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Spotlight on SIG Release (Release Team Subproject)

Author: Nitish Kumar

The Release Special Interest Group (SIG Release), where Kubernetes sharpens its blade with cutting-edge features and bug fixes every 4 months. Have you ever considered how such a big project like Kubernetes manages its timeline so efficiently to release its new version, or how the internal workings of the Release Team look like? If you're curious about these questions or want to know more and get involved with the work SIG Release does, read on!

SIG Release plays a crucial role in the development and evolution of Kubernetes. Its primary responsibility is to manage the release process of new versions of Kubernetes. It operates on a regular release cycle, typically every three to four months. During this cycle, the Kubernetes Release Team works closely with other SIGs and contributors to ensure a smooth and well-coordinated release. This includes planning the release schedule, setting deadlines for code freeze and testing phases, as well as creating release artefacts like binaries, documentation, and release notes.

Before you read further, it is important to note that there are two subprojects under SIG Release - Release Engineering and Release Team.

In this blog post, Nitish Kumar interviews VerΓ³nica LΓ³pez (PlanetScale), Technical Lead of SIG Release, with the spotlight on the Release Team subproject, how the release process looks like, and ways to get involved.

  1. What is the typical release process for a new version of Kubernetes, from initial planning to the final release? Are there any specific methodologies and tools that you use to ensure a smooth release?
  • Release Team Onboarding: We start with the formation of a Release Team, which includes volunteers from the Kubernetes community who will be responsible for managing different components of the new release. This is typically done before the previous release is about to wrap up. Once the team is formed, new members are onboarded while the Release Team Lead and the Branch Manager propose a calendar for the usual deliverables. As an example, you can take a look at the v1.29 team formation issue created at the SIG Release repository. For a contributor to be the part of Release Team, they typically go through the Release Shadow program, but that's not the only way to get involved with SIG Release.

  • Beginning Phase: In the initial weeks of each release cycle, SIG Release diligently tracks the progress of new features and enhancements outlined in Kubernetes Enhancement Proposals (KEPs). While not all of these features are entirely new, they often commence their journey in the alpha phase, subsequently advancing to the beta stage, and ultimately attaining the status of stability.

  • Feature Maturation Phase: We usually cut a couple of Alpha releases, containing new features in an experimental state, to gather feedback from the community, followed by a couple of Beta releases, where features are more stable and the focus is on fixing bugs. Feedback from users is critical at this stage, to the point where sometimes we need to cut an additional Beta release to address bugs or other concerns that may arise during this phase. Once this is cleared, we cut a release candidate (RC) before the actual release. Throughout the cycle, efforts are made to update and improve documentation, including release notes and user guides, a process that, in my opinion, deserves its own post.

  • Stabilisation Phase: A few weeks before the new release, we implement a code freeze, and no new features are allowed after this point: this allows the focus to shift towards testing and stabilisation. In parallel to the main release, we keep cutting monthly patches of old, officially supported versions of Kubernetes, so you could say that the lifecycle of a Kubernetes version extends for several months afterwards. Throughout the complete release cycle, efforts are made to update and improve documentation, including release notes and user guides, a process that, in our opinion, deserves its own post.

  1. How do you handle the balance between stability and introducing new features in each release? What criteria are used to determine which features make it into a release?

  2. What are some of the most significant challenges you’ve encountered while developing and releasing Kubernetes? How have you overcome these challenges?

  3. As a new contributor, what should be my ideal path to get involved with SIG Release? In a community where everyone is busy with their own tasks, how can I find the right set of tasks to contribute effectively to it?

  4. What is the Release Shadow Program and how is it different from other shadow programs included in various other SIGs?

  5. What are the qualifications that you generally look for in a person to volunteer as a release shadow/release lead for the next Kubernetes release?

  6. What will you suggest to someone who has got rejected from being a part of the Release Shadow Program several times?

  7. Can you discuss any ongoing initiatives or upcoming features that the release team is particularly excited about for Kubernetes v1.28? How do these advancements align with the long-term vision of Kubernetes?

Final thoughts

Well, this conversation ends here but not the learning. I hope this interview has given you some idea about what SIG Release does and how to get started in helping out. It is important to mention again that this article covers the first subproject under SIG Release, the Release Team. In the next Spotlight blog on SIG Release, we will provide a spotlight on the Release Engineering subproject, what it does and how to get involved. Finally, you can go through the SIG Release charter to get a more in-depth understanding of how SIG Release operates.

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