A huge step forward by doing 1000 small steps

Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in ownCloud | 5 Comments

Today the ownCloud community released ownCloud 8.1. You might think it sounds like a smaller release because we called this 8.1 instead of 9.0 but you’d be wrong. The contributor community hasn’t slowed down, quite the opposite. By the end of last year we decided to do smaller releases instead of huge ones. Because of that we will jump to a major version number only once a year and will increase the minor version number for the other releases. So this one is called 8.1 but it’s a major new version. So what is in 8.1?

I try to talk to ownCloud users as much as possible. At all the trade shows and conferences that I visit during the year, on github by working with the incoming bug report and feature requests and by talking with the big ownCloud customers and prospects. There is one request that I hear more than others: “please concentrate on the quality and the performance of ownCloud at the next release”. So this is exactly what we did for ownCloud 8.1 which we announce today.

The big new hallmark feature of ownCloud 8.1 is that *there is no hallmark feature*. We improved a lot of smaller things and annoyance and streamlined ownCloud in a lot of areas. But there is not one big thing that is standing out. Yet we improved a ton of small things that, at the end, result in a huge step forward for the experience of our users.

Let me go over some of the changes in detail:

  • Quality. We closed over 500 bugs during the ownCloud 8.1 development phase. This is a huge number, bigger than ever before. A lot of small annoyances and problems in certain scenarios or architectures are gone.
  • Performance. We improved the WebDAV and sync performance significantly. We did some performance tests and we see over 4x the performance for many common file operations and syncing compared to 8.0, which was already a lot faster than 7.0. Additionally the Desktop syncing client got a lot of performance improvements in the last few releases. One example is the increased number of parallel requests it does while communicating by the servers. This all leads to a significantly improved sync performance.
  • Reliability in super high load situations. If you run ownCloud instance with ten thousands of users accessing much of that data in parallel on an ownCloud cluster, we discovered you could see concurrency problems when the system is under heavy load. This is very unlikely to happen in smaller instances but needs to be adressed of course. To improve this we implemented a transactional filesystem locking system that is available in 8.1 as preview. The plan is to have this on by default for 8.2.
  • The encryption app got rewritten. The code is now way more reliable, stable, easier to maintain and extend then before. This is especially important for some enterprise users who want to implement their own encryption system or integrate their enterprise key server. With the new modular encryption system this is now possible.
  • The LDAP configuration wizard is a lot more user friendly and more responsive when configuring very big directories with huge numbers of users and groups.
  • We deprecated the support for PHP 5.3 which is no longer supported by the PHP community for a while. Additionally we deprecated the support of the ownCloud server running on Windows. Windows as a client is still fully supported of course. This eliminates a lot of bugs that we had to deal with because of these legacy systems.
  • The App Store system is now improved and easier to use. Users can install apps easier than before, including the many experimental 3rd party apps for testing. Please note that experimental and not reviewed apps should not be used on a production instance because of potential security and data loss risks.
  • We extended the Updater app to support update channels. You can choose if you want to get daily updates, beta releases stable releases or if you want to be even more conservative and update a few days after the stable releases. The details are described in this blog post
  • ownCloud Documents got updates to the latest WebODF version which makes everything more stable and usable. More information can be found in a blog post coming later this week.
  • We did a bunch of smaller UI improvements to make ownCloud easier to use. So there are way more links from the UI to the corresponding documentation pages, more configuration hints, better debug messages and overall design improvements.
  • Additionally we improved a lot of code in the background that leads to a higher unit test coverage and overall better quality.
  • We also started to implement automatic smashbox into our development workflow. This is of course additionally to all the other automatic CI and unittests that we already do. This helps a lot to make sure that syncing is always stable in al circumstances. Smashbox was developed by CERN and is now pushed forward be the ownCloud community and CERN together. Please see this blog post and this blog post for details.

More information about this awesome release an be found here.
I think that this is the most polished, stable, easiest to use and faster ownCloud release so far. And I have to say that I’m super proud about the awesome work that the fast growing ownCloud contributor community did here.

More and more people get interested in ownCloud as users, contributors or developers of 3rd party apps. This makes me very happy.

If you want to experience this community and start to contribute then you should join us in August in Berlin for the ownCloud Contributor Conference. More information can be found here



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  2. Steve Spaw

    S3 and 8.1 upgrade with “Download Broker” ???

    We recently upgraded from 7.x to 8.1 and it was fairly smooth.

    We have OwnCloud on EC2 and use S3 as our “external” storage (it is our only storage). It has been working OK for a year, upload and download performance was an issue but usable. We have 1000’s of large files, 4-16 GB. The pinch point of all files going through the EC2 first and then to S3 has been a bottleneck.

    Now with 8.1 everything is slower. 🙂 and existing folders read “pending”, but work.

    We upgraded because of the allure of this feature which we thought is exactly what we needed:

    “Download Broker Improves Performance¶ When ownCloud delivers universal file access to end users, files from many different document sources are aggregated into a single interface and served to end users. In some cases, passing all of the files aggregated in this interface through a single server, ownCloud, slows down data access. ownCloud now supports direct downloads of files from select storage back-ends, reducing the load on the ownCloud server without sacrificing control over the files that are stored in the various back end systems.”

    I cannot find any information about this feature and how we can use it.

    The holy grail for us is to allow power users on our system to use s3 directly for storage and have those files sync with OwnCloud for the technically challenged clients we have that need to download some of these files and send some to us. We were hoping that 8.1 would get us closer.

    Where are we going wrong and what should we expect?
    Is this a crazy idea?

    Thanks a lot for any insight. Steve

    • Frank Karlitschek

      I’m sorry that you have a problem. I suggest that you ask this question in the forum at forum.owncloud.org or in the github owncloud bugtracker.
      Thanks a lot.

      • Steve Spaw

        I did in both, no response.

        Thanks for this great software,


  3. Thomas T.

    Thanks to the whole community for that great software and the freedom and privacy it provides!


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