Transition from Centralized to Distributed VCS: A Microsoft Case Study on Reasons, Barriers, and Outcomes

Proceedings of the International Conference on Software Engineering |

Published by ACM

In recent years, software development has started to transition from centralized version control systems (CVCSs) to decentralized (DVCSs) version control systems. Although CVCSs and DVCSs have been studied extensively, there has been very little research on the transition across these systems.
This paper investigates the transition process, from the developer’s point of view, in a large company. The paper captures the transition reasons, barriers, and results through ten developer interviews, and investigates these findings through a survey, participated by 70 developers. We found that the majority of the developers need incremental, small commits, and lightweight branches to work efficiently. DVCSs fulfill these developer needs; however the transition comes with a cost depending on the previous development workflow. The paper discusses the transition reasons, transition barriers and outcomes, and provides recommendations for teams planning such a transition. Our analysis showed that lightweight branches and local, incremental commits were the main reasons for developers wanting to move to a DVCS. Further, the main problems with the transition process were identified as: steep DVCS learning curve; tool immaturity; and DVCS scaling issues.