This article describes how we:
- Deploy our On-Demand service
- Communicate about deployments
- Provide early access to features and functionality
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To be notified automatically whenever an update or new article is published, go to the the On-Demand Platform section of this website, and click the Follow button at the top of the page. Starting in late October, we will also use status page notifications to communicate the deployment status.
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 On-Demand
The goal of our current delivery model for xMatters On-Demand is to balance feature delivery with customer change management processes. This means providing visibility into upcoming changes for customers that want it, while allowing other customers to have a more standard 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.
- All customer non-production environments are updated two weeks prior to the official, production release to allow for testing and training on new features (this is non-negotiable).
Early access releases
- We allow customers to opt their non-production environments into an Early Access Program 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 Early Access 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 will be released at a pace faster than our quarterly release process. These features should not impact end users until a customer provisions them into their communication plan.
- 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 On-Demand 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. Continuous deployments are currently twice weekly, except when an urgent fix is required.
How we communicate about deployments
There are several key ways we communicate with customers about deployments:
- Quarterly release overview describing all of the new features and updates included in the release.
- Development highlights that focus on new features and functionality
- Support notes that provide an overview of other non-feature changes such as bug fixes
Each are described in more detail below.
Two 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 Wolverine and Task Force X 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 the update will be available in non-production environments, and when it will be accessible in production systems.
The quarterly release overview coincides with a webinar presentation by xMatters product managers, which consists of a walk-through of select features and enhancements included in the quarterly release. See an example of the Task Force X release webinar here.
Each named quarterly release has a Development Highlights document (i.e., TFX, Rogue) that provides updates throughout the quarter on new features and functionality that we're working on for the upcoming quarterly release.
This document is updated for each numbered deployment of xMatters On-Demand (typically once per week). It includes descriptions of features released to non-production environments enrolled in the EAP, features released to the Admin and Developer tabs, and sneak previews of upcoming features. It also includes information about enhancements to the xMatters API and updates to the mobile apps.
The Development Highlights document for the quarterly release currently in development is available from the On-Demand Highlights & Release Overviews section on the xMatters community.
For each deployment, we also publish support notes that briefly outline the changes made in each release that are not covered by the Development Highlights.
The goal of these support notes is to indicate which parts of the product have been modified, and to provide a brief change summary. While most features will be added to production environments as part of our quarterly releases, the support notes typically describe fixes, which can sometimes affect product behavior.
Twenty-four hours prior to a deployment, our Support team will post a "Deployment Scheduled" notice on the status page, and the support notes will be posted here, in the On-Demand Platform section. If a deployment is scheduled for a Monday or the day after a holiday, the support notes will be posted on the last business day before the deployment.
The deployments are "zero-downtime", meaning that they do not require any interruption in service. If for any reason during the release there is a delay in the operating window (which is very rare, having happened only a few times since we adopted our weekly release cadence), we'll post an update to the maintenance notice.
Once the update has been deployed to all productions systems, the Development Highlights article will be updated to reflect the newest version.
How to get early access to features
As discussed above, 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 the Communication Plan Builder 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 early access program 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.