Open vSwitch Release Process

This document describes the process ordinarily used for Open vSwitch development and release. Exceptions are sometimes necessary, so all of the statements here should be taken as subject to change through rough consensus of Open vSwitch contributors, obtained through public discussion on, e.g., ovs-dev or the #openvswitch IRC channel.

Release Strategy

Open vSwitch feature development takes place on the “master” branch. Ordinarily, new features are rebased against master and applied directly. For features that take significant development, sometimes it is more appropriate to merge a separate branch into master; please discuss this on ovs-dev in advance.

The process of making a release has the following stages. See Release Scheduling for the timing of each stage:

  1. “Soft freeze” of the master branch.

    During the freeze, we ask committers to refrain from applying patches that add new features unless those patches were already being publicly discussed and reviewed before the freeze began. Bug fixes are welcome at any time. Please propose and discuss exceptions on ovs-dev.

  2. Fork a release branch from master, named for the expected release number, e.g. “branch-2.3” for the branch that will yield Open vSwitch 2.3.x.

    Release branches are intended for testing and stabilization. At this stage and in later stages, they should receive only bug fixes, not new features. Bug fixes applied to release branches should be backports of corresponding bug fixes to the master branch, except for bugs present only on release branches (which are rare in practice).

    At this stage, sometimes there can be exceptions to the rule that a release branch receives only bug fixes. Like bug fixes, new features on release branches should be backports of the corresponding commits on the master branch. Features to be added to release branches should be limited in scope and risk and discussed on ovs-dev before creating the branch.

  3. When committers come to rough consensus that the release is ready, they release the .0 release on its branch, e.g. 2.3.0 for branch-2.3. To make the actual release, a committer pushes a signed tag named, e.g. v2.3.0, to the Open vSwitch repository, makes a release tarball available on, and posts a release announcement to ovs-announce.

  4. As bug fixes accumulate, or after important bugs or vulnerabilities are fixed, committers may make additional releases from a branch: 2.3.1, 2.3.2, and so on. The process is the same for these additional release as for a .0 release.

At most two release branches are formally maintained at any given time: the latest release and the latest release designed as LTS. An LTS release is one that the OVS project has designated as being maintained for a longer period of time. Currently, an LTS release is maintained until the next LTS is chosen. There is not currently a strict guideline on how often a new LTS release is chosen, but so far it has been about every 2 years. That could change based on the current state of OVS development. For example, we do not want to designate a new release as LTS that includes disruptive internal changes, as that may make it harder to support for a longer period of time. Discussion about choosing the next LTS release occurs on the OVS development mailing list.

Release Numbering

The version number on master should normally end in .90. This indicates that the Open vSwitch version is “almost” the next version to branch.

Forking master into branch-x.y requires two commits to master. The first is titled “Prepare for x.y.0” and increments the version number to x.y. This is the initial commit on branch-x.y. The second is titled “Prepare for post-x.y.0 (x.y.90)” and increments the version number to x.y.90.

The version number on a release branch is x.y.z, where z is initially 0. Making a release requires two commits. The first is titled Set release dates for x.y.z. and updates NEWS and debian/changelog to specify the release date of the new release. This commit is the one made into a tarball and tagged. The second is titled Prepare for x.y.(z+1). and increments the version number and adds a blank item to NEWS with an unspecified date.

Release Scheduling

Open vSwitch makes releases at the following six-month cadence. All dates are approximate:

Time (months) Dates Stage
T Mar 1, Sep 1 Begin x.y release cycle
T + 4 Jul 1, Jan 1 “Soft freeze” master for x.y release
T + 4.5 Jul 15, Jan 15 Fork branch-x.y from master
T + 5.5 Aug 15, Feb 15 Release version x.y.0

How to Branch

To branch “master” for the eventual release of OVS version x.y.0, prepare two patches against master:

  1. “Prepare for x.y.0.” following the model of commit 836d1973c56e (“Prepare for 2.11.0.”).
  2. “Prepare for post-x.y.0 (x.y.90).” following the model of commit fe2870c574db (“Prepare for post-2.11.0 (2.11.90).”)

Post both patches to ovs-dev. Get them reviewed in the usual way.

Apply both patches to master, and create branch-x.y by pushing only the first patch. The following command illustrates how to do both of these at once assuming the local repository HEAD points to the “Prepare for post-x.y.0” commit:

git push origin HEAD:master HEAD^:refs/heads/branch-x.y

Branching should be announced on ovs-dev.

How to Release

Follow these steps to release version x.y.z of OVS from branch-x.y.

  1. Prepare two patches against branch-x.y:
    1. “Set release date for x.y.z”. For z = 0, follow the model of commit d11f4cbbfe05 (“Set release date for 2.12.0.”); for z > 0, follow the model of commit 53d5c18118b0 (“Set release date for 2.11.3.”).
    2. “Prepare for x.y.(z+1).” following the model of commit db02dd23e48a (“Prepare for 2.11.1.”).
  1. Post the patches to ovs-dev. Get them reviewed in the usual way.
  2. Apply the patches to branch-x.y.
  3. If z = 0, apply the first patch (only) to master.
  4. Sign a tag vx.y.z “Open vSwitch version x.y.z” and push it to the repo.
  5. Update See commit 31eaa72cafac (“Add 2.12.0 and older release announcements.”) in the website repo ( for an example.
  6. Consider updating the Wikipedia page for Open vSwitch at
  7. Tweet.


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