Now you've got a good alternative to Visual SourceSafe.
By Jonathan Goodyear
Microsoft's Visual SourceSafe (VSS) often has been considered the red-headed stepchild of the Visual Studio suite. Despite its importance to collaborative development efforts, the stability, performance, and quality of the VSS product is suspect. Many of Microsoft's own projects don't even use it.
For a couple of years now, SourceGear Corp. has been selling a product named SourceOffSite that allows remote access to VSS via HTTP. Despite efforts to improve the performance and overall experience of VSS through data compression, SourceGear eventually came to the conclusion that it needed to break away from its dependence on VSS as the version control repository for its product.
This spring, SourceGear has emerged from its software development lab with an entirely new version-control product, named Vault. According to Eric W. Sink, SourceGear's chief executive officer, Vault is "a source-control system designed to be a seamless replacement for Microsoft Visual SourceSafe." What does Vault offer that is so innovative? For starters, SourceGear has improved upon its proprietary data-compression technology, so developers that need to check files in and out of an extended WAN or VPN environment will enjoy a more responsive interface. Vault transmits only file changes, so there are fewer bytes to transfer over the wire.
Another big advantage Vault has over VSS is support for atomic transactional operations. When checking a large number of files in or out of a Vault repository, the entire operation either succeeds or is rolled back - a feature VSS doesn't support. If problems occur during a large operation in VSS, repository corruption is the likely outcome. Vault avoids this by leveraging SQL Server 2000 as the engine for its version-control repository. You also can use MSDE to house the Vault repository. With the power and robustness of SQL Server 2000, Vault can handle extremely large repositories with ease.
Those of you who have large VSS repositories already will be glad to hear that Vault comes with a rock-solid migration utility that moves 100 percent of the VSS repository features over to the Vault repository platform. This includes all the version-control history, labels, and folder sharing that happened even before you switched to Vault. All existing VSS logins and permissions are migrated over to the Vault platform, as well.
Vault has been tested to work with both the Visual Studio .NET and Visual Studio 6.0 IDEs. SourceGear is a member of Microsoft's Visual Studio Integration Program, and the entire Vault product was built using C# and the .NET Framework, ensuring it falls in line with Microsoft's technology platform direction.
Aside from its integration with Visual Studio, Vault also comes with a standard Internet Explorer-type interface (see Figure 1). Its similarity in form and function to VSS means Vault's learning curve is almost zero for anyone who has ever used VSS. You also can access a Vault repository via its native Web Services interface. SourceGear supplies a wrapper class that makes programmatic access to a Vault repository relatively painless. Programmatic access to a Vault repository is useful for building automated build scripts. The Vault Explorer application consumes these Web Services as well, so the entire Vault API is available for your build scripts and custom applications to consume.
Figure 1. The Vault Explorer looks much like the VSS Explorer. When Vault Explorer first loads, you are prompted for a server name, user ID, and password for your Vault Server, instead of for the path to a srcsafe.ini file. The Vault Explorer doesn't have to contend with the Visual Studio .NET integration hooks, so it tends to perform much better in slow network conditions.
Jonathan Goodyear is president of ASPSoft (http://www.aspsoft.com), an Internet consulting firm based in Orlando, Fla. He's a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) and author of Debugging ASP.NET (New Riders). Jonathan also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. E-mail him at mailto:[email protected] or through his angryCoder eZine at http://www.angryCoder.com.
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