With a 4-week release cycle, Looker is constantly improving and adding new features for data analysts and business users. This guide explains our standard release and upgrade processes along with best practices and variations that may better fit your needs.
Table of Contents
Development and Release Cycle
Looker’s rapid release cycle enables us to quickly incorporate customer feedback and respond to high-priority items in a timely manner. Staying on top of our release cycle is a critical part of getting the most value out of Looker with how much our product is constantly evolving and improving. Here, we’ve laid out the details of our release and upgrade processes and what that means for your team as you grow in your use of of the product.
A new version of Looker is released every four weeks (called a minor version), and is then deployed to all customers over the next three weeks. This means that approximately every four weeks you will have an upgrade available.
At times, we will also release small update patches for fixes that shouldn’t wait for a new release. These are nearly always fixes for bugs or security issues, and, ideally, no new features will be in a patch release. The application of these patch updates follows the same process as upgrading during a standard release.
It’s a fast pace, so we’ll try to make it as simple as possible on your end.
Release Process Diagram
Our release numbering scheme uses a three-number sequence X.Y.Z, where X is the major version, Y is the minor version, and Z is the patch number for that minor version.
So, Looker 4.8.4 would be the 5th release (because we started with 4.8.0) of the Looker 4.8 release of the product.
A new major release only happens when highly significant changes or milestones happen in the product. The process won’t be different on your end, but we’ll be sure to call these out as they’ll have some particularly awesome additions.
How Do I Know Which Version I’m On?
Beginning in Looker 3.52, you can see your current version by clicking on the Help menu in the upper-right of the window. If you are an administrator, you navigate to [your looker url]/admin and view the version you’re using in the upper-right hand of the window. You can also view this at the bottom of the Help menu in Looker.
All users are able to opt in to release notes from their Account Settings section of Looker. Additionally, anyone listed as a Technical Contact within your instance of Looker (found in the General Settings under the Admin section) will receive release note notifications.
Keeping up to date with release notes is an important step in staying current with any new features and bug fixes. You can get the skinny on the latest release (and some additional coming attractions) by checking out the documentation posted to Looker Discourse. You can find the notes from older releases there too.
These are a great way to get a head start on new features in the product, so if you’re not currently receiving these, make sure to add yourself to the list!
Release notes are also posted at https://looker.com/docs/relnotes. Access to the notes from older releases can be found at https://looker.com/docs/relnotes/v3-release-notes.
We currently provide active support the most recent minor release and the previous two minor releases of the product. This means we’ll be sure to fix impactful bugs and security issues as well as provide full in-app product support for these versions of the product.
Beyond the previous two releases, we consider versions End-of-Life (EOL). You can find the version we currently support at www.looker.com/docs/supported-releases.
Note - your developers and administrators will have access to our Department of Customer Love through in-app chat support, but if you are running an older version of Looker, sometimes performing an upgrade may be the only fix available for certain issues.
Regardless, we’re here to help and can help you plan for an upgrade, look for short-term workarounds, and help you identify configurations to your version of the product to meet your needs if possible.
Part of Looker improving on a monthly basis includes deprecating features to make sure we are keeping the product clean and not too crowded. If you are on the release notification email list, you will receive a notice of any upcoming deprecated features.
We do keep legacy features for backwards compatibility to ensure you can upgrade without breaking anything, you just need an admin to turn them on and off within the admin panel. You can also track the legacy features end-of-life schedule to prepare for their full sunset.
Check out https://discourse.looker.com/t/legacy-features-end-of-life-schedule/ for more info.
Documentation Support for Previous Releases of Looker
Our Docs team has your back as well. At looker.com/docs, you’ll find information on the previous 8 releases.
Extended Support Release
While many organizations share our taste for the rapid product improvements associated with short release cycles, we understand the tradeoff that comes with this pace and why a slower cycle will be more appropriate for some of our customers.
To meet these needs, starting with Looker 4.20 every third minor release will receive an additional designation as an Extended Support Release (ESR).
While we will always give our best effort to maximize the stability of the product with each release, a release designated as an Extended Support Release will receive additional time for testing and for fixes to be in place prior to release.
