Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sitecore’s Recommended Version Policy

People often ask me about Sitecore’s recommended version policy.

Some people seem to think that only the “recommended version” must be a stable release and all others must be considered “pre-release, unstable” software.

This is a misunderstanding that I’d like to take a moment to clear up.

To understand our recommended version policy, it’s important to remember that people install Sitecore CMS for many different reasons. Here are a few examples. A given Sitecore CMS installation may serve as…
  • …a development environment for a web site that may take several weeks or months to reach deployment.
  • …a mission critical web site for one of our many customers.
  • …a training web site that helps a developer become familiar with the product.
Our recommended version policy is focused on production installations running mission critical web sites for our customers.

As many of you know, Sitecore leverages a very agile development approach. As such, we release a fairly steady stream of improvements to the product as updates and feature releases. We know, however, that this constant stream of upgrades can place a burden on system administrators, who may find themselves thinking, “Should I install this newest update?”

We’ve done a lot to make the experience of upgrading a Sitecore release as easy as possible, but we also know that there are other factors involved when deciding whether to upgrade or not. The old adage of not fixing things that “ain’t broke” works well for production environments. Our recommended release policy is designed to help reduce risk for our customers and limit the number of upgrades that we recommend.

When we release a new version of our CMS product, we typically do not make this the recommended version immediately. This is to indicate that, for production environments where Sitecore already works well, there is no need to rush to perform an upgrade to the new release.

Not all releases are destined to become a recommended version at some point. Periodically, based on experience with a set of releases, we choose a later version to become the new recommended release. In this process of promoting a specific release to a recommended version, we work closely with teams within Sitecore as well as with our developer / partner community.

For new production environments, customers should think about the following questions:
  • Does a later, non-recommended version contain new features that my site requires?
  • Does a later, non-recommended version resolve known issues that may impact my site?
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then it is indeed safe to use the later, non-recommended version. Sitecore fully supports and stands behind newly released versions that have not been designated “the” recommended release.

If the answer to both questions is no, then deploying on the recommended version probably makes sense, but discussing this with your partner or Sitecore representative is always a good idea.

I hope that this clears up some of the confusion. Overall, we’ve had very good experiences with the recommended version policy. Most customers appreciate the program and the clear differentiation between releases.

Of course, if you have any suggestions, we’re always interested in your input!