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Techniques

Release train

Apr 2019
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We've seen organizations successfully move from very infrequent releases to a higher cadence by using the release train concept. The release train is a technique for coordinating releases across multiple teams or components that have runtime dependencies. All releases happen on a fixed and reliable schedule regardless of whether all expected features are ready (the train doesn't wait for you — if you miss it you wait for the next one). Although we wholeheartedly endorse discipline around regularly releasing and demoing working software, we've experienced serious drawbacks with the approach over the medium to long term as it reinforces temporal coupling around sequencing of changes and can degrade quality as teams rush to complete features. We prefer to focus on the architectural and organizational approaches necessary to support independent releases. Although the train can be a useful forcing function for speeding up slower teams, we've also seen it as imposing an upper limit on how quickly faster-moving teams can move. We believe that it is a technique that should be approached with a good degree of caution, if at all.