We will also provide a longer window for development and product support for ESR releases, and will patch back fixes to Severity 1 and Severity 2-level issues until a new ESR is ready to go where relevant and feasible.
Validating New Extended Support Releases
Following the close of the standard release cycle and prior to being declared "stable", each Extended Support Release will have a four-week staging period. Because of the larger changes in the product between Extended Support Releases, we require that you first perform the upgrade on a staging server and test your content, workflows, and new features before fully moving to the new ESR. We cover more information on staging servers a little bit later in this document.
Opting in for the Extended Support Release
If you think the ESR is appropriate for you, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or your Success Team to discuss further.
You can find more information about the ESR, a discussion of costs and benefits, and a visual representation of the ESR schedule here.
The Upgrade Process
Looker-Hosted and Hosted On-Premises
The ownership of the upgrade process and the process itself varies by what option you’ve chosen for hosting your instance of Looker. Full details below, but TL;DR: If you’re hosted by Looker, we’ll take care of the upgrade process. If you host your instance of Looker, we’ll provide you instructions so you can perform the upgrade.
Upgrades for Looker-Hosted Instances
As mentioned above, if your instance is hosted by Looker (meaning infrastructure for your instance is managed by Looker through AWS), our Release and Ops teams will apply upgrades during designated maintenance windows. We’ll let you know the timing of these windows, and upgrades typically only take a couple minutes, so there should be minimal interruption to your access.
We apply upgrades in waves based on characteristics of customers’ setup and instances, the way Looker is used in each organization, and some customers’ own desire to be one of the first (or last) to have access to new features. As is always the case in software releases, the first wave of users are more likely to run into some bugs and other issues with the product, but since our team manages the instance, we can very quickly apply patches with fixes as soon as they become available. Some customers love getting a head start using the newest features in the product, so the tradeoff is worth it. If you fall into the early adopter camp and want to opt-in for the earliest access to new releases, you can sign up on Looker Discourse or by contacting email@example.com.
What if I need to skip a release?
If your instance is hosted by Looker and, for whatever reason, you need to delay or skip a release, just reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work with you to ensure the timing of your upgrade works for you.
Upgrades for Looker Instances Hosted On-Premises
If you host your Looker instance (what we refer to as “on-prem”), you’ll be responsible for managing the upgrade. It’s important to do so on a consistent basis to not fall behind too many releases. Customers hosting their instances of Looker will typically fall into a later wave of customers receiving the upgrade, so if there are any critical issues found in the early waves of the release, they will be fixed before the the On-Prem release wave.
When a new release is ready for installation, any Looker user listed as a Technical Contact for your organization will be sent an email with a link to the latest upgrade file (JAR format), release notes, and instructions on how to install the update. You may also want to take a minute to review upgrade best practices before updating your instance as well.
One important note about upgrading, we strongly (STRONGLY!) advise against rolling back to a previous version as it can cause serious (possibly irreparable) damage to your instance. Be sure to make a complete backup of your system before each upgrade. This will allow you to restore to a previous version if needed.
Want to see the latest and greatest of what we're cooking up? Our current development version is running on LearnBeta (learnbeta.looker.com). If you already have an account on LearnBeta, feel free to check it out! If you do not have one, email email@example.com or ask your dedicated Looker analyst and we'll gladly fix you up!
Staging Environments and Testing
We test the heck out of our code, but sometimes a new feature will have an unforeseen impact on your specific setup and use of Looker. In order to ensure you’re able to test your models, interfaces with third parties, and technical setup (if you host your own Looker instance), you can use a copy of your production instance as a staging environment for a new release before pushing it to your main production instance.
If you’re interested in using a staging environment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or your dedicated Looker Analyst for more information.
Release Support Services
In addition to the dedicated chat support available to you from our Department of Customer Love, we also offer additional services, including new release roll-out and testing assistance, with our Ongoing Looker Success Program, A Whole Lotta Love. Ask your Customer Success Manager for more information!
A great place to start is with Looker’s product discussions at discourse.looker.com, where you’ll find information and be able to discuss your use of Looker with other Good Lookers (customers) and Looker Analysts.
You can also reach out directly to your Customer Success Manager or dedicated Looker Analyst, or contact our Department of Customer Love through our in-app chat support
or by emailing email@example.com.