Due largely to the simplicity of the overall design of the Subversion repository and the technologies on which it relies, creating and configuring a repository are fairly straightforward tasks. There are a few preliminary decisions you'll want to make, but the actual work involved in any given setup of a Subversion repository is pretty basic, tending toward mindless repetition if you find yourself setting up multiples of these things.

Some things you'll want to consider beforehand, though, are:

  • What data do you expect to live in your repository (or repositories), and how will that data be organized?

  • Where will your repository live, and how will it be accessed?

  • What types of access control do you need?

In this section, we'll try to help you answer those questions.

Planning Your Repository Organization

While Subversion allows you to move around versioned files and directories without any loss of information, and even provides ways of moving whole sets of versioned history from one repository to another, doing so can greatly disrupt the workflow of those who access the repository often and come to expect things to be at certain locations. So before creating a new repository, try to peer into the future a bit; plan ahead before placing your data under version control. By conscientiously laying out your repository or repositories and their versioned contents ahead of time, you can prevent many future headaches.

Let's assume that as repository administrator, you will be responsible for supporting the version control system for several projects. Your first decision is whether to use a single repository for multiple projects, or to give each project its own repository, or some compromise of these two.

There are benefits to using a single repository for multiple projects, most obviously the lack of duplicated maintenance. A single repository means that there is one set of hook programs, one thing to routinely back up, one thing to dump and load if Subversion releases an incompatible new version, and so on. Also, you can move data between projects easily, without losing any historical versioning information.

The downside of using a single repository is that different projects may have different requirements in terms of the repository event triggers, such as needing to send commit notification emails to different mailing lists, or having different definitions about what does and does not constitute a legitimate commit. These aren't insurmountable problems, of course—it just means that all of your hook scripts have to be sensitive to the layout of your repository rather than assuming that the whole repository is associated with a single group of people. Also, remember that Subversion uses repository-global revision numbers. While those numbers don't have any particular magical powers, some folks still don't like the fact that even though no changes have been made to their project lately, the youngest revision number for the repository keeps climbing because other projects are actively adding new revisions.[51]

A middle-ground approach can be taken, too. For example, projects can be grouped by how well they relate to each other. You might have a few repositories with a handful of projects in each repository. That way, projects that are likely to want to share data can do so easily, and as new revisions are added to the repository, at least the developers know that those new revisions are at least remotely related to everyone who uses that repository.

After deciding how to organize your projects with respect to repositories, you'll probably want to think about directory hierarchies within the repositories themselves. Because Subversion uses regular directory copies for branching and tagging (see Chapter 4, Branching and Merging), the Subversion community recommends that you choose a repository location for each project root—the topmost directory that contains data related to that project—and then create three subdirectories beneath that root: trunk, meaning the directory under which the main project development occurs; branches, which is a directory in which to create various named branches of the main development line; and tags, which is a collection of tree snapshots that are created, and perhaps destroyed, but never changed.[52]

For example, your repository might look like this:


/
   calc/
      trunk/
      tags/
      branches/
   calendar/
      trunk/
      tags/
      branches/
   spreadsheet/
      trunk/
      tags/
      branches/
   …

Note that it doesn't matter where in your repository each project root is. If you have only one project per repository, the logical place to put each project root is at the root of that project's respective repository. If you have multiple projects, you might want to arrange them in groups inside the repository, perhaps putting projects with similar goals or shared code in the same subdirectory, or maybe just grouping them alphabetically. Such an arrangement might look like this:


/
   utils/
      calc/
         trunk/
         tags/
         branches/
      calendar/
         trunk/
         tags/
         branches/
      …
   office/
      spreadsheet/
         trunk/
         tags/
         branches/
      …

Lay out your repository in whatever way you see fit. Subversion does not expect or enforce a particular layout—in its eyes, a directory is a directory is a directory. Ultimately, you should choose the repository arrangement that meets the needs of the people who work on the projects that live there.

In the name of full disclosure, though, we'll mention another very common layout. In this layout, the trunk, tags, and branches directories live in the root directory of your repository, and your projects are in subdirectories beneath those, like so:


/
   trunk/
      calc/
      calendar/
      spreadsheet/
      …
   tags/
      calc/
      calendar/
      spreadsheet/
      …
   branches/
      calc/
      calendar/
      spreadsheet/
      …

There's nothing particularly incorrect about such a layout, but it may or may not seem as intuitive for your users. Especially in large, multiproject situations with many users, those users may tend to be familiar with only one or two of the projects in the repository. But the projects-as-branch-siblings approach tends to deemphasize project individuality and focus on the entire set of projects as a single entity. That's a social issue, though. We like our originally suggested arrangement for purely practical reasons—it's easier to ask about (or modify, or migrate elsewhere) the entire history of a single project when there's a single repository path that holds the entire history—past, present, tagged, and branched—for that project and that project alone.

Deciding Where and How to Host Your Repository

Before creating your Subversion repository, an obvious question you'll need to answer is where the thing is going to live. This is strongly connected to myriad other questions involving how the repository will be accessed (via a Subversion server or directly), by whom (users behind your corporate firewall or the whole world out on the open Internet), what other services you'll be providing around Subversion (repository browsing interfaces, email-based commit notification, etc.), your data backup strategy, and so on.

We cover server choice and configuration in Chapter 6, Server Configuration, but the point we'd like to briefly make here is simply that the answers to some of these other questions might have implications that force your hand when deciding where your repository will live. For example, certain deployment scenarios might require accessing the repository via a remote filesystem from multiple computers, or using multiple repositories with syncronized contents distributed geographically to permit more performant access to that data by users around the globe. Addressing each possible way to deploy Subversion is both impossible and outside the scope of this book. We simply encourage you to evaluate your options using these pages and other sources as your reference material and to plan ahead.

Controlling Access to Your Repository

Access control in Subversion is almost entirely managed by the Subversion server processes. We discuss the available Subversion servers in Chapter 6, Server Configuration, and explain path-based access control specifically in the section called “Path-Based Authorization”. In addition to those user-level access control questions, you'll also want to ensure that your repository is accessible by the programs on your hosting machine which need to access it. Consider the OS-level user and group ownership that makes sense for your repository. Once again, the information found in Chapter 6, Server Configuration should be able to help you make these decisions.



[51] Whether founded in ignorance or in poorly considered concepts about how to derive legitimate software development metrics, global revision numbers are a silly thing to fear, and not the kind of thing you should weigh when deciding how to arrange your projects and repositories.

[52] The trunk, tags, and branches trio is sometimes referred to as the TTB directories.