This question came up at standup. I’ve put some thought into it, so I thought I’d throw it out for discussion and see what other people think.
At Pivotal, we use svn:externals and the Third-Party Branch Pattern (from the SCM Patterns Book) to manage easy, reliable cross-project updates of common plugins which live elsewhere (rubyforge, etc), without having to manually update in every project or be at the mercy of the RubyForge svn repo going down or being slow. When everything was on SVN, this worked well; we had some rake tasks which made it easy to update the branch from the latest trunk version in the external vendor repository. However, with more stuff like Desert is moving to GitHub.
One option is to just check the entire Git repo into subversion. This is labor-intensive, though. It also loses some of the benefits of the Third-Party branch pattern, such being able to easily preserve local patches while still pulling in changes from a new vendor version. We could probably update our Rake tasks to handle Git as well as SVN.
Another option is to switch all our projects to Git, but we aren’t quite ready for that across the board.
Plus, this is a problem even if you move your parent project to Git. For example, there is no easy Git equivalent to having a svn:external which automatically updates to the latest version of an external repository, which is a useful approach for Continuous Integration or automatically pulling the latest Edge Rails into your project on every update.
Here’s some links from people working on related issues, but please comment if you have any ideas or something that works well for you: