Accelerating Delivery with a New Quarterly Release Cycle, Starting with MongoDB 5.0

Mat Keep and Dan Pasette

#mongodb

MongoDB 4.4 reached General Availability in July 2020. It was a big release. Our R&D team invested close to 270,000 engineering hours and closed over 5,200 tickets to bring 4.4 to production readiness. Like previous versions, it combined multiple projects that our engineering team had developed over the prior 12 months, delivering them all together in one large annual MongoDB release.

Going forward, we will no longer be holding back all of our new features and enhancements for a single release once per year. Starting in 2021, we will move to a more frequent delivery model with new releases pushed live once per quarter.

Why we are changing our release cycle & versioning

Our new quarterly release cadence will enable us to get the latest innovations and features offered by the database and drivers into your hands faster.

In order for the MongoDB community and our customers to understand this new release cadence and make it easy to track upgrade/downgrade dependencies between versions, the next major GA release of the database will be named MongoDB 5.0.

Our engineering team is already heads down developing 5.0, with its release planned for 2021. Beyond the move to quarterly releases, we also have some major functionality enhancements coming for MongoDB 5.0. Stay tuned!

How the new versioning will work

Like today, we will still have an annual release that includes all features from the 3 prior quarterly releases. This will be our Long Term Support (LTS) release, with the same product lifecycle documented in our current MongoDB Server Support Policy.

MongoDB 5.0 will be the first LTS release under our new versioning scheme. We will then increment the major version number by 1 for every LTS release. The quarterly and annual releases will use the new versioning scheme and semantics as follows:

  • 5.0 → Annual LTS release 2021
  • 5.1.0 → First quarterly release thereafter
  • 5.1.1 → Patch release on first quarterly release
  • 5.2.0-rc0 → Initial release candidate for second quarterly release
  • 5.3 will follow the conventions above
  • 6.0 → Annual LTS release 2022

Each LTS release will be inclusive of all of the code and features of the three previous quarterly releases, as well as three months of additional development work in readying the new LTS. For example, MongoDB 6.0.0 will include all of the code and features of MongoDB 5.1.0 through 5.3.x.

The figure below shows how the versioning will work.

New MongoDB Versioning Scheme diagram
New MongoDB Versioning Scheme

Which versions will we support?

All LTS releases and all quarterly releases between LTS versions will be available and supported in MongoDB Atlas, our fully managed, multi-cloud database service.

Outside of Atlas, for our on-premise database software, LTS versions will remain supported, but quarterly releases will be available as Development Releases from the MongoDB Download Center. These will be for evaluation only — they will not be supported releases outside of Atlas. For example, we will not offer support for the MongoDB Enterprise Server releases versioned MongoDB 5.1.0, MongoDB 5.2.0, and MongoDB 5.3.0 (and all patch releases for each of these versions). Commercial support, along with integration to Ops Manager and Cloud Manager, will be available for them in the annual LTS release that follows.

Maintaining the annual release cadence with LTS versions will ensure no impact to those of you who don't wish to (or who aren’t able to) upgrade often.

Why are Quarterly Releases only Supported in MongoDB Atlas?

Focusing the qualification and support of new quarterly releases to MongoDB Atlas enables our engineering organization to ship even higher quality software faster to the cloud. Otherwise we would have to qualify each release on the 20+ different supported MongoDB platforms every quarter, which would significantly reduce the rate of feature delivery to you. It would also mean users incurring the operational overhead of upgrading each quarter to stay on the current release, which is something we can simply automate for them in MongoDB Atlas.

MongoDB Atlas customers in the dedicated tiers (M10+) will have the option to opt in and out of quarterly release trains, while all other MongoDB users will be able to download each quarterly release for evaluation.

Development releases on the path to MongoDB 5.0

We plan to publish our first Development Release early in 2021. It will be available from the Download Center, and will be tagged as MongoDB 4.9.0.

You may ask why we are jumping straight to 4.9? It’s because this will provide us a clean release train and version numbering to regularly push new development builds, incrementing through 4.9.x and onwards before our first 5.0 Release Candidate scheduled for later in 2021.

Consuming more frequent releases: Versioned API

Upgrading to any new version of a database can be a long and complex process. This is because you typically have application-side dependencies that mean you also have to upgrade your drivers and sometimes parts of your code as well.

With the new Versioned MongoDB API, that all changes. You will be able to upgrade to the latest releases of the MongoDB database without first having to upgrade your applications and drivers.

With the Versioned API, you can pin your application to a specific version of the MongoDB API with the confidence that your code will continue to run for years, without interruption, even as the database is upgraded beneath it. This provides you with a level of investment protection and API stability that you don’t get from most other databases.

Wrapping Up

Starting with MongoDB 5.0, our switch to quarterly releases is well aligned to a cloud-first world characterized by frequent updates. You will spend less time waiting for big features tied to a major annual release. With the Versioned API, you won't have to think about version compatibility and planning upgrade cycles across your applications, drivers, and the database.

If you have any questions, please use the comment section below. Alternatively, you can post a comment in our Community Forum or speak directly to your MongoDB representative.

Safe Harbor The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for our products remains at our sole discretion. This information is merely intended to outline our general product direction and it should not be relied on in making a purchasing decision nor is this a commitment, promise or legal obligation to deliver any material, code, or functionality.