What Is Version Control? Meaning, Tools, and Advantages


Version control is a system that tracks the progress of code across the software development lifecycle and its multiple iterations – which maintains a record of every change complete with authorship, timestamp, and other details – and also aids in managing change. This article details how version control in DevOps works, the best tools, and its various advantages.

What Is Version Control?

Version control is defined as a system that tracks the progress of code across the software development lifecycle and its multiple iterations – which maintains a record of every change complete with authorship, timestamp, and other details – and also aids in managing change.

The process of monitoring and managing changes to software code is known as version control, also sometimes referred to as revision control or source control systems. Software technologies called version control systems assist software development teams in tracking changes to source code over time.

Version control systems enable software teams to operate more swiftly and intelligently as development environments have increased. They are beneficial for DevOps teams because they will allow them to speed up successful deployments and reduce development time.

Version control pinpoints the trouble spots when developers and DevOps teams work concurrently and produce incompatible changes so that team members can compare differences or quickly determine who committed the problematic code by looking at the revision history. Before moving on with a project, a software team can use version control systems to resolve a problem.

Software teams can understand the evolution of a solution by examining prior versions through code reviews. Every alteration to the code is recorded by version control software in a particular type of database. If an error is made, developers can go back in time and review prior iterations of the code to remedy the mistake while minimizing disturbance for all team members.

Collaboration among employees, keeping several iterations of information created, and data backup are just a few issues that any global organization may encounter. For a business to succeed, developers must overcome each of these issues. A version control system is then necessary for this situation.

The first version control system was mainframe-based, and each programmer used a terminal to connect to the network. The first server-based, or centralized, version control systems that utilized a single, shared repository were introduced on UNIX systems; later, these systems were made accessible on MS-DOS and Windows.

Versions can be recognized by labels or tags, and baselines can be used to mark approved versions or versions that are particularly important. Versions that have been checked out can be used as a branching point for code from the main trunk by various teams or individuals. The first version to check in will always win when versions are checked out and checked in.

Some systems may offer version merging if other versions are checked out so that one can upload new modifications to the central repository. Branching is a distinct approach to version control where development programs are duplicated for parallel versions of development while keeping the original and working on the branch or making separate modifications to each.

Each copy is called a branch, and the original program from where it was derived is known as the trunk, the baseline, the mainline, or the master. Client-server architecture is the standard model for version control. Another technique is distributed version control, where all copies are kept in a codebase repository, and updates are made by sharing patches or modifications across peers. Version control allows teams to work together, accelerate development, settle issues, and organize code in one place.

See More: What Is Jenkins? Working, Uses, Pipelines, and Features

Top 13 Version Control Tools

Globally, version control systems comprise a multi-billion-dollar industry, poised to reach $716.1 million by 2023 (as per MarketsAndMarkets research). In this massive market, 13 tools stand out. They are: 

1. IBM Configuration Management Version Control (CMVC)

Software that carries out software version control, configuration management, and change management tasks is known as Configuration Management Version Control (CMVC). This system was client-server based, with servers for several Unix flavors and command-line and graphical clients for many platforms. Even after renaming a file, it can track file history. This is because developers may alter the database filename and the filename on the disk was a number. Delegating power is possible thanks to its decentralized administration.

2. Git

Git is among the most powerful version control programs now on the market. The creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, created the distributed version control system known as Git. Its memory footprint is minimal and can follow changes in any file. When you add this to its extensive feature set, you get a full-featured version control system that can handle any project. Due to its simple workflow, it is employed by Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

3. Apache Subversion

A version control system called Apache Subversion, which is free and open-source, enables programmers to manage both the most recent and previous iterations of crucial files. It can track modifications to source code, web pages, and documentation for large-scale projects. Subversion’s main features are workflow management, user access limits, and cheap local branching. Both commercial products and individual projects can be managed using Subversion, a centralized system with many powerful features. It is one of Apache’s many open-source solutions, like Apache Cassandra.

4. Azure DevOps

You can utilize all Azure DevOps services or just the ones you require to improve your current workflow. A group of software development technologies you can use in conjunction is Azure DevOps Server, formerly Team Foundation Server (TFS). In addition to access controls and permissions, bug tracking, build automation, change management, collaboration, continuous integration, and version control are all elements of the source code management program known as Azure DevOps Server.

