Changes to NetBSD release support policy

July 25, 2018 posted by Soren Jacobsen

The NetBSD release engineering team is announcing a new support policy for our release branches. This affects NetBSD 8.0 and subsequent major releases (9.0, 10.0, etc.). All currently supported releases (6.x and 7.x) will keep their existing support policies.

Beginning with NetBSD 8.0, there will be no more teeny branches (e.g., netbsd-8-0).

This means that netbsd-8 will be the only branch for 8.x and there will be only one category of releases derived from 8.0: update releases. The first update release after 8.0 will be 8.1, the next will be 8.2, and so on. Update releases will contain security and bug fixes, and may contain new features and enhancements that are deemed safe for the release branch.

With this simplification of our support policy, users can expect:

  • More frequent releases
  • Better long-term support (example: quicker fixes for security issues, since there is only one branch to fix per major release)
  • New features and enhancements to make their way to binary releases faster (under our current scheme, no major release has received more than two feature updates in its life)

We understand that users of teeny branches may be concerned about the increased number of changes that update releases will bring. Historically, NetBSD stable branches (e.g., netbsd-7) have been managed very conservatively. Under this new scheme, the release engineering team will be even more strict in what changes we allow on the stable branch. Changes that would create issues with backwards compatibility are not allowed, and any changes made that prove to be problematic will be promptly reverted.

The support policy we've had until now was nice in theory, but it has not worked out in practice. We believe that this change will benefit the situation for vast majority of NetBSD users.



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