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The release engineering process for 4.4 formally began on August 1st, 2001. After that date all commits to the `RELENG_4` branch of FreeBSD had to be explicitly approved by the `{re}`. The first release candidate for the x86 architecture was released on August 16, followed by 4 more release candidates leading up to the final release on September 18th. The security officer was very involved in the last week of the process as several security issues were found in the earlier release candidates. A total of over _500_ emails were sent to the `{re}` in little over a month.
Our user community has made it very clear that the security and stability of a FreeBSD release should not be sacrificed for any self-imposed deadlines or target release dates. The FreeBSD Project has grown tremendously over its lifetime and the need for standardized release engineering procedures has never been more apparent. This will become even more important as FreeBSD is ported to new platforms.
Future Directions
It is imperative for our release engineering activities to scale with our growing userbase. Along these lines we are working very hard to document the procedures involved in producing FreeBSD releases.
_Parallelism_ - Certain portions of the release build are actually "embarrassingly parallel". Most of the tasks are very I/O intensive, so having multiple high-speed disk drives is actually more important than using multiple processors in speeding up the `make release` process. If multiple disks are used for different hierarchies in the man:chroot[2] environment, then the CVS checkout of the [.filename]#ports# and [.filename]#doc# trees can be happening simultaneously as the `make world` on another disk. Using a RAID solution (hardware or software) can significantly decrease the overall build time.
_Cross-building releases_ - Building IA-64 or Alpha release on x86 hardware? `make TARGET=ia64 release`.
_Regression Testing_ - We need better automated correctness testing for FreeBSD.
_Installation Tools_ - Our installation program has long since outlived its intended life span. Several projects are under development to provide a more advanced installation mechanism. The libh project was one such project that aimed to provide an intelligent new package framework and GUI installation program.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Jordan Hubbard for giving me the opportunity to take on some of the release engineering responsibilities for FreeBSD 4.4 and also for all of his work throughout the years making FreeBSD what it is today. Of course the release would not have been possible without all of the release-related work done by `{asami}`, `{steve}`, `{bmah}`, `{nik}`, `{obrien}`, `{kris}`, `{jhb}` and the rest of the FreeBSD development community. I would also like to thank `{rgrimes}`, `{phk}`, and others who worked on the release engineering tools in the very early days of FreeBSD. This article was influenced by release engineering documents from the CSRG footnote:[Marshall Kirk McKusick, Michael J. Karels, and Keith Bostic: link:http://docs.FreeBSD.org/44doc/papers/releng.html[The Release Engineering of 4.3BSD]] , the NetBSD Project, footnote:[NetBSD Developer Documentation: Release Engineering http://www.NetBSD.org/developers/releng/index.html] , and John Baldwin's proposed release engineering process notes. footnote:[John Baldwin's FreeBSD Release Engineering Proposal https://people.FreeBSD.org/~jhb/docs/releng.txt]