The first principle of Continuous Delivery is that every change introduced to the codebase should lead to a potential release.

Applying an automated build, deployment and test processes to this code change validates whether or not it can be released.

Unique version number for every build

If every introduced code change forms a new release candidate, each one of those should be identified with a unique version number. This way the successful release candidates can be released and the failed ones discarded.

In order to achieve this versioning strategy while still honouring Maven’s recommended version format, I propose for the developers to be responsible for defining the API version and make the build server responsible for the qualifier part:

<api_version>-<qualifier>

Developers define the API version

I strongly recommend using Semantic Versioning rules when versioning the API.

According to those, the <api_version> part of the version number consists of:

<major_version>.<minor_version>.<patch_version>

You increment:

  • <major_version> when you make incompatible API changes
  • <minor_version> when you add functionality in a backwards-compatible manner
  • <patch_version> when you make backwards-compatible bug fixes

In the Maven world this would translate to setting your pom.xml version to something like 1.0.0. Of course if you did that, Maven would treat this version number as a release rather than work in progress, making local development inconvenient.

To signify to Maven that the project is under active development, the SNAPSHOT qualifier needs to be added:

<major>.<minor>.<patch>-SNAPSHOT

This way the version defined in the pom.xml file becomes:

<version>1.0.0-SNAPSHOT</version>

So far - pretty standard.

Build server defines the qualifier

The purpose of giving a release candidate a meaningful qualifier is to be able to link a version of released software back to the matching revision of the codebase in the VCS.

It’s much easier to reproduce bugs found in a particular version or deterministically roll-back a problematic release to a working state if this link is explicitly stated in the version number itself.

For example, the Release Candidate plugin itself uses a combination of a timestamp and a short git hash, so that its version number looks like this:

1.0-201609171818.3e8187b

Read next: Command line usage (1 minute read)

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Version: 1.0-201609171818.3e8187b. Last Published: 2016-09-17.