Drupal Maintenance and Understanding the New Release Cycle

We provide Drupal updates for our clients. Every month we apply the most recent updates to Drupal core and contributed modules. Currently there is no set schedule as to when a minor release of Drupal will be released. For example, a minor release is when Drupal is updated from 7.23 to 7.24. So in November 2013, Drupal 7.24 was released. It contained security fixes. It was recommended to upgrade immediately after reading the security announcement.
On January 3, 2014, Drupal 7.25 was released. This is a maintenance release including bug fixes and small feature improvements only. Drupal 8 is under development and significant new features are only being added to the new Drupal 8 release.
This release was followed quickly by Drupal 7.26 on January 15, 2014. This release fixes security vulnerabilities. Website owners are urged to upgrade immediately. However, some Drupal sites reported a major site slowdown after upgrading to Drupal 7.26 so we have postponed this upgrade.
One of the downsides of Drupal's old release cycle was that new features could not be added. Drupal 7 was essentially completed in 2010; all the features were frozen eg. no new features could be added and it was released the following year after all the bugs were fixed. So no new features have been added to Drupal since 2010.
This type of feature freeze works well for enterprise customers, but can be very clunky for today's software developers who are used to working iteratively and making fast and regular updates.
A proposal was recently published (https://drupal.org/node/2135189)  that outlines a new release schedule. Dries says that the new release cycle allows Drupal developers to use "a more agile development approach of getting smaller changes out faster, seeing how they do and making further changes based on real-world data.
Drupal 8 will have a new release cycle:
  • Drupal 8 will have several releases with new features
  • New Drupal 8 releases will come out every 6 months. They may have new features and will be called 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 etc
  • The latest release will be the only one that's supported
  • The end of the process will be a Long Term Support version or LTS. When that LTS arrives, no new features will be added, only security fixes
This is good news for Drupal 6 and 7. Drupal 6 will now be supported with security fixes up until Drupal 8's LTS which could be Drupal 8.6 rather than Drupal 8.0. In the old release cycle, when Drupal 8.0 comes out, all support for Drupal 6 would be dropped. This gives a longer life to Drupal 6.x websites.
Under the new release plan, Drupal 7 would be supported with security fixes until Drupal 9's LTS version rather than only until 9.0. This changes could mean an extra 18 months of fixes. It's possible that Drupal 7 support could continue until 2018 or 2019.
Drupal 8 is currently under development and the current release is Drupal 8.0-alpha10. The releases are named alpha because they are pre-release versions of Drupal 8. The more stable version is named beta followed by Drupal 8.0.
Source: http://www.ostraining.com/blog/drupal/new-drupal-release-cycle/



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