A version by any other name

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Amir Shevat

Amir Shevat
Jan. 26, 2006 10:54 AM

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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Product versioning is a matter that lies in the grey area between marketing and R&D. Lets take Java for example (I like Java that is why I use it as an example). On one hand marketing people think that calling a product “5.0 code name Tiger” would be much better than calling it 1.5 (and don’t even think about something like 1.5.0_04-b05). On the other hand, R&D people, though really fond of Tigers, would prefer to see “1.5.0_04-b05” as the version name. This version name provides R&D with the information they require such as the knowledge that a certain bug was fixed in this version. I think that is why SUN markets JAVA as “J2SE 5.0 tiger” but when I run “java –version” on my computer I get “java version 1.5.0_04-b05”.

Another issue with product versioning is the correlation of version numbers between tightly coupled products. I will take our open-source project for example. Our main open-source product, MantaRay, is a JMS provider that comes in 3 different flavors – a pure java implementation, a C++ wrapper over the java implementation and a pure C# implementation. In addition, there are several other components such as the MantaRay Management Console.

Up until the last release we use to give each component its own version number. However, the problem was that we started getting users’ feedback saying that they find this naming convention to be confusing. Every product came with a read-me file that stated the compatibility with the other products’ versions. As a result, we had to deal with bugs that originated from people running incompatible versions of the different products. Moreover, our marketing people did not like the fact that we distribute three different JMS products with different version numbers. They wanted to market a single solution with three flavors.

In order to amend these problems we consolidated all of our sub-products under one version called MantaRay 1.9, we hope this will be less confusing and will generate less product-interoperability errors. I guess you could look at this decision as both marketing and R&D driven.

The bottom line is that a version by any other name would smell as sweet..

Amir Shevat is a senior software developer with eight years of experience in computing.