Handling Backports

All development of Ferrocene happens in the main branch, but occasionally we have to backport PRs from main into a release branch. This usually happens when preparing the documentation for an upcoming release, or when a bug fix also affects a supported release.

We developed tooling to aid backporting: this page explains how it works and how to use it.

Automated Backports

In most cases, backporting a PR doesn’t require running any command locally or manually opening PRs. The automated backport tooling allows creating backports from the GitHub UI, thanks to labels.

Backport Phase 1: Marking PRs as Backport Candidate

Whenever a PR is merged, the automation will add the backport:maybe label to the PR, marking it as a candidate for backport. This is only done when no other backport label is present:

  • PRs from different automations often have the backport:never label, instructing the backport automation not to mark it as a candidate.

  • PRs already marked with a backport target (like the backport:1.76) are not marked as a candidate, since during code review they were already deemed to be backported.

Backport Phase 2: Triaging Backport Candidates

Periodically, a Ferrocene developer must go through the list of backport candidates and make a decision on whether to backport the PRs, and to which branches to backport them to.

If a PR should not be backported, the developer must remove the backport:maybe label.

If a PR should be backported, the developer must decide the releases to backport it to, and apply the relevant backport target label, creating one if it doesn’t exist yet. Backport target labels are called backport:1.NN, and will cause a backport into the release/1.NN branch.

Backport Phase 3: Automated Backport Creation

Every day, the automation will collect all PRs with a backport target label (added in phase 2) and will try to backport them all into the target branch. It will then open a PR with the changes, that must go through the Development Process.

If there are conflicts, the automation will skip just the conflicting PRs, and add the backport:manual label to them. This indicates a developer must follow the manual backporting process.

Backport Phase 4: Automated Backport Labels Removal

All backport commits created with the backport tooling, either manually or through the automation, contain metadata in the commit message identifying which PR they are a backport of.

Thanks to those labels, the automation will remove the relevant backport:NN label from a PR as soon as a backport of it is merged into the target branch, leaving the other labels intact. Thanks to this, developers will never have to manually remove backport target labels!

Manual Backports

If backporting would result in a conflict, a manual backport is required, where it’s up to the developer to manually fix the conflict. PRs with backport conflicts have the backport:manual label.

To backport a PR, create a branch targeting the release branch you want to backport to, and run:

ferrocene/tools/backport/one.py PR_NUMBER

The command will configure and execute a git rebase to backport the PR’s commits into the current branch. As the rebase progresses, you will encounter conflicts: resolve them, and then run git rebase --continue to proceed. Once the rebase finishes, you can backport other PRs or push the branch to GitHub for review.

Note that the manual backport script also adds the correct metadata needed for Backport Phase 4: Automated Backport Labels Removal to run: as long as you use the script, you will not need to manually remove the backport labels from the PR.