We basically distinguish between two terms:
The term “Release” means that we officially publish a new updated version. The minor number of this product has changed, which means that new features have been added to the product. The product has been run through complete system testing on its Tier 1 platforms.
A “Service Release” is an update that contains one or more bug fixes (cumulative bug fix). So typically only the maintenance number will change on a service release. This could be compared to a “Service Pack” type of update for the product. The service release can contain serious fixes together with minor bug fixes. Because the service release only contains punctual bug fixes we only test it punctually. We strongly recommend to always use the latest service release in order to have the latest and most stable version and to benefit from all the findings of the customer community.
Additionally there may be intermediate updates for individuals. Those are of “Hot Fix” type:
A “Patch” is a single fix for an individual issue that is provided to the reporter only. Typically, the patch is provided in source code and it contains just one file, one single function or even just a few lines of code. The reporter of the bug will receive instructions on how to apply the patch and he or she must retest and verify the bug fix. A patch is preliminary by its nature and is for pilot use only. All generic patches will be incorporated into the next upcoming cumulated service release and by this become officially available to the customer community.
Before a new major release is launched there are two types of preliminary editions:
We provide one or more “Beta” versions to a selected group of pilot and reference customers, who are actively helping us by reviewing functionality and features and by pre-testing in their environment. These existing customers and power users take part in the testing process prior to a new release and receive beta versions for this purpose. These versions may still contain errors and experimental features and are not intended for productive environments.
The last beta version prior to a new release is called “Technical Preview”. This version is made available to a larger audience and may even be available as evaluation edition to the general public. We also provide technical previews for complete new products and functionalities in order to get feedback from the field. The duration of the technical preview phase is four to eight weeks and it is the last chance to request minor changes and provide feedback on functionality.