At its core, trunk-based development is a source-control branching model where developers work on a single, shared branch called the 'trunk'. Developers create short-lived feature branches, regularly merge them back into the main trunk, and ensure that the trunk always remains in a deployable state. This approach to development offers several advantages.
Firstly, the regular merging of branches in trunk-based development drastically reduces the integration hell often associated with long-lived branches, where resolving merge conflicts becomes a project in itself. Secondly, because everyone is working off the latest version of the code, it's much easier to identify and isolate problems. This means less time debugging and more time developing. Finally, trunk-based development fosters a culture of collaboration and transparency. Changes are visible and shared with the entire team immediately, encouraging collective ownership of the codebase.
The DORA Report and Trunk-Based Development
The DORA report
by Google provides compelling evidence supporting the efficacy of trunk-based development. According to the report, companies employing trunk-based development practices exhibited higher software delivery performance, resulting in more frequent code deployments, faster lead times, quicker recovery from failures, and lower change failure rates.
What's more, these companies also reported less burnout among developers. This reduction in burnout can be attributed to the elimination of the complex, often stressful merging processes associated with long-lived branches. Developers, therefore, spend less time in firefighting mode and more time in a creative, problem-solving mindset.
Evolving Trunk-Based Development: Pre-Merge Validation Steps
As compelling as these benefits are, there's always room for improvement. One such evolution in the trunk-based development flow involves integrating validation steps before merging code. Here, tools such as Vercel and database branching strategies have a significant role to play.