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Software teams that include developers offshore or distributed across a broad geographical area have always been bedeviled by the difficulty of tracking versions of an ongoing project.
Version control needs to be centralized, but a central server tends to be locally managed entity. One version control server can be connected to another, but someone must administer updates so that versions of the project remain synchronized. It's a tall order in an age when development teams are becoming global.
CollabNet, a firm focused on software that supports distributed development, launched a hosted version of an open source code version management system, Subversion, which was designed as a replacement for more local version control software. Read/write systems, such as a version control system, have to coordinate continuous changes from many different contributors. They tend to work best as a local system, with developers clustered around it. They are "inherently difficult to make as distributed systems," says CollabNet CTO Brian Behlendorf, co-founder of the Apache Web server project.
By offering Subversion as a hosted application, CollabNet's Subversion on Demand, a development team can be distributed around the world and still have access to the system over the Internet. Its version control mechanisms, however, are centralized on a CollabNet server. That means all developers have equal access to the latest bug tracking information, issues raised by the project manager or latest code changes.
Subversion was designed to be "highly efficient on the network," said Behlendorf in an interview. It's also been integrated with CollabNet's core product, a framework for hosting the code and bug tracking, communications and project management needs of a distributed software development team, CollabNet Enterprise Edition.
CollabNet's framework is in use at Sun Microsystems, Hewlett Packard and on several of the open source project hosting sites. It forms the backbone for operations at Java.net, a site that hosts 2,755 Java open source projects with 228,000 participating developers.
CollabNet is also the founder and chief corporate sponsor of the Subversion project. It maintains the equivalent of three full time developers as contributors to it, Behlendorf said.