We’ve reached the last milestone before the release of VistaDB 5 – The Release Candidate version has been posted for download. Befitting the designation “release candidate”, this build is feature complete, delivering on the commitments we made for 5.0 and a few items that have come up along the way.
Naturally we’d encourage you to read the full, majestic What’s New section of the documentation but if you’ve been trying out Preview 3 you’ll find that the major changes in 5.0 RC are:
- Visual Studio Designers: The full VS design experience is available in VS 2010 and later. We’ve addressed some long-standing defects with our Visual Studio integration and added support for VS 2013.
- Entity Framework 6: VistaDB 5 supports the new provider model for Entity Framework 6 as well as the previous model for Entity Framework 4 and 5. We’ve improved the designer performance as well, dropping some database model refresh operations by 80%.
- More Performance: With the help of users like yourselves we identified a few additional cases where the new optimization method didn’t perform as well as it should and addressed them.
- CEIP Program: VistaDB 5 is the first version of VistaDB to incorporate our Customer Experience Improvement Program. With this, we can get telemetry on the VistaDB Design & development experience so we can help support all our customers better. See more on this below.
In addition to the major features listed above, the following notable changes are also complete in 5.0 RC:
- File Format Changes: This release debuts the new VistaDB 5 file format, along with all of the tooling necessary to upgrade to it. This is a one-way conversion, but you can be assured that if you do convert you will not have to do so again when 5.0 final ships.
- File Name Changes: We’ve renamed all of the redistributable files so they don’t conflict with VistaDB 4 and now offer separate .NET 2.0 and .NET 4.0 redistributables. The directory structure and file names are not expected to change for final release.
- New Assembly Versions: You’ll notice that the new assemblies are version 184.108.40.206 instead of 220.127.116.11 or 18.104.22.168 (for the preview releases and the current production release respectively)
In short, this release completes all of the compatibility -related issues. We expect 5.0 final to be binary compatible with files and APIs for the RC.
Entity Framework 6
A major change since VistaDB 4 shipped is the widespread use of ORM tools in place of direct ADO.NET access. Along with this we’re investing in enhanced EF support which begins with supporting the new provider model in Entity Framework 6. There are some extra steps required to use EF 6 compared to previous versions so be sure to read up in the documentation on how to enable this support in your project.
VistaDB 5 incorporates the same Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) that we’ve been using with Loupe for five years. Under this program, runtime diagnostic and performance information is gathered while using the developer tools (in this case the Visual Studio Designer, Data Builder, and Data Migration Wizard). If you opt into our CEIP program then this telemetry is periodically uploaded to our secure servers for analysis so we can identify problems and get them resolved as fast as possible.
Since 5.0 RC is a pre-release build it’s automatically opted into this program if you install the RC build. This automatic opt-in only applies to the RC build (and just to VistaDB) so when you install 5.0 Final you’ll see a dialog asking if you want to opt into our program. If you say no then no problem – diagnostic information will still be collected locally but nothing is sent to our servers at all. If, down the road, you have a support issue and want to send us some information to help out you can.
So what’s between us and the final 5.0 release? Mostly time – there are several things we can only do once the feature set and internal details are locked in and our partners need time to verify our release.
A Little Help from our Friends
We know that a major reason folks pick VistaDB is our compatibility with a number of third party applications – like ORM tools, reporting systems, and other libraries. We have a good relationship with many of these developers and as part of that we want them to have some time with our release candidate before 5.0 final ships so they can be ready to support it on day one. We also want to be sure we can address any issues they might identify. I simply can’t say enough about how valuable ORM vendors have been to helping us prove out VistaDB 5.0 – they have the toughest test suites in the business because they end up holding the bag whenever there’s an issue across many database engines.
Polish and Packaging
The other item left on our TODO list before 5.0 final can ship is to give the VistaDB help documentation, samples, and web content a healthy review. The overwhelming majority of this content predates Gibraltar Software acquiring VistaDB (which was over three years ago!) and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback on it we want to incorporate. We believe that customers expect a final release to not just be a complete set of software but include all of the supporting materials up to date. We’ve made serious progress on this front (just check out the new help documentation for the Release Candidate) but we want to review every single page before release.
Final Release in January
It takes about four weeks to complete all of the work both we and our partners need to do from a release candidate to final release. Given the Christmas holiday where we largely shut down so all our employees can spend time with their families that puts the 5.0 Final release in the latter part of January. We’ve done enough extended validation with partners and customers that we don’t foresee any technical issues holding up that release. That said – as always we look for your feedback to be sure we’ve hit the mark on quality, performance, packaging and usability. If we haven’t please let us know so we can get it addressed and have 5.0 be the stellar release we’ve been working towards!