5. Concurrent Versions System (CVS)

One of the first version control systems developed, CVS is a well-known tool for open-source and commercial developers. You can use it to check in and out the code you intend to work on. Teams can integrate their code modifications and add distinctive features to the project. CVS uses delta compression to effectively compress version differences and a client-server architecture to manage change data. In larger projects, it saves a lot of disk space.

See More: What Is Serverless? Definition, Architecture, Examples, and Applications

6. Mercurial

Developers and businesses adore Mercurial for its search capabilities, backup system, data import and export, project tracking and management, and data migration tool. The free source control management program Mercurial supports all popular operating systems. It is a distributed versioning solution and can easily manage projects of any size. Through extensions, programmers can quickly expand the built-in functionality. For software engineers, source revisioning is made simpler by its user-friendly and intuitive interface.

7. GitHub

Software development teams may collaborate and keep track of all code changes using GitHub. You can keep track of code modifications, go back in time to correct mistakes, and collaborate with other team members. The most reliable, secure, and scalable developer platform in the world is GitHub. You receive the best resources and services to assist you in creating the most cutting-edge communities possible. The most reliable, secure, and scalable developer platform in the world is GitHub.

8. AWS CodeCommit

Private Git repositories are hosted by the managed version control system AWS CodeCommit. It smoothly integrates with other Amazon Web Services (AWS) products, and the code is hosted in secure AWS settings. Therefore, it’s a suitable fit for AWS’s current users. Access to various helpful plugins from AWS partners is also made available through AWS integration, aiding in program development. You don’t have to worry about maintaining or scaling your source control system when you use CodeCommit.

9. Bitbucket

As a component of the Atlassian software family, Bitbucket can be connected with other Atlassian products like HipChat, Jira, and Bamboo. Some of Bitbucket’s key features are code branches, in-line comments and debate, and pull requests. The company’s data center, a local server, or the cloud can all be used for its deployment. With Bitbucket, you can freely connect with up to five people. This is advantageous because you can use the platform without spending any money.

10. RhodeCode

RhodeCode is a platform for managing public repositories. RhodeCode offers a contemporary platform with unified security and tools for any version control system, in contrast to old-fashioned source code management systems or Git-only tools. 

The platform is designed for behind-the-firewall enterprise systems that require high levels of security, sophisticated user management, and standard authentication. RhodeCode has a convenient installer, it may be used as a standalone hosted program on your server, and its Community Edition is unrestrictedly free.

11. Computer Associates Panvalet

CA Panvalet establishes and maintains a control library of source programs, centralizes the storage of the source, and offers quick access for maintenance, control, and protection against loss, theft, and other perils. Like Microsoft Visual SourceSafe for personal computers, Panvalet is a closed-source, proprietary system for controlling and versioning source code. Users check out files to edit and then check them back into the repository using a client-server architecture.

12. Helix Core

It offers the sole source of accuracy for all development. The company behind it is Perforce Software Inc. It is a networked client-server revision control tool. It supports several operating systems, including OS X, Windows, and Unix-like platforms. This tool is primarily used in large-scale development setups. Through the tracking and management of changes to source code and other data, it streamlines the development of complicated products. Your configuration changes are branched and merged using the Streams feature.

13. GNU Bazaar

GNU Bazaar (formerly Bazaar-NG Canonical) is a command-line utility by the company that created Ubuntu, and it is a distributed and client-server revision control system. Numerous contemporary projects use it, including MySQL, Ubuntu, Debian, the Linux Foundation, and Debian. GNU Bazaar is truly cross-platform, running on every version of Linux, Windows, and OS X. High storage efficiency, offline mode support, and external plugin support are some of GNU Bazaar’s finest qualities. Additionally, it enables a wide range of development workflows.

Benefits of Version Control

Using a version control system, one can obtain the following benefits:

Benefits of Version Control

1. Streamline merging and branching

It goes without saying that team members should work simultaneously, but even individuals working alone can profit from being able to focus on separate streams of change. By designating a branch in VCS tools, developers and DevOps engineers can keep several streams of work separate while still having the option to merge them back together to ensure that their changes don’t conflict.

Many software development teams use the branching strategy for every feature, every release, or both. Teams have various workflow options to select from when deciding how to use the branching and merging features in a VCS.

2. Examine and experiment with code

The development of any source code is continuous in the modern world. There are always more features to be added, more people to target, and more applications to create. When working on a software project, teams frequently have various main project clones to build new features, test them, and ensure they work before uploading this new feature to the main project. Due to the ability to develop several sections of the code concurrently, this could save time.

3. Keep track of every change made to the code

The team tasked with the project consistently generates new source codes and makes changes to the already existing code. These modifications are kept on file for future use and can be consulted if necessary to determine the true source of a given issue. If you have a record of the changes made in a particular code file, you and new contributors may find it easier to comprehend how a specific code section came to be. This is vital for working efficiently with historical code and allowing developers to predict future work with accuracy.

4. Access every file’s entire long-term modification history 

This refers to every modification made over time by numerous people. File addition, deletion, and content modifications are all examples of changes. The ease with which various VCS programs handle file renaming and movement vary. You should also include the author, the date, and written comments outlining the rationale behind each change in this history.

The ability to go back to earlier iterations allows for the root cause study of faults, which is essential when fixing issues with software that is more than a few years old. Nearly everything can be regarded as an “earlier version” of the software if it is still being developed.

5. Discover the ability to operate offline

Since pushing and pulling cannot be done using a distributed version control system without an internet connection, most development can be done on the go, away from home, or in an office. Contributors will make changes to the repository and can view the running history on their hard drives.

With more flexibility, the team can resolve bugs with a single change-set, increasing developers’ productivity. Developers can do routine development tasks quickly with a local copy. With a DVCS, developers can avoid waiting on a server to do everyday activities, which can impede delivery and be inconvenient.

See More: Top 10 DevOps Automation Tools in 2021

6. Create regular, automated backups

Whenever a contributor copies a repository using a version control system, they are essentially making a backup of the repository’s most recent version, which is probably its most significant advantage. We can protect the data from loss in the event of a server failure by having numerous backups on various workstations.

Unlike a centralized version control system, a distributed version control system does not rely on a single backup, increasing the reliability of development. Although it’s a widespread fallacy, having numerous copies won’t take up much space on your hard drive because most development involves plain text files and most systems compress data.

7. Communicate through open channels

An open line of communication between coworkers and teams results from version control because sharing code and being able to track past work results in transparency and consistency. It makes it possible for the different team members to coordinate workflow more straightforwardly. There are repercussions from this better communication.

Team members can operate more productively as a result of effective workflow coordination. They can more easily manage changes and work in harmony and rhythm. This presents the many team members as a single entity that collaborates to achieve a particular objective.

8. Generate management summaries

Management can get a thorough picture of how the project is doing thanks to version control. They know who is responsible for the modifications, what they are intended to accomplish when they are completed, and how the changes will affect the document’s long-term objective. It helps management spot persistent issues that particular team members could bring on.

9. Stay compliant with regulations

The accurate change tracking provided by version control is a great way to get your records, files, datasets, and/or documents ready for compliance. To manage risk successfully, keeping a complete audit trail is essential. Regulatory compliance must permeate every aspect of a project. It requires identifying team members who had access to the database and accepting accountability for any changes.

10. Boost developer productivity

The seamless progress of the project is ensured by version management. Teams can collaborate to simplify complex processes, enabling increased automation and consistency and progressive implementation of updated versions of these complex procedures. The updated versions allow programmers to revert to a previous version when errors are found. Testing is simpler if you go back to an earlier version because bugs are caught sooner and with less user impact.

11. Reduce error and duplication 

Having many outdated versions of the same document can be prevented with version management. Errors brought on by information displayed inconsistently across different papers will therefore be diminished. One should convert absolute versions of documents to a “read-only” state after the evaluation is complete. It will restrict the possible modifications and leave little possibility for mistakes in the future.

See More: DevOps vs. Agile Methodology: Key Differences and Similarities 


Version control systems are a vital component of modern-day software development. It helps maintain a reliable source code repository and ensures accountability no matter who works on the code. It also makes finding and addressing bottlenecks easier by simplifying the root cause analysis process. Ultimately, version control enables a single pane of glass for collaborative and iterative application development in short release cycles. 

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