When to Use a Monorepo: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Practical Examples

Learn when to use a monorepo, its benefits, and drawbacks. This guide includes practical examples to help you decide if a monorepo is right for your development projects.

Software Engineering

Monorepo

When to Use a Monorepo: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Practical Examples

In this post, we will explore the concept of a monorepo, when to use it, and its benefits and drawbacks. By the end of this post, you will understand the situations where a monorepo can be advantageous and when it might not be the best choice. I assume you have a basic understanding of version control systems like Git. In this post, I will explain how to set up a monorepo and highlight the practical implications with code examples.

What is a Monorepo?

A monorepo (monolithic repository) is a version control strategy where multiple projects or packages are stored in a single repository. This approach contrasts with a polyrepo strategy, where each project or package has its own repository.

When to Use a Monorepo?

  1. Shared Codebase: When multiple projects share common code, libraries, or components, a monorepo ensures that changes to shared code are immediately available across all projects.

  2. Unified CI/CD Pipeline: If you prefer to have a single continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, a monorepo can simplify the setup and maintenance of your pipeline.

  3. Consistent Code Quality: A monorepo helps enforce consistent coding standards and quality checks across all projects, as you can apply the same linting, formatting, and testing rules throughout the repository.

  4. Simplified Dependency Management: Managing dependencies becomes easier since all projects can reference the same versions of shared dependencies. This avoids conflicts and ensures compatibility.

Benefits of Using a Monorepo

  • Easier Code Refactoring: Refactoring shared code across multiple projects becomes straightforward, as you can make changes in one place and propagate them instantly.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: Developers working on different projects can easily collaborate and contribute to each other's work, fostering a more integrated development environment.
  • Improved Developer Onboarding: New developers can get up to speed faster by having access to all projects in one repository, understanding the complete picture.

Drawbacks of Using a Monorepo

  • Scalability Issues: As the repository grows, it can become challenging to manage and maintain. Large repositories can slow down version control operations.
  • Complexity in Permissions: Managing access and permissions can become complicated, especially when different teams need different levels of access to various parts of the repository.
  • Build Times: With a large number of projects, build and test times can increase, impacting development speed.

Setting Up a Monorepo

Let's look at a simple example of setting up a monorepo using Nx, a popular tool for managing monorepos in JavaScript/TypeScript projects.

Step 1: Install Nx CLI

First, install the Nx CLI globally:

npm install -g nx

Step 2: Create a New Workspace

Create a new Nx workspace:

npx create-nx-workspace@latest my-monorepo

Follow the prompts to set up the workspace.

Step 3: Create Applications and Libraries

Inside your workspace, you can create multiple applications and libraries. For example, let's create an application and a library:

nx generate @nrwl/react:application my-app
nx generate @nrwl/react:library my-lib

Step 4: Import and Use the Library in the Application

You can now import and use your library in the application. Modify apps/my-app/src/main.tsx to use a component from my-lib:

import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
import { MyLibComponent } from '@my-org/my-lib';

ReactDOM.render(
  <React.StrictMode>
    <MyLibComponent />
  </React.StrictMode>,
  document.getElementById('root')
);

Conclusion

Using a monorepo can significantly streamline the development process, especially for large projects with shared codebases. However, it is essential to consider the potential drawbacks, such as scalability issues and complex permissions management. By understanding the benefits and drawbacks, you can make an informed decision about whether a monorepo is the right choice for your projects.

I hope this post helps you understand when and how to use a monorepo effectively. Feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below.


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