Windows support update

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The OME team has always been committed to building specifications and software that are cross-platform solutions and that support as many different types of users as possible, including those with limited IT support/budget. In keeping with our open source ethos and the fact we rely on public and charity grant funding, we also try to use open source tools as part of our workflows for testing, building and deploying our products wherever possible. We do support commercial operating systems and platforms — we build and test OMERO.insight on Windows, actively work to support accessing the OMERO and Bio-Formats APIs in Matlab, and actively support browsing OMERO.web using IE.

Since the beginning of the OMERO project, we have actively tested and supported builds and tests of OMERO.server on Windows. Several users— students, faculty and institutions—have highlighted the importance of this support over many years. Therefore we are frustrated and saddened to announce that we have to withdraw support for OMERO.server on Windows starting with the 5.3.0 release. This means OMERO.web hosting will not be possible on Windows either. We will of course still support running OMERO.insight on Windows, OMERO.web browsing on IE and continue to provide full support for Bio-Formats on Windows (including the C++ components of this project). The reasons for this decision are outlined below.

Ever-increasing technical challenges

Our Continuous Integration (CI) system uses Travis and allows the OME Consortium’s work to be built and tested on a per-commit basis. One of the challenges of running OME’s CI system is including tests for the numerous products we release, across several operating systems with different configurations e.g. Python 2.7, Openjdk 1.8, Ice 3.5. The testing matrix is constantly growing; already we are adding Ice 3.6 and soon Java 1.9 will need to be on our radar too. The resources we have for building and maintaining our CI system aren’t infinite. We have to balance these resources with core development work. There’s always a tension between rapid development of new functionality and robust, reliable testing.

The focus of our OMERO 5.2.1 release was on deployment, following feedback from system administrators (e.g. this forum thread). We improved our server installation guides and OMERO.web deployment documentation, and provided stepwise deployment scripts, e.g. for CentOS 6 with Python 2.7. We extensively used Docker to test our Linux installation scripts and also to test our installation documentation. All the installation scripts are available (see omero-install) and run on the CI system each time a commit is pushed.

During the development phase of OMERO 5.2.1, we dedicated a large amount of extra resources—from the devops team and in terms of computing hardware—to test the Windows installation scripts and improve our installation documentation. This level of effort will not scale with the introduction of new elements to our testing matrix e.g. Ice 3.6 support. Moreover, we have other critical priorities—public repositories and improved support for ontologies to name but two—so we are forced to make difficult decisions.

Our usage statistics indicate that a large majority of production servers are installed on Ubuntu 14.04 and CentOS 6, and less than 10 % are run on Windows, so this decision should have relatively limited impact. We are, nonetheless, an open source project and aim to support our incredibly diverse community and the needs they have to deploy our software. So, even if only a few OMERO.server installations run on Windows, we very much want to support them. We simply can’t afford to do so.

For all these reasons, from version 5.3, we will not be able to support OMERO.server on Windows. Again, this is a build and testing issue, so if anyone out there would like to contribute their time, energy, expertise and compute resources to provide Windows support, we’d welcome them doing so. Instead, we will focus on ensuring we provide the best support we can for a range of UNIX-like systems, continuing the effort to make OMERO.server easier to install, maintain and manage.

This decision is for OMERO.server support and OMERO.web hosting only; we will continue to support and test OMERO.insight, OMERO.web browsing and all aspects of the Bio-Formats project on Windows.

March 22, 2016

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