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Last updated: 2021-04-20
This direction is a work in progress, and everyone can contribute. Please comment and contribute in the linked issues and epics. Sharing your feedback directly on GitLab.com is the best way to contribute to our strategy and vision.
Source Code Management provides the core workflows and controls for teams to collaborate using Git to build great software, including repository view, protected branches, code owners, merge request approvals, and mirroring.
Source code management targets mainly software engineers but also anyone who is contributing to any types of project. To that end, we target all the user personas we describe in our handbook, with a special focus on the following:
Sasha (Software Developer): targets full time contributors to all types of projects (commercial, OSS, data science, etc.). These users expect and need a high level of reliability and speed in their interactions with both project files and Git.
Delaney (Development Team Lead): targets users who often times have elevated roles which allow for the management of project settings, such as access control, security, commit strategies, and mirroring.
Building great software depends on teams working well together. Teams can rarely be divided into areas of complete independence. As cross-functional security, compliance and growth teams are formed, or new services and libraries are created, effective coordination and collaboration is a must. This is true whether using a single monolithic repository, or spread across numerous smaller services and libraries.
Teams require the controls to protect production while making it easy for everyone contribute. This means providing more granular and dynamic controls so that low risk changes can be made easily, and only the highest risk changes require the strictest controls.
When building software, teams greatly benefit from using open-source projects and may even submit contributions upstream. However, the balance of contribution vs. consumption is askew, partly because of a lack of controlled upstream workflows. Particularly from closed projects.
Upstreaming contributions from private repositories to a public upstream should be simple and safe, even for conservative organizations. Whether the upstream repository is on the same GitLab server, is hosted on GitHub.com, or managed via a mailing list.
GitLab maintains a set of Product Principles, some of which are more critical to be aware of in the Source Code category. Here they are, and why the are critical:
On-going: SaaS first
GitLab's success has translated into tremendous user growth, both for our self-managed and SaaS offerings. While working on supporting scale and performance, we have identified great opportunities to focus on.
In 2021 we are placing special emphasis on strengthening our SaaS offering by focusing on ensuring feature parity with our market leading self-managed offering. For the Source Code group, this means focusing on delivering solutions that are scalable, performant, and secure. We will focus on the following areas throughout the year:
Performance: Ensure GitLab.com performs well at scale as well as provides a great developer experience on key workflows and actions. Focus on resolving existing failure scenarios and technical debt.
Security: Industry leading security to safeguard user's data.
Infradev: Protect GitLab.com's availability from infrastructure failure.
In progress: Rename Git's default initial branch
Every Git repository has an initial branch, which is the first branch to be created when a new
repository is generated. Historically, the default name for this initial branch was
Both the Git projects maintainers and the Git community have been listening to the development
community’s feedback on determining a more descriptive and inclusive name for the default branch
and have settled on using
main as the new default.
GitLab has already introduced changes that allow users to change the default branch name both at
(for self-managed users) and at the group-level
(for both SaaS and self-managed users). To further align with the community, we plan to make
the default branch name in our next major release, 14.0, shipping on May 22nd, 2021.
This blog post provides further detail along with the linked epic above: The new Git default branch name.
In progress: Forking improvements
Forking workflows are important for open source projects on public instances like GitLab.com, but they are also used for private projects on GitLab.com and elsewhere. There are a range of significant shortcomings in the forking workflow that should be resolved. Forking workflows should be fully supported in GitLab so that they can be used by open source projects and enterprises, public or private.
In progress: Manage/reduce repository size
Managing & reducing repository storage is an important part of resource management/consumption of Git repositories. The ability to easily cleanup and receive feedback on related actions from the GitLab GUI is an important part of managing your source code.
Limiting which branches a user can read in a Git repository is possible in a basic sense, by only advertising a subset of refs, but it is not possible to guarantee that unreachable objects will not be sent to the client. This means that branch read access controls would be very weak, since they could not prevent exfiltration of data they do not have permission to read.
Path-level read access controls
From a commit, Git expects all trees and blobs to be reachable. Although Git supports partial clone and spares checkout, which allow data to be excluded from fetch and checkout, Git expects to be able to fetch missing objects on demand. Deliberately excluding objects by path is likely to cause unexpected failures.
This category is currently at the Loveable maturity level (see our definitions of maturity levels).
However, specific aspects are not yet loveable:
For public open source projects, GitHub is our primary competitor, with millions of active users having chosen GitHub before the first version of GitLab ever existed.
In most source code management capabilities GitLab compares favorably to GitHub, the most notable exception being the maturity of forking workflows which GitHub pioneered. GitHub has a highly polished and fast product, which makes tasks like browsing and managing projects fast and easy.
For users of SVN (Apache Subversion) intending to migrate to Git, GitHub is a significant competitor, particularly because GitHub supports hosting SVN repositories.
Perforce competes with GitLab primarily on its ability to support enormous repositories, however, Perforce also competes on the basis of being a Centralized Version Control System. This means that Perforce not only supports granular write permissions, but granular read permissions on a branch and file path basis. While fine grained read permissions are important to some customers, large monolithic repositories may be split into smaller repositories allowing read controls and easier management.
Large file support (see Gitaly direction) is an ongoing area of interest because it blocks certain segments of software development from using Git.
Similarly extremely large repository support (see Gitaly direction) is also an area of interest for the same reason.
The most frequent category of request is for improved support for finer grained controls, so that policies can be enforced at key points in the workflow, and more permissive permissions can be granted at other times.
The primary performance indicator (PI) for our group is the number of unique users writing to a project Git repository. Aligning with our SaaS first and product depth direction, we are also working to make performance our secondary indicator (see related issue). The intent here is to track the most heavily used services in our group and track how they improve over time. See more detail in the Create:Source Code PI page section.