I worked on upgrading a ~19 KLOC Ember.js codebase. The previous Ember.js version was 2.3.0. Now it is 2.12.1. Here, I am going to discuss why I had to upgrade Ember.js, general approach to solving problems while upgrading a framework.

For a long time, Ember.js version 2.3.0 served us just fine. The framework pretty much provided us with everything we needed out of the box and small flaws here and there didn’t bother us. However, over time, there started to arise several glaring problems with using an older Ember.js version.

As our app grew larger with some pages generating a large number of components in a view, we experienced noticeable performance degredation in DOM rendering. To mitigate this problem, we used an alternative way to render components, ember-cli-raw-handlebars which stripped away much of Ember related functionalities from the view in order to increase the DOM rendering speed. The trade off for this was introducing the “none-Ember.js” way of organizing our codebase, which made our codebase look rather messy.

Using older Ember.js also made it hard to use newer packages out in the wild. When we wanted to introduce a new package or upgrade an existing package to a newer version, the Ember framework started to throw cryptic errors that were hard to debug and fix. The cost of not upgrading Ember.js became greater than the convenience of relying on an older Ember.js.

Procedure to upgrade Ember.js

Ember v2.3.0 came out on Jan 17, 2016. A lot has changed since then. Simply bumping the Ember version to the latest simply will not work. There will be a lot of noticeable and unnoticeable bugs from doing that. Fixing those bugs all at once is very difficult. I built a procedure to safely upgrade Ember.js without creating tons of regressions.

I needed Ember.js upgrade only branch on beta environment. Upgrading Ember.js of a large endeavor takes a long time. Most likely, you will be asked to develop features and fix bugs while you are working on upgrade Ember. For that reason, preparing an isolated Ember.js upgrade only branch on beta will be useful to allow QA to test the branch while you are working on other features.

I wrote more automated tests. While I was making changes to the Ember.js upgrade branch, I needed to make sure that I wasn’t breaking things while I fix an issue. Automated tests helped me make sure that I make safe changes that are tested.

Since your team most likely will QA and review your changes, they will also need to know how to prepare the development environment for the Ember upgrade and how to bring it back to their own normal development environment. I made sure this is clearly described and communicated to others.

Having some dedicated QA time is also really important. Framework update touches all aspects of the app, and every core functionalities need to be tested thoroughly before the change is released on production.

I used binary search like algorithm to bump the versions to the move towards the latest version.

def next_non_erroring_version(start_version, destination_version)
  return start_version if start_version == destination_version

  half_way = (destination_version - start_version) / 2

  if causes_error?(half_way)
    next_non_erroring_version(start_version, half_way - patch_version('0.0.1'))
  else
    next_non_erroring_version(half_way + patch_version('0.0.1'), destination_version)
  end
end

next_non_erroring_version('2.3.0', '2.12.1') + patch_version('0.0.1')

The method above tries to find the first version closest to the original version to causes error.