This article describes:
- The xMatters deployment process
- How we communicate about deployments, updates, and releases
- The Early Access Program
Subscribe to updates
To be notified automatically whenever a new article is published or an existing article gets updated, go to any section of this website (such as Highlights & Release Overviews), and click the Follow button at the top of the page.
To subscribe to notifications about major releases or any possible disruptions involving the xMatters service, visit our status page.
A note on process changes
We regularly reevaluate and improve our deployment processes to ensure that they reflect industry best practices and customer feedback. Whenever we make a change, we'll update this document and let you know about the change through other appropriate channels.
How we deploy xMatters
The goal of our current delivery model for xMatters is to balance feature delivery with customer change-management processes. This means providing an acceptable level of visibility into upcoming changes for customers that require it, while simultaneously delivering fixes and updates as quickly as possible. In addition, we need to provide some customers with a non-production environment that matches production.
With these goals in mind, we've adopted the following deployment model:
- Features and functionality enhancements that impact end users are delivered to production environments on a quarterly basis. Each release is named (in alphabetical order) after a classic arcade game, and the next release is announced immediately after the prior one goes to production.
- All customer non-production environments are updated four weeks prior to the official, production release to allow for testing and user training on new features.
Early access releases
- We allow customers to opt their non-production environments into an Early Access Program (EAP) to see new functionality before it's released. Customers enrolled in the EAP will typically see new features every month, or as often as every week in the build up to the quarterly release. For more information about the program, see the How to get early access to features section below.
Administrator and developer releases
- Based on customer requests, features that are only visible to admins/developers are released at a pace faster than our quarterly release process. These features should not impact end users unless a customer provisions them into their process. This includes workflow templates, admin settings, Flow Designer steps, reporting enhancements, and company configuration options.
- The xMatters API is also updated as new endpoints or enhancements are developed. Updates are noted on the Development Highlights page, and documented in detail in the xMatters REST API help.
Continuous deployment releases
- Our system is a complex combination of xMatters services and communication providers that requires we adapt quickly to changes in SMS & voice networks, security alerts, and other time-sensitive contexts. The nature of the xMatters service means that we can deploy different components (or micro-services) without affecting or deploying other services. These deployments can happen as infrequently as once or twice a week, and as often as several times per day.
Hard and soft freezes
During the most critical and busiest times for our customers, we incorporate two types of code freezes to prevent any incidents or changes that could impact their incident response and management system.
- During a hard freeze, there are no deployments except to address major issues or service outages. Lower priority updates and bug fixes are held back until after the code freeze. For example, our hard freeze windows for 2023 are from November 20 through 27 (encompassing Us Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday) and December 18 through 26 (last shopping week before Christmas).
- We also avoid major changes during a soft freeze, but bug fixes and other important updates can still go out. Our soft freeze window for 2023 is December 27 through January 1, 2024 (busy retail season with many workers also taking holiday).
How we communicate about deployments
There are several key ways we communicate with customers about deployments:
- Quarterly release overviews describing all of the new features and updates included in each quarterly release.
- Support notes and development highlights that provide an overview of updates to existing features and functionality, and for other non-feature changes such as bug fixes.
- xInsights, our monthly customer newsletter, contains many links to useful articles, blog posts, and upcoming events, and includes a reminder of our scheduled releases and feature availability. The newsletter is sent to users based on their role in xMatters — if you've been unsubscribed or want to otherwise get on the list, reach out to your CSM for information.
- We often announce or preview major features with an article in our Product Updates section, and publish updates as features get closer to release. Follow the Product Updates section to be notified whenever a new article goes live.
Four weeks before the quarterly release appears on all production systems, we publish a complete breakdown and description of everything that's included in the update - as you can see in the Pole Position, Q*bert, and Robotron overviews.
The release overview contains a tour of each new feature that will be available in the upcoming deployment, and often an accompanying breakdown of how each new functionality works. In addition, the release overview provides a schedule of when updates will be available in non-production environments, and when they'll be accessible in production systems.
Each named quarterly release has a Development Highlights document (for example, Space Invaders) that provides updates throughout the quarter on new features and functionality that we're working on for the upcoming quarterly release.
This document is typically updated once per week. The development highlights include descriptions of features released to non-production environments enrolled in the EAP, features released to the Admin and Developer tabs, and previews of upcoming features. It also includes information about enhancements to the xMatters API and updates to the mobile apps.
The “Support Notes” section within each weekly update briefly outlines changes that are not covered by the Development Highlights. The goal of the support notes is to indicate which parts of the product have been modified, and to provide a brief change summary. The support notes typically describe fixes or minor enhancements, which can sometimes affect product behavior.
The Development Highlights document for the quarterly release currently in development is always available in the Highlights & Release Overviews section.
xMatters deployments are "zero-downtime", meaning that they do not require any interruption in service. While quarterly release deployments are announced on the xMatters status page (subscribe for reminder notifications) the week before the release goes into production, administrator and continuous deployment releases can go live at any time and are announced and detailed in the development highlights article early the following week.
How to get early access to features
As discussed above, major feature releases to production environments occur on a quarterly cadence, with the exception of fixes, and features and functionality that do not impact end users, such as updates to the Workflows page — including Flow Designer — and Admin tab features.
Customers wanting to view all new functionality - including changes visible to end users - before the quarterly release can opt their non-production environments into the Early Access Program (EAP). Customers enrolled in the EAP will typically see new features every week as we build up to a quarterly release.
If you're considering the EAP, there are a few important things to know:
- You can enroll in the Early Access Program at any time through a support request.
- Opting out of the EAP can only be done on quarterly boundaries. This means that customers cannot opt in and out between releases, so enrollment should be considered carefully with this strict limitation in mind.