22 November 2005

Subversion on Sourceforge

Sourceforge has annoucned that they are working to offer subversion services to developers as one of the many services they offer to open source project developers. This is great news. Subversion is significantly more efficienct and powerful than CVS so many of us have already adopted subversion but since Sourceforge hasn't had svn as a service offering our code has had to be housed separately from the rest of our project information.

This severely inhibits the seamless experience that Sourceforge had achieved in the past. I don't understand why it has taken so long to make the move except perhaps that as sometimes happens in the techie world people get so entrenched and committed to their existing toolset that it's hard to justify the switch.

Building and maintaining your software development arsenal is tough enough without having to go back and replace entire core systems. And changing a version control system has a whole set of challenges that say, changing your file server doesn't have. To switch from say a Windows based server to a GNU/Linux based file server is really not that big of a deal. Build the server, create the shared resource, create user accounts, copy the files over, grant access to the new share, change the system that you connect to... voila! Switching source code control systems has similar elements to those above plus you have to deal with the history... which is not backwards compatible. Yikes! So, you lose the history or you maintain two systems or you somehow kludge some of the releases of the old system into the new.

These are arguments for why users would might be reluctant to switch but are not reasons why Sourceforge might hesitate. It should be relatively straightforward to offer both CVS and Subversion at the same time. Other than massive numbers of projects switching over to Subversion I can't see an issue, especially since Subversion is quite efficient. Furthermore, given that a lot of developers will be slow to change old projects over right away because of the lost past data issue, mostly they would be dealing with new projects making use of the system which presumably will be less taxing than the existing CVS system.

Anyway, it's great to see this happening. I for one like the idea of devleoping open source projects in a mature, supported and modern environment with the full suite of tools available for team development.

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