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RE: Perforce versus Subversion

From: Rob Hubbard <Rob.Hubbard_at_celoxica.com>
Date: 2006-08-22 13:48:49 CEST

Some of the best or most useful pieces of software around are free and/or open source. [Firefox, Python, Q, SML, GCC, OpenOffice, Linux, Cygwin,...]

However, I think Perforce deserves _some_ praise for its approach, despite producing closed-source commercial software. There are many, much worse, aggressive, poor-quality, large companies out there. The Perforce software (P4) is at least free for (very) limited use (2 users, 5 working copies, possibly non-commercial). Perforce also allows free use of P4 (although only by agreement, I think) for open source software development. Clearly Perforce has good commercial reasons for doing that. (But so what?)

I reviewed and evaluated well over a dozen SCM systems when deciding upon a system to use at home, and (separately) to replace VSS at work.

There are some very interesting SCM projects out there. For example: Darcs, and the Theory of Patches; SVK, especially the structure of working copies;...

Some of the SCMs I rejected because they were, or appeared to be, one-man projects [sorry]. Some were far too expensive. Some were far too basic (such as CVS). Some were not cross-platform. For some, I rejected them simply because I was unable to find any technical information. Many sites just direct you to contact the sales team for prices or technical information; er, no thanks.

Eventually, I narrowed it down to just two systems: SVN and P4.

Why P4? Because I could download and read the manuals. There were also many very good "white papers" on best practice, and comparisons of approaches. Of course, they were necessarily biased towards P4; but they were clearly argued, if one-sided. The P4 engineering team clearly understands the requirements of a good SCM. It doesn't need to hide P4 behind a sales team: the product is sufficiently good for comprehensive technical detail to be published online.

In the end, of these two, I opted for SVN for personal use. That was in part because I did not wish to have limited use, and also in part because I like SVN's open sources, "scriptability", and light-weight solution (e.g. minimal concepts, such as branches being just another directory; labels as tags again being just another directory).

For use at work, I also opted for SVN. P4 had a small number of features that would have been an advantage over SVN. Some of these were (and still are) likely to be implemented in SVN at some point. Again SVN being actively-developed, free, open source software was very attractive; we would not be tied to a proprietary format. And again, SVN's flexibility via scripts was also very attractive.

So, I would recommend SVN; but I would also recommend taking a look at other systems including P4 on the commercial side and many others on the open source side (including Darcs, SVK, Mercurial,...). I would recommend reading the documentation produced by Perforce too.

I would not change from SVN to P4. But P4 might be the right choice for some users or companies, and Perforce seems to "play fair", for a commercial outfit at least.

A little competition is a good thing. And if P4 helps rid the world of VSS [or substitute your own pet-hate SCM], that will be good for everyone. [But that's just a dream.]

SVN is sufficiently good to survive alongside the likes of P4; and it's still improving.


-----Original Message-----
From: Kenneth Porter [mailto:shiva@sewingwitch.com]
Sent: 21 August 2006 23:27
To: users@subversion.tigris.org
Subject: Perforce versus Subversion

A coworker pointed out this document on the Perforce website:


Except for the benchmarks reported, Perforce just claims to do things
differently (but worded in a way to make it sound like they're better, if
you know nothing about Subversion or FOSS).

Has anyone responded to this?

My biggest concern with a commercial product is a proprietary closed data
format. The Subversion dump format gives me a lot of peace of mind on this
issue. I haven't seen any indication that Perforce offers something

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Received on Tue Aug 22 13:50:33 2006

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