What is Release Engineering? A Brief Explanation

What is Release Engineering? A Brief Explanation

Have you ever wondered how big software companies manage to deliver their products seamlessly to a large user base? Or perhaps you've been curious about the magic behind the scenes that ensures software applications are scalable, secure, and ready to be deployed on a variety of platforms?

If these questions have ever crossed your mind, then you're in the right place. I'm going to share a brief explanation of Release Engineering, a critical aspect of software development. I hope to demystify some aspects of release engineering.

The need for release engineering arises from the challenge of building and testing applications that are scalable and secure across various platforms. This process must be done on maintainable infrastructure. Release engineering, in essence, creates this infrastructure to make the release processes run smoother. It ensures that a software product reaches its users efficiently and effectively.

My first encounter with release engineering was during my Outreachy application to Firefox. The term "Release Engineering" seemed intimidating initially. I was intrigued and decided to dive deeper, starting with Mozilla’s Codetribute platform on the Release Engineering page.

However, the real learning began when I reached out to my Outreachy mentors to understand their roles as Release Engineers at Mozilla. I was nervous, worried about mixing up technical terms or saying something incorrect. But to my surprise, my mentors were extremely supportive and patiently gave me clarifying answers.

This made me realize I need to be bold and ask questions! It's the quickest route from beginner to expert and most engineers and learners are helpful, especially within the open-source community.

During my time at Mozilla, I have learnt that Release Engineering involves creating fast and reliable pipelines to transform source code into shipped products.

The process at Mozilla includes initiating a release on Mozilla’s Ship It, configuring and scheduling the release on Taskcluster, signing the initiated release, uploading the release to the archive, installing and updating tests for the release, and finally, releasing the product for both initial downloads and new updates.

In summary, release engineering is all about working on the infrastructure and pipelines required to build, test, and deliver software. It's a blend of automation, managing, and defining best practices for these processes.

If you're interested in learning more about release engineering at Mozilla, I highly recommend the following resources:

  1. Welcome to the World of Release Engineering! by one of my mentors, Gabriel Bustamante, explaining how Release Engineering at Firefox works.

  2. Mozilla’s Release Engineering Docs

  3. Mozilla’s Release Engineering Wiki

  4. Introduction to release engineering article on O’Reilly. It is an excerpt from "Release Engineering," written by Dinah McNutt and edited by Betsy Beyer and Tim Harvey.