What is software release management? When you download the new version of your favorite app or a new version of the Operating System that your computer is using, you usually see that there are numbers associated with any of the releases that you are downloading. These numbers are generated by the software development and release management teams within software engineering and IT organizations. Every time the new software release has been approved to be released to the customer (s), the new numerical version is assigned to it. All the versions are in most cases stored in version control tool. During any release of any software the software eventually is getting deployed to an environment. In most cases prior to the point where the software reaches what’s called a Production environment (customer facing), this same software will be released multiple times to test and staging environments for software testing and development bug fixes. Usually this process is iterative and requires multiple releases before the software will be considered to be “bug free” which would really mean that there are no known issues or better high priority issues, severely affecting the customer. Today many companies are using what is called Continuous Integration. This is nothing but an automation of build and test processes that allow software developers to find issues with their code way before the software is released to the environment using manual effort and whole bunch of testers will not be able to start testing because of that technical difficulties that continuous integration process prevents. Companies utilizing state of the art release process utilize the best practices of employing continuous integration.
We already covered in the first paragraph on what is version control system used for.Here we will speak about the processes that happen within the version control system. As we mentioned already the version control system is used to manage the code that is being developed by one or more software engineer(s). All the actions within the source control tool is recorded and kept a record of which allows full version control flexibility. Every time the new release is initiated a new branch in the source control tool is created. The new branch is usually labeled with a tag number along with the name of the product (example: Web 1.0.0). An appropriate code structure is created within the branch. All the changes made into source control can be tracked back which allows engineers to be able to recreate the code at any point of time. All the new changes made by individual developers are kept in their own development branches with later is merged into associated core branches. Most commonly used version control tools are Git, Subversion,VSS. Most of them are generally an open source tools and are very popular among software engineers hence are being updated constantly to offer the most convenient process for the code management.
Most of the software companies today utilize distributed development. Which means that a product (application) is being build by different engineering teams and integrated into one environment. As a result there are a lot of integration issues that are being introduced when the code is integrated in the integration environment, especially during initial code releases.Continuous integration is a process that allows engineering team to integrate and test their code upon every check in, to the source control tool. Essentially it is an automated process (like a checklist) that will check out the code, create a build, deploy a build to integration server, start the automated test, collect the results of the execution and email to the appropriate team. The code , the build system and the automated tests are working together to allow the continuous integration to take place. This process save a considerable amount of time that otherwise would be spent on manually doing build, deployment and then engaging into manual test, to realize right away that there is something wrong with this release. Most commonly used tools for the continuous integration are: Jenkins(use to build different versions of the software), Ansible (a framework that allows to create an automated builds), Ant (another framework for automated builds), Maven (Code dependency management), Selenium(Automated Test Framework). A lot of file comparison and other management tools are used in the process of continuous integration and build management.Most of these tools are open source however, they do require experienced end users as well as some technical scripting knowledge to be able to fully utilize the abilities of the tools and minimize manual intervention.
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