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Releases

Resources

Description Location
Release orchestration Link
Manual release management Link
Deployment tool Link
Patcher tool (Private) Link
Release documentation Link
Release related tasks issue tracker Link
Delivery team issue tracker Link

Overview and terminology

The self-managed release is a collection of many successfully deployed auto-deploy releases on GitLab.com.

The main priority of both types of releases The main priority** of both types of releases is GitLab availability & security as an application running on both GitLab.com and for customers running GitLab in their own infrastructure.

With these two types of releases, GitLab Inc. has to balance at the same time the workflows normally found in SaaS companies with the ones found in companies that publish packaged software.

GitLab.com releases

GitLab.com receives regular updates according to our auto-deploy schedule. This means that GitLab.com lives in the now and semver versioning used by self-managed installations does not apply to it.

For example, developers might be working in the 12.3 milestone on items that will be a part of 12.3.0 release but GitLab.com will only "know" of the commit SHA that the developer created.

Users on GitLab.com therefore receive features and bug fixes earlier than users of self-managed installations.

Self-managed releases

The self-managed release is a semver versioned package of features that are already released on GitLab.com through auto-deploys. This means that the official published version of GitLab is a historical snapshot of items that are released to users on GitLab.com. As such, the self-managed release is created from a backport branch named by the targeted semver version with a stable suffix, eg. 12-3-stable.

Self-managed users receive features and bug fixes only after a new semver version is created and published.

Timelines

The only guaranteed date throughout the release cycle is the 22nd. On this date, the self-managed release will be published together with the release announcement.

All other dates are a guideline only and cannot be considered a deadline when it comes to what will be included into any type of release. This includes the development month and the dates defined there as well as any promises given to customers. This is strictly because there are a lot of moving parts to be considered when preparing a release which includes working on highest priority and severity issues as well as security related issues.

Keep in mind that, if it is absolutely necessary to get a certain feature ready for a specific version, merge the feature early in the development cycle. Merges closer to the release date are absolutely not guaranteed to be included in that specific monthly self-managed release. For GitLab.com releases, timelines are different and described below.

GitLab.com releases

In June 2019, GitLab.com transitioned to more frequent deploys through auto-deploys as a first step towards continuous deployments. The auto deploy transition document was created to serve as a transition overview document as we progress further towards even more frequent deployments. As we transitioned, the timelines for GitLab.com releases have changed and the current general process is described below.

New auto-deploy branches are created on a weekly cadence, at the beginning of the week.

Once the new branch is created, only commits that pass the CI tests are eligible for deployments ("green commit"). This means that if specs are failing in gitlab-org/gitlab, the deployments cannot progress further.

Automated tasks in the release-tools project are setup to drive the next steps:

When a new package is built, it is automatically deployed to staging.gitlab.com. As part of the deployment to this environment, automated QA set of integration tests are ran.

When the automated QA test pass, the deployment automatically progresses to the canary stage.

Automated deployments to any production environment (including canary), are halted during the blackout period. Currently, the blackout period is:

During the blackout period, manual deployment can be triggered through GitLab ChatOps if the deployment fixes a P1/S1 availability or security issue.

When the release reaches the canary stage and no new exceptions or alerts are reported, release is considered to be ready for deployment to GitLab.com.

The promotion to the rest of the GitLab.com is triggered manually by the release managers and this can happen at any point in time. Depending on the amount of changes, this means that release managers can trigger a deployment to the rest of the production fleet, shortly after canary stage is successfully completed.

Each deployment will trigger a notification in the Slack channel #announcements. After each successful deployment, QA issue is created in release/tasks issue tracker. The purpose of these notifications are to inform the people who are involved in the process that their change is going through environments. This allows them to execute any manual testing or other tasks related to the release of their fix/feature.

Self-managed releases

The self-managed release timelines are concentrated around the 22nd. One week before the release date, the release managers will start preparing for the release by ensuring that the GitLab.com releases are in a consistent state. This means that what gets into the self-managed release fully depends on the state of GitLab.com releases.

The self-managed release will only contain code that is successfully running on GitLab.com at the time the release manager decides to finalise the release.

This can be as early as 5 work days or as late as 1 day before the 22nd. This fluctuation comes from a possibility of 22nd being at or right after the weekend or instability on GitLab.com in the run-up to the 22nd. The release manager preparing the final release will post an announcement in #releases, #development and #g_delivery with a link to the final branch.

As mentioned earlier, if it is absolutely necessary to include a certain feature/fix in that months self-managed release, merge it early in the development cycle or no later than a couple of weeks before. The same applies for items that need to go to the next release; if it is absolutely necessary to include it in the next months release, merge it after the self-managed release has been prepared.

Just because a merge request has a milestone of the current release XX.YY set, does not mean that it will end up in the same release. Milestone describes the target release, but only guarantee that it will be included in the same release is if it is running on GitLab.com around the time release preparation starts.

Labels of importance

For both types of releases, there are a few labels of specific importance.

GitLab.com releases

For code that needs to be deployed to GitLab.com with higher priority than the regular cadence, we have ~pick into auto-deploy label.

The automated systems that create a new GitLab.com release will look for this label specifically, and any merge request with this label will be automatically cherry-picked into the active auto-deploy branch. In case the merge request cannot be picked, which can happen if there is a conflict in the files being picked, the message will be posted in the merge request asking the author to create a new merge request targeting the currently active release branch.

The label should be only used under the following circumstances, when the merge request:

For new features or non-urgent fixes, the label should not be used because the new release is only days or hours away.

Directions on how to how to know whether a MR is deployed to GitLab.com are in the release/docs.

Self-managed releases

Similar to the above mentioned label, each self managed release has a label to highlight that a certain merge request should be backported to the targeted release. For example, releases in the 12.3 series will have Pick into 12.3 label which will signal that this merge request should be included in one of the next patch releases. The patch releases are created as needed but only according to our maintenance policy.

The label should be applied in the following situations:

The label should not be applied to merge requests: