Subversion MultiSite Enables Agility For the Distributed Enterprise

The Agile methodology has become a wildly popular approach for software development with close to 50% of development teams using at least some agile techniques based on different surveys. The responsibility of an agile team is to deliver value in the software they are creating and meet the criteria or objectives that determine success for the project and a common set of development “best practices” have arisen that are crossdisciplinary. Adopting these best practices can be especially challenging for collaborating agile teams that are distributed or have distributed members.

The Agile principles state that successive short development cycles, popularly referred to as rapid iterations, be used to develop software quickly in little bits (pun ;)) at a time. Different methodologies have arisen from the Agile principles like Scrum, XP, TDD, Crystal and others which define activities and process for agile teams. The process gets into the specific details for each discipline but agile teams enjoy a great amount of freedom for self organization as well as self definition which as a result teams may borrow one aspect of another methodology to apply to their own agile approach. Popular examples of this are the XP User Story or and the Scrum Backlog.

The common principles mixed together with the common practice of borrowing the best aspects of each discipline has helped popularize a set of software development best practices. These are practices which are good for any software development team but the popularity and nature of agile software development has led these practices to be commonly associated with agile specifically. Here is a list of the more common agile best practices:

  • Rapid Iteration
  • Continuous Integration
  • Parallel Development
  • Frequent Commits
  • Automated Testing
  • Code Review
  • Refactoring

If you are an enterprise considering a large scale adoption of agile software development practices then there are a number of challenges that you may be facing. Scaling Scrum is well documented in Ken Schwabers book “The Enterprise and Scrum” and he has special sections dedicated to the problems of distributed teams, distributed members and the scarce skills problem (eg: one DBA shared by many teams). Ken handles the issues associated with the organization and daily routine for Agile Scrum adopters, but what about the technical challenges especially those associated with the best practices I listed? This is an area where the value added services offered by WANdisco enter the conversation.

Using Subversion Multisite and Apache Subversion will enable teams to fully adopt an Agile practice like Scrum on an enterprise scale, especially where distributed teams or members are concerned. Here is how.

  1. Subversion Multisite instantly synchronizes development changes between locations. This means that distributed teams always work against a local source code repository, without which frequent commits, continuous integration, code reviews and parallel development might not be possible at all or at best will be severely hindered if users are required to connect across the internet to access the source code repository (for read or write activities)
  2. Multisite also supports local clustering option, an enterprise that sets up two or three load balanced Subversion servers will better handle the increased traffic from frequent commits and especially from continuous integration where automated tests and builds are being performed continuously and using up a lot of server resources.
  3. Multisite leads to improved team communication, imagine a tester working in Los Angeles getting the latest build locally almost immediately after a task is committed in New York (again locally). When each site has access to a complete replicated copy of the source code repository many things are possible and the usual downtime related to downloading a new build off a remote server or uploading a set of new changes to a remote server can be entirely eliminated.

An enterprise that is considering or has already adopted agile practices will also want to adopt the software best practices. Given the nature of agile development and rapid iterations adopting these best practices are critical and with Subversion Multisite many of the technical challenges facing distributed teams can be easily solved. There are of course other benefits to Multisite such as built in disaster recovery, guaranteed uptime that will also interest any enterprise and the value offered to Agile teams will be indispensable especially as the Agile usage scales upwards.

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