In the proprietary software world, the beta program is the only way to get insight into what’s coming in the next release. Sure, roadmap presentations under NDA with the Chief Architect also give a good idea – but the truth is, one doesn’t know how it works until they can actually kick the tires.
Open source is different. The development process is open, and progress on features is visible to anyone who cares to follow the project tracker. And since builds are produced on a regular basis, anyone can download the latest milestone release and try out the new features, pretty much before everyone. Now, of course, before everyone also means before the QA teams, and it hence means that not everything in a milestone release is production-grade. That’s the usual tradeoff between early access and solid, tested features. And that’s one of the key contributions of the community: in return for this early access, they provide feedback that is used by R&D and QA to tune the software.
There are two limits to this model.
- Early access is OK for development tools. Developers can run several versions, and “experiment” with a milestone release while keeping the proven, tested version active just in case, or for actual production work. But when it comes to a production system, that is often mission-critical, early access won’t cut it. IT Operations want (and need) tested and qualified software. And they can always run several versions side by side.
- Because of the open core nature the model, not all features are included in the downloadable open source version. Early access (or I should say, “earlier access”) to these features requires a more formal process.
This is where the beta program comes into play. It provides access to a proven, tested version, and to specific support that is trained to help out beta customers and ensure that any feedback collected during this time-limited program will be leveraged for the actual release.
Beta is a win-win proposition. Beta customers gets to discover and try out new features before they go live, and can plan ahead of time the implications of their deployment. They can kick the tires, and do so safely. The vendor gets access to real-life environment that complement the test beds used by QA (and marketing gets a nice quote for the press release but that’s just a side benefit).
Talend v5.3 is just down the road. The beta program is about to start. We have a good complement and variety of customers on board already, but we can still accommodate some candidates. If you’re interested, let us know here!