Cryptography and SSL/TLS Toolkit

Time-based Release Policy

This policy outlines the systematic process followed for the time-based release of the OpenSSL software library. The approach aims to deliver regular, predictable updates and innovations to users while maintaining optimal workflow and efficient resource management within the OpenSSL organisation.

This document covers the release schedule and the various phases that comprise our release cycle: planning, release definition, development, and release stages including alpha, beta, and final release. It also outlines the support lifecycle following each release.

The focus of this policy is on adhering to the timeline of releases, rather than on ensuring the inclusion of new features. Accordingly, if a feature isn’t ready by the set release date, the release proceeds as scheduled instead of being delayed for that feature.


The OpenSSL release schedule follows a biannual model, with new versions being launched every April and October. Multiple releases may be active concurrently, resulting in overlapping release cycles. Each release is divided into the following phases:

  • Planning: Continuous process, provides input to the Release Definition phase.
  • Release Definition: Defines release backlog, lasts up to 4 weeks.
  • Development: Execution of the release backlog, spans from 20 to 24 weeks.
  • Release: Addressing issues discovered by the community in pre-releases. Up to 6 weeks.
  • Support: A support phase.


1. Planning

Planning is a continuous process of backlog refinement, running outside of release cycles, leading up to the Release Definition phase. This phase involves regular planning and backlog refinement sessions where the prioritised product backlog is developed, including epics and estimated work items. Work items refer to features that have passed acceptance criteria1 and bugs requiring a substantial time to resolve.

2. Release Definition

The Release Definition phase begins concurrently with the Alpha phase of the preceding release and can extend up to four weeks. A shorter phase duration allows for a more extensive development phase. In this phase, the release’s scope is established. A release steering committee2 assumes responsibility for defining the release theme and priorities, taking into consideration the decomposed and estimated product backlog items. The phase’s outcome includes a finalised release backlog and a release plan, both of which require sign-off by the OpenSSL Management Committee (OMC). Following the sign-off, the release plans are communicated externally.

3. Development

The Development phase centres on the implementation and execution of tasks identified in the release backlog. The phase can span from 20 to 24 weeks. To ensure timely release, commitments are periodically verified, and necessary adjustments are made. While the release backlog is generally maintained as initially defined, modification may be authorised by the release steering committee under specific circumstances, such as:

  • A task, initially underestimated, poses a risk of not being completed.
  • The emergence of an unexpected high-priority task necessitates immediate resolution.

Any modifications to the release backlog should be conducted with an intent to preserve the balance. Thus, whenever a task is added, an equivalent effort lower priority task(s) must be removed. Conversely, when a task is removed, another may be added to the release backlog provided that such a task fits within the available time and is not prioritised higher than any existing task within the release backlog.

This phase concludes with an alpha release readiness check by the steering committee. Upon successful completion of this check, an alpha release is created, marking the beginning of the Alpha phase.

4. Release

The Release phase of OpenSSL library commences with the creation of an alpha release at the end of the Development phase and spans over a period of six weeks. In the Release phase, no new features can be added, nor can any code refactoring be planned to be undertaken. Effective communication at this stage is crucial to ensure the quality of the release and, consequently, the success.

  • Alpha: During this phase, feature development is complete and feedback from the community is being actively addressed. Testing, bug fixing, and documentation updates are ongoing. Any critical issues discovered may lead to the removal of the offending code.
  • Beta: This phase signifies the library is nearing its final release. Testing remains intensive, but the focus is on ensuring stability. While all identified regressions and critical concerns from the alpha phase must have been addressed, only crucial, last-minute fixes are expected here.
  • Final: The Final phase is focused on release preparation. No code fixes, no documentation amendments — just the steps essential for the release. The tasks involved are limited to the necessary steps described in the Making an OpenSSL Release document, such as updating the list of known issues, tagging the code in the git tree, and issuing digital signatures. Once these tasks are completed, the phase culminates with the new release being made publicly available and announced.

See Release Requirements Policy for details on each type of release.

5. Support

  • Full Support: Upon the final release a one-year Full Support period is initiated for regular releases, and a four-year Full Support period for LTS releases. During this phase, bugs and security issues are addressed and fixed according to the Stable Release Updates Policy.
  • Maintenance Support: Immediately after the Full Support phase ends, the Maintenance Support phase begins, lasting for one year. During this phase, the primary focus is on fixing security issues, although other bugs may be addressed at the discretion of OpenSSL engineering.

  1. Feature Acceptance Criteria - 🚧 The document is a work in progress.↩︎

  2. Release Steering Committee - A group comprised of four individuals: one internal member from OpenSSL, two specially invited representatives from the community, and the engineering manager. This committee is dedicated to guiding the release cycle, defining release priorities, and authorizing release backlog modifications.↩︎