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Release Candidate


Introduction:

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a process that defines how to develop, test, and deploy software. It does not have any process of internal release that checks critical issues. For example, sometimes, after the deployment of the software, various issues arise during installation, which impacts user satisfaction. In Software Engineering, no matter how many test stages your software has passed, how many bugs it has killed, the only thing that matters the most is the user experience. So, here comes the Release Candidate. In this, the software is released internally to ensure the quality of the software as well as the user experience.

As said by David Farley in Continuous Delivery: “Releasing software is too often an art; it should be an engineering discipline.” This discipline is implemented by Release Candidate to make the testing easy and thorough, which further ensures the team accomplishes positive scenarios and delivers a quality product.

What is Release Candidate?

Release Candidate is a build released internally for testing purposes and not for production deployment, to ensure that no critical errors exist after the previous development. It is also defined as a version of the software, which is functional but not ready to be released in the consumer market. It focuses on the following points:

  1. Security and Functionality of the product.
  2. The correctness of the code being developed.
  3. Quality of the software product.

But, before we move on to further discuss Release Candidate, it is important for us to elaborate on the importance of Software Release Life Cycle.

Software Release Life Cycle:

The Software Release Life Cycle or Software Release Process is composed of different stages that describe the maturity of the software and the amount of development required before the final release. It also defines the upgraded release version and helps rectify bugs still present in it.

The various stages that constitute the Software Release Life Cycle are:

  1. Pre-alpha Releases: Known as Feature Incomplete Version (Pre-Release), Pre-Alpha is performed before the alpha version. It is the first software development stage that refers to all the activities performed in a software project, before software testing, such as requirement analysis, software design and development, and unit testing.
  2. Some of the pre-alpha versions are as follows:

    • Nightly builds version.
    • Milestone version.
  3. Alpha Releases: This build of the software is delivered to the testers to test the software using white-box testing. Additional validation should also be checked at this point by another team using black-box or gray-box testing techniques. This movement of black-box testing inside the organization is known as Alpha Release. This phase usually ends with feature freezing, which indicates that no more features should be added to the software.
  4. Beta Releases: The process of delivering a beta version to users is called Beta Release. It is the first version that is released outside the organization to perform real-world testing. It begins when the software is feature complete but contains more bugs than the complete software. In short, this testing is used to identify remaining bugs in the software as well as to evaluate its performance.
  5. A beta test is conducted at the client site to test the software from the user’s perspective. It is also referred to as a preview, prototype or early access release and is performed via the following methods:
    • Open Beta.
    • Closed Beta.
  6. Release Candidate (Gamma or delta): It is the beta version that has the potential to be released as a final product unless all the bugs are removed. In this stage of product stabilization, the features of the product are designed, coded, & tested through various beta cycles with no known showstopper class bugs. It is also known as Gamma Testing, which ensures that software is ready to release with the specified requirements.Release Candidate and Beta Releases are different from Pre-alpha releases, as they have Feature Complete Versions.
  7. RTM (Release to Manufacturing or Release to Marketing): This ensures that the software is complete to be delivered to the manufacturer. It is also called going gold or Golden master, which means that software has attained the required quality level and is available via various means of communication such as physical media, electronic mails, etc.
  8. GA (General Availability or General Acceptance): It is the stage where all the activities are completed and the software is ready for the ‘Go Live’.

Now that we understand what is Software Release Life Cycle, let us describe the major elements of Release Candidate such as version, release, Build and Release process through an analogy.

Release Candidate Infographics:

release candidate infographics

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What is the difference between Version and Release?

Version is defined as the set of stages or a build to prepare the release, whereas Release is the last stage of the software release process before the product is given to the manufacturer. So, to get a better understanding of Version and Release, here is a comparison of the two:

Version:

  • It is a software build that is still in testing.
  • Here, builds occur frequently.
  • It is an identifier of the snapshot of software.

Release:

  • It refers to the software that is no longer in testing.
  • It occurs less frequently than build.
  • It is an action of distributing the software to the required users.

Another important comparison that needs to be explained is Release Candidate Vs Release. As stated earlier, Release or Stable Release is the last Release Candidate which has passed all the verification tests and finally goes to production.

What is Build and Release Process?

It is basically defined as the Release Management, wherein the release is managed by planning, scheduling, and controlling the software build throughout the Software Delivery Lifecycle. It incorporates the following steps:

  1. Plan Release.
  2. Build Release.
  3. User Acceptance Testing.
  4. Prepare Release.
  5. Deploy Release.

Release Candidate Advantages:

Release Candidate is making the testing process easy and end-user specific, as a result, it has numerous benefits:

  1. Error Free Product: It ensures that the software product is error-free by fixing the critical bugs at the right time.
  2. Software Product Quality: It determines the quality of the product in terms of usability, security, & performance.
  3. Effective Feedback: Releasing the product internally helps testers in collecting the feedback effectively because the number of users are limited
  4. Release Rate: It improves the release rate of the software builds by simplifying the testing process
  5. Release Calendar: It is easy to plan and track the releases using Release Calendar.

Conclusion:

User experience is one of the aspects where software might lack. So, Release Candidate prevents this aspect by releasing the software internally and checking the user experience of the software product. Moreover, it makes sure the requirements tested are error-free and depict the expected quality. Thus, it enables a smooth transition of the software into the market.

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