Sakai 2.6.0 Released!

I’m very pleased to announce that Sakai 2.6.0 is now officially available! Source, binary and demo distributions are available for download. For more information on what’s included in the release, see the release summary (in powerpoint) and the documentation page (in its fancy new format!).

This release is the second time we’ve taken Sakai through a revised process we originally put in place for 2.5. This process took the release through several beta and release candidate stages. While there will always be bugs in large complicated software packages like Sakai, we’re certain that the extra effort an attention that the community put into this process has resulted in a significantly higher quality release. In fact this process caused some significant delays to the release date as we found important bugs that needed to be fixed before the software was released (more on this below).

Also note that our release guidelines state that we will support the 2.6.0 release by producing maintenance releases for approximate 2 years.  And we support one major release back as well, so 2.5 will continue to get maintenance releases at least until 2.7 is available. The goal of the policy is to allow organizations to stay with the same version of Sakai for 2 academic years without needing to upgrade or follow the maintenance branch. The particulars details of how we manage this may change, but that’s the goal.

We want to thank everyone who has contributed and participated to the Sakai 2.6.0 release effort.  Special thanks goes out to Anthony Whyte, David Horwitz, Noah Botimer, Beth Kirschner, Matthew Jones, Jean-Francois Leveque, Adam Hocek, Michael Lavacca, Karen Tsao, Lydia Li, Peter Knoop, Thomas Amsler, Megan May, Angela Joyce Henry, Nancy Wilkison, Vern O’Connor and everyone who participated in the weekly release management meetings. We also want to take a moment to express our thanks to the early-adopters institutions (University of Cape Town, Indiana, Rutgers, Yale, and others) who are currently running release candidates of 2.6.0 successfully in production or test environments. Their efforts and feedback played a significant role in helping to identify critical issues, test installations and overall increase the quality of this release dramatically. And a last thank you to all the developers who volunteered their time to step up and address many unforeseen issues in the last few months.

We also simultaneous released Sakai 2.5.5, a maintenance release. This is not a coincidence. I said before that there were significant delays in the release due to bugs that were discovered. Several of these were security issues that also affected Sakai 2.5.4 (and in some cases earlier versions of Sakai).  When we find a potential security issue close to the release date we need to take several steps:

  • Verify the existence and severity of the issue. It may not actually be exploitable or it there may be a simple workaround. We’ll still want to fix it, of course, but we may be able to go ahead with the release and fix the issue in a maintenance release.
  • Determine whether the issue affects past releases. In this case we looked at both 2.4.x and 2.5.4.
  • Create fixes for all the affected releases and for trunk. Often the same code can be used for all the branches.
  • Verify the fixes.
  • Develop patches for the fixes that can be distributed to the security contacts at known Sakai installations.  This is one reason it is important to register your Sakai instances with us!
  • Give administrators at Sakai installations a week to upgrade their systems to close the vulnerability.
  • At that point we can publicly announce the issue and the fix. We do our utmost to keep things private until this point.

So, in this case, the 2.6.0 release had to wait until the patches for 2.4.x were ready and until the 2.5.5 release was ready. Otherwise we would be potentially telling the world about particular vulnerabilities that affected that past software. Read the wiki for more information on Sakai security policies. Of course this isn’t the only thing that affected the release date and we’ll be working to improve the process so that the next releases are more timely and predictable.

But for now, a big congratulations to the entire Sakai community for what is proving to be the most stable and reliable version of Sakai to date!

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