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Stability, Production-readiness, and Legacy Releases

DeveloperSide.NET Articles

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." -- George Santayana.

If you are considering upgrading to the newest [and greatest], feature-full, release of Apache, PHP, MySQL, or any other software product; consider the implications of doing so...

With any new 'major version' branch release of an application, the common denominator tends to alway be unforseen problems. This has been demonstrated over and over again, every time. History always repeats itself.

While you might not experience any difficulties -- which in itself could be a sign that you might not need the use of the new branch -- many other users will. Bugs will be fixed, more bugs will be found, other bugs will be introduced, problems from changes and bug fixes will break compatibility, new features will break the old, other software will not work right, and so on...

Stability and production-readiness can take, at a minimum, anywhere from 3 to 6 months to achieve after a new 'major version' release, and in most cases -- not until about 3/5ths of the way to another new 'major version' branch release. This phenomena has been demonstrated in both open-source and proprietary solutions. Also note that we are talking about the 1st signs of stability...

In most cases, a branch is not truly considered stable and fit for production use until a new 'major version' branch is officially released, and classified as the "best available version"... While the older branch is classified as "legacy", and has all development halted; with only security and bug fixes implemented in new releases.

Even right now, with the release of Apache 2.2, Apache 1.3 still dominates the lead by a factor of 2, over Apache 2.0 deployment figures...

September 1st, 2006 Web Server Survey

And users of Apache 1.3 are only now considering upgrading to version 2.0. Why? Why fix it if it's not broken?

Then, take into account the problems of some particularly nasty habits of new PHP and MySQL releases, and the above is brought to another level.

Ask yourself, what new features do you require the use of? What performance gains, if there are any, do you seek? And what purpose will that extra 2-8% serve, in trade for stability?