Trunk Based Database Development

Early in my career we had a folder that contained our source code. Each of us developers would copy the folder to our workstation and work on our code. To prevent issues, we had read only access to the main folder.  When we thought work was finished, we had to set up a meeting with two other developers, print our code out, and go through a review. If we got two sign offs, we would send our code to a manager to copy into the main folder. Since we were assigned work in different areas, conflicts were rare and this mostly worked, although it was slow.

Over time I evolved to use various VCSes (Version Control Systems) for development work, with different paradigms for working in teams. These at times included code reviews, but like comprehensive testing, these were optional (and often ignored) when time was short. As an industry, I think we’ve gotten better with code reviews in some sense. The popularity of git and the integration of pull requests (PR) has made it more likely that others will review your code as a habit rather than a rare activity. I certainly see constant calls for someone to examine a PR in the Redgate Slack channels.

I think this is a good move, but I was listening to a few people talk about trunk based development recently, which has less of a chance for code reviews. In this model, developers commit their changes directly to the copy of code everyone is using. In a PR model, developers work in branches, and only have a PR is reveiwed, is the changed code merged with existing files.

Trunk based development is a more trustworthy model. We trust developers to make changes to the code everyone is using. This is often what many of us do in database development when we have shared development databases. A change made by one developer is visible and affects everyone else. While some organizations struggle with conflicts, this does ensure that problems are visible early and that your team must learn to communicate with each other.

One way isn’t better than the other, and if you aren’t familiar with one of them, give it a try. Work on a small PoC with someone else and experiment with how well you can make changes and what conflicts come up. Many of us get stuck developing code in a singular way unless someone forces us to change. The software development process has evolved a bit over the years and you might find that a different style of putting code together may suit your team better.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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Editor, SQLServerCentral
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