What you ought to know about alpha, beta versioning

Excelling at your professional software environment is not just about Coding, it is also about understanding and following certain processes and standards. One such aspect which you have to deal with is - software release cycle. Though this part of software life cycle is handled by a specific group of people known as Release Managers, but it will keep on coming back to haunt you at crunch time. Any decision taken up by release management team will eventually affect you even if it is indirect interaction.

A software release refers to the periodic distribution of final version of a software application. It may include the relevant binaries, libraries, documentation and packages related to product support. To get to a final product, there are many steps involved in between such as - releasing an Alpha product, Code freeze, branching out the code to separate branch, beta release, Release to Manufacturing (RTM), General Availability (GA) etc. Let us focus on two very important steps - alpha and beta releases.

Alpha release is an internal release within the organization and marks the beginning of first round of testing. This is generally done when management feels that all the feature supposed to be supported for the current set of customers for this release cycle are complete. Alpha release is considered a bit unstable as it has only been tested mostly by developers and because of this trait it is very rarely made available outside the organization. Alpha release also onsets the freeze in development of new features and enhancement - this stage is known as Code Freeze. Only bug fixes are to be allowed during this stage.

Beta release is the first release which is made available outside the organization. However, it is only given to a very trusted set of customers so that they can do testing in their environment and return back with the set of issues to be fixed. Within the organization the focus is more on integrated, system level testing which also involves stress testing and performance analysis. The bugs raised during the beta release are categorized as must-fix issues.

The software release cycle involves a lot many intricacies and if you wish to know more you can grab a copy of my book - "Hello World: Student to Software Professional” published by Partridge (A Penguin Random House Company). Now available worldwide on all the MAJOR ONLINE Stores - Amazon, Google Play, Flipkart, Barnes & Noble and many others.
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