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Subversion uptake in OSS projects

From: Greg Hudson <ghudson_at_MIT.EDU>
Date: 2004-08-14 00:43:03 CEST

I noticed that Subversion is starting to get some substantial use in
OSS projects, and did a little research on how that comes about and
how successful it tends to be. For each project listed at
http://subversion.tigris.org/propaganda.html, I tried to determine how
the decision was made to switch to SVN, when they switched, and
what difficulties they've been having. Here are my findings:

  * Apache: Apache is, of course, pretty closely tied to the SVN
    project. Greg Stein set up an SVN repository for Apache in early
    2003 and they have been converting projects over piece by piece.
    I know they've had problems with wanting shared working copies, as
    well as issues with wanting to have commits which aren't
    date-ordered on account of doing CVS conversions of multiple CVS
    projects into the same SVN repository.

  * Samba: This project very briefly discussed converting to SVN in
    February (I have to assume most of the real discussion happened
    off-list) and converted to SVN in April. They mentioned one
    unspecified BDB issue in June requiring recovery, but otherwise I
    haven't seen any indications of difficulties.

  * Zope: They discussed an SVN conversion in April, with no
    objections, and converted in May--not just to using Subversion to
    host their own code, but as part of the Zope system as well. They
    were initially mildly disappointed that cvs2svn did not handle
    line-endings, and that our auto-props story for automatically
    setting svn:eol-style isn't very good. I saw one report of a
    "Cannot Allocate Memory" BDB issue in June which required
    recovery, but that's it.

  * xiph.org: They converted in July, based on a look at their
    repository. The xiph.org founder is a friend of mine, so I assume
    that was a motivating factor. I couldn't find any mailing list
    discussion about it; I think most of their chatter happens on IRC.

  * Debian: Debian is a huge community. They offer CVS, SVN, and arch
    hosting. SVN hosting appears to be somewhat popular, but it's
    hard to tell since many people host their repositories privately
    (there's no requirement that you do Debian work under any kind of
    central version control, and many people don't use version control
    at all). They do have some loud arch advocates, and to some
    extent arch fits the Debian-package-maintainer model better on
    account of better merging support. One of my Debian developer
    friends uses svk for that reason. As early adopters, Debian had
    problems with svn 0.x incompatibilities, have also reportedly had
    difficulties with hanging svnserve processes (BDB problems, I
    would assume), and one project has reportedly had difficulties
    with people accidentally checking out the full project tree with
    all branches, causing significant server load.

  * Conectiva: I couldn't find much information about Conectiva due to
    the language barrier, but they do have a glowing testimonial on
    our propaganda page, have been using Subversion since August 2002,
    and have a ginormous repository.

  * Trac: Trac has always used Subversion as far as I can tell (since
    project inception, which I think was around August 2003), and like
    Zope, they don't just use it to host their own code, but also as
    part of their system. I saw no obvious indications of problems on
    their mailing list.

  * GNUe: GNUe converted their repository in December 2003. They
    considered both svn and arch, but lacked a strong arch advocate.
    CVS history conversion and partial checkouts appeared important to
    them. I found no particular indications of difficulties.

  * LFS: LFS initially discussed conversion to SVN in March. A
    Bitkeeper advocate piped up, but several people did not like the
    Bitmover license. There appeared to be no strong Arch advocate
    within the project. In May, they announced a project to evaluate
    SCM systems; the mailing list for this project (lfs-scm-testing)
    appears to be defunct, so I can't see how it went. Cheap branches
    appeared to be a big motivator. In June, they converted the LFS
    Book sources (their main project). They initially had BDB
    permissions problems, but appear to have solved them. In August,
    they've been encountering a lot of "Cannot allocate memory" BDB
    issues, and are planning to switch to FSFS after 1.1 comes out.

Of course, there are also the projects which have considered switching
but didn't, or who switched to different version control tools. These
are harder to identify. The ones I know about are:

  * gcc: Paralyzed by a mix of advocates of various version control
    systems (mostly Arch and Subversion). Past conversations have
    generally devolved into a long list of requirements, most not
    satisfied by any version control tool.

  * Linux kernel: As everyone knows, the Linux kernel is pretty wedded
    to Bitkeeper, and that seems unlikely to change. The key
    developers have no great qualms about the BK license, and BK was
    pretty much designed to closely fit the Linux development model,
    whereas Subversion is a rather poor fit for it.

  * NetBSD: (Most of the relevant discussion has happened on a closed
    mailing list, so I can't comment on it, and I'm not on that list
    any more so I'd be out of date anyway. Nothing too exciting here;
    they're a big project with lots of inertia.)

As an aside, I'd be interested to hear about mid-sized or larger OSS
projects using Arch, and how successful they are. The only one I
currently know about is Xouvert, which appears never to have gotten
off the ground. (The gnuarch.org user-community page hasn't been
responding today, or I might have more information there.)

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Received on Sat Aug 14 00:43:14 2004

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