2017-05-30 Guidelines for Managing Releases of Binary Artifacts

Until recently, the community has avoided releasing “binary” artifacts such as compiled executables, operating system packages, or system images. We have cited several reasons for the existing policy:

  1. Binary executables, especially for languages that statically link, vendor, or aggregate dependencies, are harder to update if the code is subject to logical or security-related bugs.
  2. System packages built in the community are not likely to be supported by the system vendors.
  3. System and container images contain many different pieces of software, and therefore have an even greater risk of including faulty or malicious content.

Because the community did not have the resources to support the inevitable use of binary artifacts in production deployments, we focused on distributing OpenStack in source form by publishing source archives to tarballs.openstack.org. We have also published developer-focused Python package formats such as sdists and wheels to pypi.python.org because those formats are useful in our own CI systems, and because it seemed clear, if only implicitly, that consumers of the packages would understand they are not supported for production use.

In contrast, the open source communities based around some of the tools that we are adopting do release binary artifacts as a standard practice. Container images and full system images are often published to community-specific indexing services such as Docker Hub or Vagrant’s Atlas service. The results can then be consumed by anyone familiar with the tools for searching those repositories. Binary executables built from compiled languages such as Go are often made available from project websites, as well.

Guidelines

Although our community still does not have resources to support production deployments, this shift in the common practices of other communities is leading some of our teams to want to distribute binary artifacts as well. This resolution describes some guidelines for doing so, while mitigating the risks associated with someone inevitably using the results in production.

  • Users need to know what they are getting when they download artifacts, to enable them to know which artifacts are compatible with each other, with their infrastructure and to be able to find appropriate documentation. For this reason, the metadata for each artifact must clearly specify the name and version of the principal component it contains as well as the architecture for which it is built. For example, if an image contains the nova conductor from version 16.0.0, that information should be accessible, either through the name or through metadata associated with the image using whatever mechanism is common to the index or repository service where the image is published.
  • Consumers of these artifacts need to be able to track bugs and security issues in components included in the artifacts. For this reason, all published binary artifacts must be accompanied by a manifest describing the versions of all components used to build it, whether they be the libraries used to build an executable or the system packages included in an image.
  • The contents of binary artifacts “age” and become out of date as development work continues, either on the primary component or on dependencies built into the artifact. Consumers of these artifacts need to know whether they have a recent version, or if they are far out of date. For this reason, all binary artifacts should include metadata containing the date they were built, as well as the date they were published (if it is different).
  • Users need to be able to reproduce environments, and developers need to be able to reproduce builds in order to investigate issues. Contributors to projects should not be expected to support or debug arbitrary versions packaged by someone else. For these reasons, binary artifacts published to third-party registries should only be built from well-defined points in the history of an OpenStack project, identified with signed tags on the git repository. The inputs to recreate the build, including configuration files and build scripts, must be made available so that anyone can rebuild the image.
  • We do not want the artifacts to be seen as owned by the community at large, if only a few people can actually address issues. For this reason, the metadata for binary artifacts must not say or imply that they are produced by “the OpenStack community.” Specific team names should be used instead.
  • Because only a subset of the community is producing and maintaining the artifacts, we need to ensure it is clear to consumers where to go if they do want help. For this reason, each artifact must be published with metadata, such as a bug tracker URL, describing where and how to seek help.
  • Consumers of these artifacts need to understand the limits of the support they are likely to be able to receive. All of our official projects are released under the Apache License, which includes a Disclaimer of Warranty stating that the software is provided without warranty and a Limitation of Liability saying that contributors are not liable for damages. It also, however, includes a clause allowing “redistributors” to offer additional levels of support. Teams must not indicate that they are offering support for any binary artifacts in a way that implies the warranty or liability for that support extends to the rest of the community.

References