March 7, 2024

In November 2023, after completing all the necessary work to bring FreeBSD 14.0 to fruition, Glen Barber, the Release Engineering Team Lead for FreeBSD, passed the leadership baton to Colin Percival, the former Deputy Release Engineering Team Lead.

Thanking Glen Barber

The FreeBSD community deeply appreciates Glen Barber for his invaluable contributions and steadfast dedication. As the Release Engineering Team Lead, Glen was instrumental in transforming the release engineering process. He overhauled the scripts for building releases, a crucial adaptation for the Project’s shift from SVN to Git, and developed the system for constructing all virtual machine images, including cloud vendor offerings. These advancements not only streamlined the release process but also broadened FreeBSD’s accessibility and functionality in cloud environments, marking a pivotal enhancement in the project’s infrastructure. Glen’s leadership in release engineering and commitment to process and documentation improvement have left a lasting legacy on FreeBSD’s development.

Colin Percival is a seasoned veteran in the FreeBSD community, with over two decades of association with the Project. His contributions to FreeBSD have been diverse, but his work on security has been particularly notable. His expertise in this domain has had a profound impact on the project.

Percival is well-known for developing FreeBSD Update, a service that enables the binary updating of FreeBSD systems, and for creating the Tarsnap online backup service, which is admired for its security-focused design. He has a DPhil in Computer Science from the University of Oxford, underpinning his innovative and methodical approach to solving complex problems within the FreeBSD ecosystem.

Percival’s vision for FreeBSD includes continuing its legacy of stability and performance and embracing emerging technologies and community engagement. His academic background in mathematics and computer science has given him a unique perspective on problem-solving and system architecture, which has been instrumental in his approach to tackling complex challenges within the FreeBSD project. 

Over the years, Percival has been involved in various roles within the FreeBSD Project, including serving as the FreeBSD Security Officer for seven years. He has consistently focused on enhancing the project’s security posture, optimizing performance, and ensuring system reliability across diverse hardware platforms, demonstrating his dedication to the project.

Also Read: FreeBSD 13.3, What’s new and how did we get here? (Blog)

The role of Release Engineering in the FreeBSD Project

Release Engineering is a crucial function in the FreeBSD Project that is responsible for planning, coordinating, and executing FreeBSD releases. This team ensures that each operating system version meets high quality, stability, and security standards to maintain FreeBSD’s reputation for reliability and excellence.

Ultimately, the Release Engineering Team is responsible for assembling the work of FreeBSD developers into a release, working closely with developers, testers, and the broader community to integrate feedback and address issues, ensuring that every release meets the Project’s rigorous requirements.

Key responsibilities of the Release Engineering team include:

  • Scheduling and Management: The team rigorously plans the release calendar, managing intricate timelines across multiple development branches to synchronize feature integration and testing phases, ensuring timely and coordinated progress.
  • Quality Assurance: Implements a comprehensive testing framework, leveraging automated testing suites and manual review processes to meticulously identify, analyze, and resolve defects, vulnerabilities, and efficiency bottlenecks, aiming for optimal stability and security.
  • Integration: Orchestrates the integration of new features and enhancements, employing strategies like feature flags and branch merging to preserve system integrity and backward compatibility, ensuring a smooth transition between versions.
  • Build and Release Process: Utilizes sophisticated build automation tools and continuous integration pipelines to compile the operating system, assemble installation images, and prepare virtual machine images and distribution packages, optimizing for compatibility across diverse hardware platforms.
  • Documentation: Collaborates with technical writers and community volunteers to produce detailed release notes, installation guides, and user manuals, updating documentation repositories to reflect the latest features and operational guidance.
  • Community Liaison: Actively engages with the FreeBSD user and developer communities through forums, mailing lists, and social media to solicit feedback, encourage beta testing, and streamline the contribution process, fostering a vibrant ecosystem of collaboration and support.

The role of Release Engineering is critical not only in delivering the technology that users and organizations rely on but also in shaping the future direction of the FreeBSD Project. Through their meticulous work, the Release Engineering team plays a key role in ensuring that FreeBSD continues to evolve in response to the needs of its users while maintaining the core values of open source innovation and excellence.

Percival has taken over as the Lead Release Engineer in the FreeBSD Project, sharing its values and dedicating himself to its future. His initiatives focus on improving FreeBSD’s relevance in the tech sector, including enhanced hardware compatibility, security features, and collaborative community initiatives. He aims to streamline the release process for greater efficiency, reliability, and community engagement, surpassing expectations with every new release, and empowering the community with new ideas, perspectives, and innovation, building a more inclusive and collaborative environment with lower barriers to entry for new contributors.

Get involved

Now more than ever, the FreeBSD Project thrives on the diverse contributions of its vibrant and dedicated community. Whether you are a seasoned developer, a newcomer with a keen interest in open-source technology, or someone passionate about contributing to open source, your unique skills and enthusiasm are essential to our collective success.

We invite you to join us in shaping the future of FreeBSD. Your participation, whether through coding, documentation, advocating, testing, or providing feedback, drives this pioneering project forward and integrates you into a community dedicated to achieving remarkable feats of technological advancement.

View our Contributing to FreeBSD page to discover how you can contribute. Embark on your FreeBSD journey today, and let’s collaborate to ensure that FreeBSD remains a robust, secure, and adaptable operating system for all.

Together, let’s drive the next wave of technological advancements with FreeBSD!