Posted by: Jeff Timmins | November 30, 2016

What to call that Release?

A Release is a Release is a Release? G. Stein (revised)

Are names of Releases important? Should the Software/Service Industry care what we call it Internally or Externally?

From my memory of the shrink-wrap days of Microsoft, they put out regular Releases, Service Packs and Hotfixes (KBs). The today’s Cloud World we see fun names for Releases “Winter ’17” or “Serengeti” but Service Packs and Hotfixes are not well published. When you see a version like “” you get the hint that this is not the original Release but it doesn’t scream “I’m a Hotfix”. Customers of SaaS vendors that throw around Hotfix too many time typically move on to another solution.

Why should we are about Release names anyway? Why can’t we just call each Release brucesBruce? I mean we could call everything Bruce and while that would be fun and easy to remember it might be confusing for normal people. But I digress.

Release names are important! They help us understand and easily discuss what change happened + it sometimes helps understand why the Release was important. Great but what about “fixes” to the main Release – should they have distinguishing names as well? My vote is “Yes please!” for the same reason that Release name or number should be unique – I’d like to know what Major Release that fix was associated with. This comes in handy during Support calls (what version are you using?) or building a Non-Production environment (I need version X in Staging please) or discussing past or upcoming Releases with Staff (Release Y for Project Llama on Saturday, Release 1 for Project Sam on Tuesday).

Great, names are important but what about the term “Hotfix”, is that necessary to use anymore? I have to admit I have used it many times over the years as an Internal label but I’m being challenged to stop that practice. Why was it important to use before? Because I wanted to track problematic Releases and look for trends that caused it. (Due to tracking I was encouraged to decrease my Release schedule in late December and early January, when I did Release quality increased!) That said, my tracking needs don’t require the label “Hotfix” to be shared with 400 Internal Customers. When it is shared, those Internal Customers could start to develop a poor attitude towards the creators of the code. As long as I have a build number or use a label like “update 1” I can track the Releases and keep track of which “update” was planned and which one requires a Root Cause Analysis (RCA).


Going forward I’m dropping the Hotfix label when communicating Release names – how about you?



  1. We don’t expose build numbering externally for our SaaS application. Internally though, releases have a number, with a major and minor version appended. Hotfixes are simply an incremental version of the build, although the hotfix release event is identified by the yyyymmdd_nn schedme

    Major releases have a code name for those that don’t want to think numerically. Ironically, the names for next year were chosen by someone named Bruce.

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