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Wait... you don't have a repository manager?

I've seen it all. I really have. The highly paid consultant from a well-known enterprise software vendor who once told me: "I don't need to use an IDE, I do everything in Notepad."... all the way to a client that was convinced the best relational database was the one they built in-house (my reaction: really? you can do better than MySQL or Oracle or Postgres? With one developer? I'd like to see this).

You and I work in an industry full of exceptional hubris, and, very often, exceptional ignorance. When I see the development team that doesn't use an SCM because they are "too complex", or a $200/hour consultant that whittles away his time in Notepad, it just reminds me that our industry is chock full of oddities. But, what are you going to do? As long as that SCM-less team gets the job done and that Notepad-using consultant delivers, it often makes sense to "let it be" - not everyone can be convinced to make rational decisions about development infrastructure.

Correcting a few Repository Management Myths

Trust me, I've tried to convince them all, but there's something about dev infrastructure that encourages a new level of stubborn-headedness - a resistance to objective reasoning. Take, for example, repository managers. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people appeal to the following myths about repository managers:

  • Myth: "We're not big enough for a repository manager." Reality: I'm a team of one for most of the projects I work on, and I rely on Nexus as place to store 3rd-party libraries, and as a way to isolate me from depending on a network. The size of your team has no bearing on the benefits of Nexus. Download it.
  • Myth: "The fact that you need a repository at all is a failure in how Maven is designed." Reality: Every reasonable tool that manages dependencies downloads artifacts from Central - Maven, Ivy, Gradle. Are you telling me that you want to download all of your dependencies manually and check them into source control? (if so, I'm giving my notice today because that is insane....) Again, invalid excuse, go download Nexus.
  • Myth: "You only need a repository if you are publishing artifacts to it." Reality: No, the benefits of Nexus as a proxy are huge. You can track your exposure to licensing and security threats, and it gives you a place to control what artifacts people consume.
  • Myth: "Our projects only have three dependencies, I don't see the benefit." Reality: Sure, your projects have three direct dependencies, but they likely have transitive dependencies. The problem with dependency management is that tools like Ivy, Gradle, and Maven have made it too easy, no one understands the underlying complexity. In this case, maybe this individual needs Maven training.

I'm drawing a line at repository managers.

If you develop Java-based or .NET-based software and you don't use a repository manager you might as well just wear a shirt emblazoned with the words: "Doing it wrong and proud of it". Here are some very basic reasons why you shouldn't just accept the fact that your group doesn't want to use a repository manager:

  • You'll lose your license - Ok, that's not true, but it should be. Remember, Central is a public resource, it is a service that is made available to benefit everyone, and it is also something that should be conserved. If you run a large development effort with tens, hundreds, or thousands of developers and you just don't care enough to run a caching proxy, you aren't being a good citizen of Buildlandia. (No one is going to revoke your Central license, but maybe this will get your attention.)
  • Because it is always better to be informed - While your colleagues may think you only use three artifacts from Central, I promise that if they were to take a closer look, they would notice that the build is pulling in more than that. Do they know about security issues for the components they use? Do they understand that OSS software is released under various licenses? Ignorance of legal obligations in OSS is not a valid defense, so if you suspect that the organization you are working for is flying blind on licensing issues, download a Nexus Professional trial and find out. It is always better to know.
  • Best-practice - In this industry it often pays to invoke this nebulous idea of "best-practice". Ignore the fact that you've tried to make the case using solid reasoning and examples. Make an appeal based on authority. Tell your colleagues and managers that Nexus is used by some of the largest Media companies, the largest international banks, and the most critical government agencies. If you need to make this case, and you are running into problems, send an email to our sales team. We're here to help you make the case.

Lastly, if you can't convince your team to use a repository manager. Quit. Ok, just kidding, I'm not telling you to quit (although I can't say it wouldn't be a good reason). Maybe I am telling you to quit over this, maybe I'm not. You know what, I probably wouldn't last very long on a dev team that willfully disregards repository managers.

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Written by Tim OBrien

Tim is a Software Architect with experience in all aspects of software development from project inception to developing scaleable production architectures for large-scale systems during critical, high-risk events such as Black Friday. He has helped many organizations ranging from small startups to Fortune 100 companies take a more strategic approach to adopting and evaluating technology and managing the risks associated with change.