Managing monolithic repositories with composer’s path repository

Composer now have a new repository type in addition to, among others, the well known vcs for instance: the path repository. The goal if this repository is to be able to manage dependencies between applications and packages in a monolithic repository.

A monolithic repository?

The first question can be: why a monolithic repository? There are many blog posts and videos around about why such a code repository can be extremely useful for your project and your team, but we can quickly summarise that in some cases you’ll find at least these advantages:

  • Reduced bootstrap cost as new starters just need this repository
  • Easier to have cross-applications patches (via a single pull-request for instance)
  • You don’t need to download dependencies as they are here 😉

Obviously there are also some potential problems such as the ease of BC breaks between your libraries/applications and also shared responsibility, but that’s more related to the developers than the tooling.

Now, with Composer

Benjamin created a tool called Fiddler that aims to solve this management of PHP dependencies in a monolithic repository. I believe there’s few issues and that probably the purpose is different so that’s why I wanted to introduce this path repository into Composer itself, the de-facto dependency management tool for PHP.

You are probably already using vcs repositories to use your own forks are private dependencies without using a Satis for instance: the idea is exactly the same, you have to define your repository in your composer.json file and then simply require the package.

Let’s say you have a micro-services-based architecture with many services and you are using a monolithic repository. In this example, you’ll have 1 “sales” API and 2 other services using it via the same client library. You’ll probably end with a repository structure like that:

The composer.json file of the sales client (in packages/sales-client/composer.json) will be normal with just a name property:

Then, in the accounts-api and reporting-worker applications we need this library, so we can simply require it by having a composer.json file that uses the path repository like in the following example:

And that’s all. Now you can easily deal with monolithic repositories!


3 thoughts on “Managing monolithic repositories with composer’s path repository”

  1. This didn’t quite work for me – I had to turn off symlinks by force:

    "repositories": [
    "type": "path",
    "url": "../../packages/sales-client"
    "options": {
    "symlink": false

    Without this directive, when I attempt to install the package, I get an error saying it can’t install the package inside the package’s own source directory; which makes sense.

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