Git Monorepo: Best Practices for Scalability

Greg Foster
Greg Foster
Graphite software engineer

Managing monorepos with Git can be challenging, especially as the size and complexity of your projects increase. Here's a guide on best practices to ensure your Git monorepo remains scalable and performant.

Understanding Git Monorepo Management

A Git monorepo is a single repository containing multiple projects, which can range from applications to microservices. This structure is beneficial for visibility, collaboration, and standardized tooling across teams​​.

The Origins of Git and Monorepos

Git itself was developed to manage a large project — the Linux kernel — making it inherently suitable for monorepo management. However, as projects grow, performance can become an issue, and strategies must be employed to manage the repository effectively​​.

Tools and Features to Enhance Git Monorepos

There are specific tools and Git features designed to help manage large repositories:

  • Virtual Filesystem for Git (VFS): Allows for streaming support, downloading objects as needed, which is especially useful for very large repositories​​.

  • Sparse Checkouts and Partial Clones: Enable developers to work with a large repository without cloning the entire codebase​​.

  • Git Large File Storage (LFS): An extension for Git that improves support for large files, streamlining push and pull operations​​.

Best Practices for Git Monorepo Scalability

  • Keep History Clean: Use rebase to maintain a linear history, and ensure commits are atomic and relevant to avoid bloating the repository​​.

  • Use Tags and Refs Wisely: Manage the number of refs to prevent performance degradation during operations like clone, fetch, or push​​.

  • Directory Organization: A unified structure helps in easy navigation and discovery within the repository​​.

  • Branch Management: Maintain hygiene by keeping branches small and considering trunk-based development​​.

Handling Performance Issues

As a Git monorepo grows, commands like git log or git blame can slow down due to the large number of commits. To mitigate this, you can:

  • Use git blame with Care: Only run it when necessary, and consider using tools that can bypass the performance issues​​.

  • Optimize Refs: Manage your refs to ensure operations involving them are not hindered by the sheer volume​​.

When to Choose a Git Monorepo

A Git monorepo is often the right choice for projects where unified versioning is essential, and when there is a need for tight collaboration across multiple codebases. However, it's crucial to recognize that not all parts of an organization's software need to be in the same monorepo; unrelated projects can be managed separately​​.

The Future of Git Monorepos

With ongoing investments by companies like Microsoft and the development of open-source tools, the capabilities of Git to handle monorepos are improving, offering more flexibility and overcoming many initial challenges​​.

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