Git: The Ark of Software Development
Author: Kostas Papanikolaou
Git: The Ark of Software Development
Archives. Places where people store information they wish to remember, and keep track of, both to keep them safe from the passing of time and to be able to reflect on the past to create a better future. The digital world has its own, different types of archives, and Version Control Systems are one type of archive. They are systems that help keep track of changes made to a digital asset over time. Files, images, videos, or a simple piece of data on a computer, and changes on them, can be tracked using a Version Control System (VCS).
Those working in the community, as well as those who are software and system enthusiasts, but also people that are just related to something digital in the 21st century, are already aware of one of the most popular VCSs ever created. The name is simple to remember and has been established as one of the most popular brands in the world: Git. Git is an Open Source Distributed Version Control System designed for:
- Full Distribution
- Parallel development and parallel branches support
These are the five pillars that have turned Git into being the leading Version Control System currently in the world, and the more popular a leading brand gets, the more the question of “Why” is asked, and answered. In other blogs on Technology subjects, we have discussed time and time again the reality that has software techniques, architectures, and breakthroughs collaborating to create the desired effect, rather than competing.
In the case of VCSs, however, competition is real. The rule of thumb is that one Version Control System is used to control the versions and changes of a digital asset over time. This is the main reason why the question “Why Git?” rises time and time again, with several competitors challenging it, in an attempt to change the scenery. In this blog, we are going to answer the question “Why Git?” and present the pros and cons of this popular VCS.
The “How” Goes First
To answer “Why” we first have to understand the “How”. For those not familiar with Git, or interested in learning more, get ready to explore the marvelous world of Git. Git stores changes in files in a different way compared to other Version Control Systems like SVN and CVS.
Version Control Systems store the difference between the two versions of a digital asset, whatever that is. In other VCSs, as new versions are introduced, the only thing saved is the difference of the latest version from the exact previous one.
Git, however, stores a snapshot of a file instead of making an entirely new copy of a file that has not changed during the process of a new version being introduced. Below, you can see a comparison between other VCSs and Git, and how they work when a new version is introduced.
Distributed Means Independent…
Another crucial difference between Git and other Version Control Systems is the way they handle servers and operations. Other VCSs require users to be connected to a server to do anything. On the other hand, Git has a remote repository stored on a server and a local repository stored on the computer of each developer. This allows developers to do their work without having to be connected to the remote repository all the time. Whether you are a developer -and instantly understand what that means- or not, not being required to connect to a server every time you want to work is something that will make you feel more free and comfortable.
Thanks to being a Distributed Version Control System, Git is considered one of the fastest available in the world. The majority of operations are done locally and therefore are completed much faster than having to connect to a server and then work. Changes committed are done instantly, on your systems, and can be transferred to the central server for all other team members to use, seamlessly. Also, Git allows access to the history of changes made to a project without requiring a network connection, which is immensely helpful for developers.
The threefold above describes and synopsizes the importance of Git for the world of software development. Using advanced algorithms, Git focuses only on the content of the file, determining its storage and version history. Source code files are renamed, split, and rearranged regularly. The object format of Git repository files uses a mixture of delta encoding and compression, storing directory contents and version metadata objects.
Also, in the Git repository, versions, directories, the content of files, tags, and commits are secure thanks to a SHA1 hashing algorithm being used, that is cryptographically secure. This ensures secure code history, and Git offers an authentic content history of the source code.
Finally, Git offers flexibility in several aspects:
- Backup and Restore
- Branching and Merging
- Changes Tracking
Developers can track changes after someone making them leaves a commit message about that action, while Git maintains the source code backup at all times. Also, deploying the source code on the server is extremely easy and only requires a single command, while software teams can work with each other and collaborate seamlessly. Finally, changes that are made, are made on a branch and after being approved, they are available for merging with the master branch. This gives the option of viewing who made the changes in one or more files, as well as which parts of the altered content, have been changed.
GitHub, GitLab, & Bitbucket
The development of Git started on April 3, 2005, with original author Linus Torvalds, and developer Junio Hamano being the two first names standing out in the history of Git. It was released on 7 April 2005 and didn’t give “birth” to other brands until 2008. That’s when GitHub entered the world of software development, now being one of the world’s most popular repository hosts, launched by Tom Preston-Werner, Christ Wanstrath, and PJ Hyatt. GitHub is the largest repository hosting platform with over 38 million projects and rising. It permits the hosting and review of code, management of projects, and building of software.
In the same year that GitHub arrived, Bitbucket was launched by an Australian startup, originally supporting only Mercurial projects. In 2010, Atlassian bought Bitbucket, and since 2011, it supports Git hosting. Bitbucket provides free, unlimited private repos, Jira and Trello integration, as well as built-in delivery. Finally, GitLab was introduced in 2011 and was incorporated into Git in 2014. It provides constant integration and delivery, agile development, Auto DevOps, and many more.
The fact that Git allows developers to work without being connected to a remote server to work is enough to showcase “Why” Git is the most popular, and most heavily-used Version Control System on the planet. The impact of Git in the digital world and the software development world is so substantial, that it can be seen and enjoyed by other professions. Git has a streamlined development cycle that avoids postponing bug fixes, allowing for better customer support since representatives can say “we have fixed that” when a customer reports a problem.
Other professions such as HR (forward-looking developers will work with businesses that use Git), designers (new branches allow designers to test their changes and see demos of them), marketing (individual releases are possible, making it possible for different campaigns, and therefore more engagement), and others. We will discuss Git’s importance for different professions in a future blog, so stay tuned!