Monday, April 02, 2018

dbdeployer GA and semantic versioning

dbdeployer went into release candidate status a few weeks ago. Since then, I added no new features, but a lot of tests. The test suite now runs 3,000+ tests on MacOS and a bit more on Linux, for a grand total of 6,000+ tests that need to run at least twice: once with concurrency enabled and once without. I know that testing can't prove the absence of bugs, but I am satisfied with the results, since all this grinding has allowed me to find several bugs and fix them.

In this framework, I felt that dbdeployer could exit candidate status and get to version 1.0. This happened on March 26th. An immediate side effect of this change is that from this point on, dbdeployer must adhere to the semantic versioning principles:

A version number is made of Major, Minor, and Revision. When changes are applied, the following happens:

  • Backward-compatible bug fixes increment the Revision number (e.g. 1.0.0 to 1.0.1)
  • Backward-compatible new features increment the Minor number (1.0.1 to 1.1.0)
  • Backward incompatible changes (either features or bug fixes that break compatibility with the API) increment the Major number (1.15.9 to 2.0.0)

The starting API is defined in, which was generated manually.
The file contains the same API definition, but was generated automatically and can be used to better compare the initial API with further version.

So the app went from 1.0 to 1.1 in less than one week. In obedience to semantic versioning principles, if a new backward-compatible feature is added, the minor number of the version increases. What does backward-compatible mean? It means that commands, procedures, and workflows that were working with the previous version will also work with the current one. It's just that the new release will have more capabilities. In this case, the added feature is the ability of having environment variables HOME and PWD recognized and properly expanded in the configuration file. It's nothing very exciting, but changing the minor number gives the user a hint of what to expect from the new release.

Let's give a few examples:

  • Version goes from 1.0.0 to 1.0.1: It means that there are only bug fixes, and you should expect to use it without modifications.
  • Version goes from 1.0.1 to 1.1.0: You should be able to use dbdeployer just as before, but you should check the release notes to see what's new, because there are new functionalities that might be useful to you.
  • Version goes from 1.3.15 to 2.0.0: Danger! A major number bumped up means that something has changed in the API, which is now partially or totally incompatible with the previous release. Your workflow may break, and you must check the release notes and the documentation to learn how to use the new version.

This is different from other applications. For example, the MySQL server uses version numbers with hard to predict meaning:

  • MySQL 5.1, 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7 should be, in fact, major version number changes, not minor ones. Each one of them introduces incompatible changes that require careful review of the novelties.
  • Within the same version (such as MySQL 5.7) there are a lot of compatible and incompatible changes, although the minor number stays the same.

The plan with dbdeployer is to use the version number as a manifest, to give users an immediate feeling of what to expect. Rather than changing minor or major number only when the developers think there is some juicy new thing of which they can be proud, the version number will tell whether users should worry about compatibility or not.

In my general development plan, you are more likely to see versions like "1.25.16" than version "2.0," meaning that I will try to keep the current API valid as much as possible. A major version change will signify that a new feature could not fit in the current infrastructure and a new one would be needed.

You can draw your own conclusions here. A semantic versioning paradigm is unlikely to be adopted by most software vendors, because version numbers are often marketing gimmicks, and they can charge you more convincingly for a version 6.0 than for version 1.34.
Free software, OTOH, can do this. My goal with dbdeployer is to help the MySQL community, and I will achieve that goal more easily if my releases can be adopted without fear of incompatibility.

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