GitLab release and maintenance policy

GitLab has strict policies governing version naming, as well as release pace for major, minor, patch, and security releases. New releases are announced on the GitLab blog.

Our current policy is:

  • Backporting bug fixes for only the current stable release at any given time. (See patch releases.)
  • Backporting security fixes to the previous two monthly releases in addition to the current stable release. (See security releases.)

In rare cases, release managers may make an exception and backport to more than the last two monthly releases. See Backporting to older releases for more information.

Versioning

GitLab uses Semantic Versioning for its releases: (Major).(Minor).(Patch).

For example, for GitLab version 12.10.6:

  • 12 represents the major version. The major release was 12.0.0 but often referred to as 12.0.
  • 10 represents the minor version. The minor release was 12.10.0 but often referred to as 12.10.
  • 6 represents the patch number.

Any part of the version number can increment into multiple digits, for example, 13.10.11.

The following table describes the version types and their release cadence:

Version type Description Cadence
Major For significant changes, or when any backward-incompatible changes are introduced to the public API. Yearly. The next major release is GitLab 14.0 on May 22, 2021. Subsequent major releases will be scheduled for May 22 each year, by default.
Minor For when new backward-compatible functionality is introduced to the public API, a minor feature is introduced, or when a set of smaller features is rolled out. Monthly on the 22nd.
Patch For backward-compatible bug fixes that fix incorrect behavior. See Patch releases. As needed.

Upgrade recommendations

We encourage everyone to run the latest stable release to ensure that you can easily upgrade to the most secure and feature-rich GitLab experience. To make sure you can easily run the most recent stable release, we are working hard to keep the update process simple and reliable.

If you are unable to follow our monthly release cycle, there are a couple of cases you need to consider.

It is considered safe to jump between patch versions and minor versions within one major version. For example, it is safe to:

  • Upgrade the minor version. For example:

    • 12.7.5 -> 12.10.5
    • 11.3.4 -> 11.11.1
  • Upgrade the patch version. For example:

    • 12.0.4 -> 12.0.12
    • 11.11.1 -> 11.11.8
Note: Version specific changes in Omnibus GitLab Linux packages can be found in the Omnibus GitLab documentation.
Note: Instructions are available for downloading an Omnibus GitLab Linux package locally and manually installing it.

Upgrading major versions

Backward-incompatible changes and migrations are reserved for major versions. See the upgrade guide.

Patch releases

Patch releases only include bug fixes for the current stable released version of GitLab.

These two policies are in place because:

  1. GitLab has Community and Enterprise distributions, doubling the amount of work necessary to test/release the software.
  2. Backporting to more than one release creates a high development, quality assurance, and support cost.
  3. Supporting parallel version discourages incremental upgrades which over time accumulate in complexity and create upgrade challenges for all users. GitLab has a dedicated team ensuring that incremental upgrades (and installations) are as simple as possible.
  4. The number of changes created in the GitLab application is high, which contributes to backporting complexity to older releases. In several cases, backporting has to go through the same review process a new change goes through.
  5. Ensuring that tests pass on the older release is a considerable challenge in some cases, and as such is very time-consuming.

Including new features in a patch release is not possible as that would break Semantic Versioning. Breaking Semantic Versioning has the following consequences for users that have to adhere to various internal requirements (for example, org. compliance, verifying new features, and similar):

  1. Inability to quickly upgrade to leverage bug fixes included in patch versions.
  2. Inability to quickly upgrade to leverage security fixes included in patch versions.
  3. Requirements consisting of extensive testing for not only stable GitLab release, but every patch version.

In cases where a strategic user has a requirement to test a feature before it is officially released, we can offer to create a Release Candidate (RC) version that will include the specific feature. This should be needed only in extreme cases and can be requested for consideration by raising an issue in the release/tasks issue tracker. It is important to note that the Release Candidate will also contain other features and changes as it is not possible to easily isolate a specific feature (similar reasons as noted above). The Release Candidate will be no different than any code that is deployed to GitLab.com or is publicly accessible.

Backporting to older releases

Backporting to more than one stable release is normally reserved for security releases. In some cases, however, we may need to backport a bug fix to more than one stable release, depending on the severity of the bug.

The decision on whether backporting a change will be performed is done at the discretion of the current release managers, similar to what is described in the managing bugs process, based on all of the following:

  1. Estimated severity of the bug: Highest possible impact to users based on the current definition of severity.
  2. Estimated priority of the bug: Immediate impact on all impacted users based on the above estimated severity.
  3. Potentially incurring data loss and/or security breach.
  4. Potentially affecting one or more strategic accounts due to a proven inability by the user to upgrade to the current stable version.

If all of the above are satisfied, the backport releases can be created for the current stable release, and two previous monthly releases. In rare cases a release manager may grant an exception to backport to more than two previous monthly releases. For instance, if we release 11.2.1 with a fix for a severe bug introduced in 11.0.0, we could backport the fix to a new 11.0.x, and 11.1.x patch release.

To request backporting to more than one stable release for consideration, raise an issue in the release/tasks issue tracker.

Security releases

Security releases are a special kind of patch release that only include security fixes and patches (see below) for the previous two monthly releases in addition to the current stable release.

For very serious security issues, there is precedent to backport security fixes to even more monthly releases of GitLab. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis.

More information

More information about the release procedures can be found in our release documentation. You may also want to read our Responsible Disclosure Policy.