The Future of Agile Configuration Management: 2006 and Beyond


Each time a "child" stream promotes a new baseline, it dynamically updates the "current configuration" of the composite codeline to refer to the latest baselines of the child component baselines. See references on Component/Container-Based SCM [1][2][3]

Task/Activity-Based Development (TBD) is already popular in many high-end version control tools. Yet developers more accustomed to lowest-common-denominator tools are less familiar with this feature and approximate it (often manually) via Task-Level Commit (TLC) and Change-Sets or Change-Packages. We predict that use of TLC will evolve into full-fledged TBD [4] as integration with project-management and change tracking tools becomes more prevalent in agile development shops.

Continuous Update [5] will ride along the coattails of TBD (along with finer-grained change tasks) and more tools will boast either virtual-file-system capabilities or else provide both "push" and "pull" synchronization mechanisms for updating private workspaces.

Improved Refactoring Support for renaming and splitting/combining files and directories/folders, along with directory versioning will also become a more commonly supported feature. Also look for language/syntax-aware merging [6] to make its way into popular IDEs (e.g. Eclipse).

Trends toward "Agile" Build/Test Management
To many, build management is the "bread-and-butter" of CM. Look for trends and improvements in build management architecture for Agile projects.

Continuous Integration "Architecture" - look for individual projects and teams to avail themselves of all sorts of technology and tools to improve the frequency, reliability/quality/stability, and performance of both full and incremental builds. Asynchronous integration+build+test may even call upon technologies such as grid-computing, autonomic-computing, and on-demand computing to leverage and load-balance servers for building and automated testing. Expect a combination of open-source and commercial tools to be utilized.

Enterprise Continuous Integration/Staging - look for multi-group coordination of multiple component-teams to enhance their "build/integration architectures" to include dynamic event-triggered assembling and re-building of systems and subsystems from recently built+tested component versions utilizing multiple staging/integration areas (possibly distributed or replicated)

Testing Framework Integration - the agile/XP focus on test-driven development will drive a demand for better integration between SCM tools and not just unit-test automation tools (e.g., JUnit) but also testing frameworks. IBM/Rational already has a jump on this with the  Hyades framework within Eclipse .

Trends toward "Agile" Distributed/Collaborative Development
As mentioned by some of our fellow columnists, the growth of "offshoring" and other forms of distributed development is making this aspect of CM tools much more important. How can we manage remote teams working on the same source base?

Will distributed-patch-based version-control paradigms such as that of Bitkeeper and Arch, where each workspace is a first-class repository, become more in-demand and more prevalent? If so, then this would make the need for things like private-branches and task-branches disappear (because you wouldn't need to "branch-in-advance of doing a commit"). The alternative approach is the stream-based model used by ClearCase/UCMAccu-RevSubversionPerforceSpectrumSCM, OurayCMand others. See David Wheeler's essay on centralized -vs- decentralized SCM systems .

The distributed model has obvious performance advantages. However, corporate clients often prefer to have their repository managed centrally, despite of the potential performance implications. It can be much more secure and easier to ensure backups are in place ? they don't like the thought of software "inventory" (work-in-progress) sitting on desktops or laptops and not well managed.  In an interesting take on this, Joel Spolsky notes [7]:

What's kind of surprising is that it has turned out to be easier to rewire the entire world for high-bandwidth Internet than it is to create good replication architecture so you can work disconnected!

Regardless of which way the trend goes (or whether it becomes a melding of the two),

About the author

Steve Berczuk's picture Steve Berczuk

Steve Berczuk is a Principal Engineer and Scrum Master at Fitbit. The author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, he is a recognized expert in software configuration management and agile software development. Steve is passionate about helping teams work effectively to produce quality software. He has an M.S. in operations research from Stanford University and an S.B. in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and is a certified, practicing ScrumMaster. Contact Steve at or visit and follow his blog at

About the author

Brad Appleton's picture Brad Appleton

Brad Appleton is a software CM/ALM solution architect and lean/agile development champion at a large telecommunications company. Currently he helps projects and teams adopt and apply lean/agile development and CM/ALM practices and tools. He is coauthor of the book Software Configuration Management Patterns, a columnist for the CMCrossroads and AgileConnection communities at,  and a former section editor for The C++ Report. You can read Brad's blog at

About the author

Robert Cowham's picture Robert Cowham

Robert Cowham has long been interested in software configuration management while retaining the attitude of a generalist with experience and skills in many aspects of software development. A regular presenter at conferences, he authored the Agile SCM column within the CM Journal together with Brad Appleton and Steve Berczuk. His day job is as Services Director for Square Mile Systems whose main focus is on skills and techniques for infrastructure configuration management and DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) - applying configuration management principles to hardware documentation and implementation as well as mapping ITIL services to the underlying layers.

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