Subversion was designed with an abstract network layer. This means that a repository can be programmatically accessed by any sort of server process, and the client “repository access” API allows programmers to write plug-ins that speak relevant network protocols. In theory, Subversion can use an infinite number of network implementations. In practice, there are only two servers at the time of this writing.
Apache is an extremely popular web server; using the mod_dav_svn module, Apache can access a repository and make it available to clients via the WebDAV/DeltaV protocol, which is an extension of HTTP. Because Apache is an extremely extensible server, it provides a number of features “for free,” such as encrypted SSL communication, logging, integration with a number of third-party authentication systems, and limited built-in web browsing of repositories.
In the other corner is svnserve: a small, lightweight server program that speaks a custom protocol with clients. Because its protocol is explicitly designed for Subversion and is stateful (unlike HTTP), it provides significantly faster network operations—but at the cost of some features. While it can use SASL to provide a variety of authentication and encryption options, it has no logging or built-in web browsing. It is, however, extremely easy to set up and is often the best option for small teams just starting out with Subversion.
A third option is to use svnserve tunneled over an SSH connection. Even though this scenario ...