Repository Access Layer

If the Subversion Repository Layer is at “the other end of the line”, the Repository Access (RA) Layer is the line itself. Charged with marshaling data between the client libraries and the repository, this layer includes the libsvn_ra module loader library, the RA modules themselves (which currently includes libsvn_ra_dav, libsvn_ra_local, libsvn_ra_serf, and libsvn_ra_svn), and any additional libraries needed by one or more of those RA modules (such as the mod_dav_svn Apache module or libsvn_ra_svn's server, svnserve).

Since Subversion uses URLs to identify its repository resources, the protocol portion of the URL scheme (usually file://, http://, https://, svn://, or svn+ssh://) is used to determine which RA module will handle the communications. Each module registers a list of the protocols it knows how to “speak” so that the RA loader can, at runtime, determine which module to use for the task at hand. You can determine which RA modules are available to the Subversion command-line client, and what protocols they claim to support, by running svn --version:

$ svn --version
svn, version 1.4.3 (r23084)
   compiled Jan 18 2007, 07:47:40

Copyright (C) 2000-2006 CollabNet.
Subversion is open source software, see
This product includes software developed by CollabNet (http://www.Collab.Net/).

The following repository access (RA) modules are available:

* ra_dav : Module for accessing a repository via WebDAV (DeltaV) protocol.
  - handles 'http' scheme
  - handles 'https' scheme
* ra_svn : Module for accessing a repository using the svn network protocol.
  - handles 'svn' scheme
* ra_local : Module for accessing a repository on local disk.
  - handles 'file' scheme


The public API exported by the RA Layer contains functionality necessary for sending and receiving versioned data to and from the repository. And each of the available RA plugins is able to perform that task using a specific protocol—libsvn_ra_dav speaks HTTP/WebDAV (optionally using SSL encryption) with an Apache HTTP Server that is running the mod_dav_svn Subversion server module; libsvn_ra_svn speaks a custom network protocol with the svnserve program; and so on.

And for those who wish to access a Subversion repository using still another protocol, that is precisely why the Repository Access Layer is modularized! Developers can simply write a new library that implements the RA interface on one side and communicates with the repository on the other. Your new library can use existing network protocols, or you can invent your own. You could use inter-process communication (IPC) calls, or—let's get crazy, shall we?—you could even implement an email-based protocol. Subversion supplies the APIs; you supply the creativity.