed coded and tested through one or more beta cycles with no known showstopper class bugs A release is called code complete when the development team agrees that no entirely new source code will be added to this release There could still be source code changes to fix defects changes to documentation and data files and peripheral code for test cases or utilities Beta testers if privately selected will often be credited for using the release candidate as though it were a finished product Beta testing is conducted in a client s or customer s location and to test the software from a user s perspective Stable release Edit Also called production release the stable release is the last release candidate RC which has passed all verifications tests The remaining bugs are considered as acceptable This release goes to production Some domains for example Linux distributions have two types of stable releases normal or stable releases and long term support LTS releases which are maintained for a longer period of time Release EditOnce released the software is generally known as a stable release The formal term often depends on the method of release physical media online release or a web application Release to manufacturing RTM Edit The term release to manufacturing RTM also known as going gold is a term used when a software product is ready to be delivered This build may be digitally signed allowing the end user to verify the integrity and authenticity of the software purchase A copy of the RTM build known as the gold master or GM 16 17 is sent for mass duplication or disc replication if applicable This terminology is taken from the audio record making industry specifically the process of mastering RTM precedes general availability GA when the product is released to the public A golden master build GM is typically the final build of a piece of software in the beta stages for developers Typically for iOS it is the final build before a major release however there have been a few exceptions It is typically used in certain retail mass production software contexts as opposed to a specialized software production or project in a commercial or government production and distribution where the software is sold as part of a bundle in a related computer hardware sale and typically where the software and related hardware is ultimately to be available and sold on mass public basis at retail stores to indicate that the software has met a defined quality level and is ready for mass retail distribution RTM could also mean in other contexts that the software has been delivered or released to a client or customer for installation or distribution to the related hardware end user computers or machines The term does not define the delivery mechanism or volume it only states that the quality is sufficient for mass distribution The deliverable from the engineering organization is frequently in the form of a golden master media used for duplication or to produce the image for the web General availability GA Edit Milestones in a product life cycle general availability GA end of life announcement EOLA last order date LOD and end of life EOL General availability GA is the marketing stage at which all necessary commercialization activities have been completed and a software product is available for purchase depending however on language region electronic vs media availability 18 Commercialization activities could include security and compliance tests as well as localization and worldwide availability The time between RTM and GA can be from a week to months in some cases before a generally available release can be declared because of the time needed to complete all commercialization activities required by GA At this stage the software has gone live Release to the Web RTW Edit Release to the Web RTW or Web release is a means of software delivery that utilizes the Internet for distribution No physical media are produced in this type of release mechanism by the manufacturer Web releases are becoming more common as Internet usage grows Support EditDuring its supported lifetime software is sometimes subjected to service releases patches or service packs sometimes also called interim releases or maintenance release MR For example Microsoft released three major service packs for the 32 bit editions of Windows XP and two service packs for the 64 bit editions Such service releases contain a collection of updates fixes and enhancements delivered in the form of a single installable package They may also implement new features Some software is released with the expectation of regular support Classes of software that generally involve protracted support as the norm include anti virus suites and massively multiplayer online games Continuing with this Windows XP example Microsoft did offer paid updates for five more years after the end of extended support This means that support ended April 8 2019 End of life Edit See also End of life product and abandonware When software is no longer sold or supported the product is said to have reached end of life to be discontinued retired deprecated abandoned or obsolete but user loyalty may continue its existence for some time even long after its platform is obsolete e g the Atari ST and Sinclair ZX Spectrum After the end of life date the developer will usually not implement any new features fix existing defects bugs or vulnerabilities whether known before that date or not or provide any support for the product If the developer wishes they may release the source code so the platform will live again and be maintained by volunteers and if not it may be reverse engineered later when it becomes abandonware See also Edit Computer programming portal Application retirement Merge window Release automation Release engineering Release management Rolling release Software deployment Software versioning Lifecycle managementReferences Edit Why Google kept Gmail in beta for so many years 2009 07 07 Manes Stephen 1984 04 03 Taking A Gamble With Word Vision PC Magazine The Independent Guide To IBM Personal Computers Vol 3 no 6 PC Communications Corp pp 211 221 ISSN 0745 2500 Archived from the original on 2015 03 17 Retrieved 2015 02 15 Apple Releases Mac OS X Public Beta Press release Apple Inc 2000 09 13 Archived from the original on 2011 05 01 Retrieved 2011 02 22 Microsoft Windows Vista October Community Technology Preview Fact Sheet Press release Microsoft October 2005 Archived from the original on 2011 04 30 Retrieved 2011 02 22 A long winding road out of beta Tech News on ZDNet 2005 02 14 Archived from the original on 2005 02 14 Retrieved 2019 04 28 Google Apps is out of beta yes really Google Blog 2009 07 07 Archived from the original on 2011 01 21 Retrieved 2011 01 12 The inconvenient truths behind betas Archived 2011 04 30 at the Wayback Machine Encyclopedia definition of alpha version PC Magazine Archived from the original on 2011 04 27 Retrieved 2011 01 12 Ince Darrel ed 2013 Alpha software A Dictionary of the Internet 3 ed Oxford University Press ISBN 9780191744150 Retrieved 2019 07 15 The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z Next Generation No 15 Imagine Media March 1996 p 29 Alpha software generally barely runs and is missing major features like gameplay and complete levels A Dictionary of Computer Science 7th ed Oxford University Press 2016 p 44 ISBN 9780199688975 Definition of betaware in the Free Online Encyclopedia thefreedictionary com Retrieved 2015 04 06 The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z Next Generation No 15 Imagine Media March 1996 p 30 Technology Preview Features Support Scope Red Hat Retrieved 2015 03 18 Waiting with Beta d Breath TidBITS 328 May 13 1996 Archived from the original on 2006 05 15 What is Golden Master GM Definition from Techopedia Techopedia com Mac OS X Gold Master Released To Manufacturing Apple Newsroom Luxembourg Yvan Philippe 2013 05 20 Top 200 SAM Terms A Glossary Of Software Asset Management Terms OMTCO Archived from the original on 2013 08 10 Retrieved 2013 05 21 Cite journal requires journal help Bibliography EditContinuous Delivery Reliable Software Releases through Build Test and Deployment Automation by Jez Humble David Farley ISBN 0 321 60191 2 Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Software release life cycle amp 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