What Is Version Control?
Most hardware and software development teams use version control today. In this blog, we cover the basics — and what to look for in version control software.
So, What Is Version Control?
Version control is software that allows you to manage changes over time. There are different varieties of version control software. Some version code. Others version code and other files and assets. This includes code, graphics (2D/3D for game and product development), movies, audio, analog and digital semiconductor designs, or any other type of digital asset.
[Related Blog] What Is Source Control?
Version control is sometimes referred to as revision control. It’s an important component of software configuration management.
[Video] How Version Control Works
And Why Is Version Control Important?
Version control is important for today’s development teams. It needs to do more than just manage and track files. It should help you develop and ship products faster. This is especially important for teams practicing DevOps.
That’s because using the right one:
- Improves visibility.
- Helps teams collaborate around the world.
- Accelerates product delivery.
Related Report: DevOps Challenges and Version Control
Types of Version Control
There are several types of version control systems that teams use today. Here are a few of the most common ones.
Example: Perforce Version Control
Growing development teams around the world use Perforce — Helix Core — for version control. Helix Core is a smart choice for globally distributed development teams, as well as teams working on complex products. Using Helix Core also helps teams manage all of their product development activities.
Example: Git Source Control
Many developers use Git for source control. Version control with Git can be a good option for small teams, especially those working on web and mobile application development.
Related Blog: Git vs. Perforce
Example: SVN Version Control
Version control with Subversion (SVN) used to be one of the most popular options. However, many teams have outgrown SVN and are looking for options that can scale with them.
Related Blog: What Is SVN?
Top Version Control Benefits
There are many benefits to version control. The biggest benefits of the right version control include:
- A single source of truth across teams, code, and assets.
- Traceability for every change ever made.
- Speed for development teams who don't want to waste time looking for a file.
5 Things to Look For in Version Control Software
Each version control option comes with different features. What matters most will depend on your team’s needs.
Here are five of the top things that today’s development teams are looking for.
1. Concurrent Development
Projects are getting more complex. There’s a growing need to manage multiple versions of code and files — and entire products.
This means multiple developers and designers can work on the same set of files — without worrying that they are duplicating effort or overwriting other team members’ work.
Let’s say you're managing an IOT deployment for high-end internet-connected security cameras. Over the product lifecycle, you may use ten different types of cameras, each with a different chip. As a result, each will have different software.
Using the right version control software means you can maintain multiple versions of your code to manage the specific functionality of each camera's chip and operating system.
So, when you need to deploy a critical security patch to prevent bad guys from hijacking those cameras, it’s easy. You’ll instantly see which code is impacted, make the changes, and deploy a fix.
Higher quality and increased productivity are top priorities for today’s development teams. And your team can reach your goals by automating tasks, such as testing and deployment.
In software development, Continuous Integration (CI) with automated builds and code reviews are a standard operating procedure.
For hardware development, such as semiconductors, automation can include:
- Testing with field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).
- Integration with simulation verification and synthesis systems.
Such FPGAs or verification and testing systems must themselves be controlled and versioned, along with potentially very large data files. It is vital that even small changes are tracked and managed. This means your version control software is the center of the IP universe. The right one can handle millions of automated transactions per day with millions of files.
3. Team Collaboration
Companies operate where the talent lives. This means you might have design and development centers in Minneapolis, Seattle, Toronto, and Shanghai. And when deadlines loom, you might need to add engineers in Paris and possibly even in Taipei.
You need a way to provide global access to your team members at all your facilities. Having a single source of truth –– with appropriately secured identity and access management –– is critical for your success.
With the right version control, each team member is working on the latest version. And that makes it easier to collaborate.
4. Tracked Changes — Who, What, When, Why
Every development team needs visibility into changes. Tracking who, what, when, and why changes are made is important.
Version control software captures this detailed information and maintains this history forever. So, everyone gets access to who is working on what — and the changes that are made
This is especially important if you have governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) or regulatory needs. Audit log history is especially key in the automotive, aerospace, medical device, and semiconductor industries.
5. High Availability/Disaster Recovery
The most expensive asset you have is your product development team. You can't have them idled because they've lost access to the code.
With the right version control software, you can have a replica of your enterprise repository –– your single source of truth –– operating in another location. If something happens, you can immediately switch over to a replica of the master for uninterrupted availability.
Try Version Control Software From Perforce
Using the right version control software — like Helix Core — helps your development team work simultaneously, automate tasks, track changes, and ensure high availability/disaster recovery.
Get started with free version control software. Helix Core is always free for up to 5 users and 20 workspaces.