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Migrating from Perforce Helix

DETAILS: Tier: Free, Premium, Ultimate Offering:, Self-managed, GitLab Dedicated

Perforce Helix provides a set of tools which also include a centralized, proprietary version control system similar to Git.

Perforce vs Git

The following list illustrates the main differences between Perforce Helix and Git:

  • In general, the biggest difference is that Perforce branching is heavyweight compared to Git lightweight branching. When you create a branch in Perforce, it creates an integration record in their proprietary database for every file in the branch, regardless how many were actually changed. With Git, however, a single SHA acts as a pointer to the state of the whole repository after the changes, which can be helpful when adopting feature branching workflows.
  • Context switching between branches is less complex in Git. If your manager says, 'You need to stop work on that new feature and fix this security vulnerability,' Git can help you do this.
  • Having a complete copy of the project and its history on your local computer means every transaction is very fast, and Git provides that. You can branch or merge, and experiment in isolation, and then clean up before sharing your changes with others.
  • Git makes code review less complex, because you can share your changes without merging them to the default branch. This is compared to Perforce, which had to implement a Shelving feature on the server so others could review changes before merging.

Why migrate

Perforce Helix can be difficult to manage both from a user and an administrator perspective. Migrating to Git/GitLab there is:

  • No licensing costs: Git is GPL while Perforce Helix is proprietary.
  • Shorter learning curve: Git has a big community and a vast number of tutorials to get you started.
  • Integration with modern tools: By migrating to Git and GitLab, you can have an open source end-to-end software development platform with built-in version control, issue tracking, code review, CI/CD, and more.

How to migrate

Git includes a built-in mechanism (git p4) to pull code from Perforce and to submit back from Git to Perforce.

Here's a few links to get you started:

git p4 and git filter-branch are not very good at creating small and efficient Git packfiles. So it might be a good idea to spend time and CPU to properly repack your repository before sending it for the first time to your GitLab server. See this StackOverflow question.

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