The way I see it, the two biggest kids on the software development block right now are Atlassian and GitHub. The two companies are each behind their own revolution in enterprise software development. GitHub, for example, has taken over the online open-source repository space, gobbling up more than 3 million projects from the Linux kernel to Ruby on Rails. For software developers, GitHub has become the Internet Movie Database: It’s a visual resume of verifiable, quantifiable work.
Atlassian, on the other hand, has revolutionized enterprise software development and coordination tools. While HP and Computer Associates floundered to sell their heavy development-management, change-management and release-management suites for millions of dollars per installation, Atlassian blasted into the market with US$1,000 licenses and tools that, while extremely simple to use and fairly limited in scope, were every bit as customizable and powerful as their more expensive counterparts.
As a result of their respective revolutions, both GitHub and Atlassian had 9-digit milestones. Atlassian had its first $100,000,000+ revenue year in 2011, and GitHub closed a round of venture capital funding for around $100,000,000 in 2012.
But, as was said in 1980s Patrick Swayze classic “Red Dawn,” the two toughest kids on the block, sooner or later, they’re gonna fight.
The first salvos in this war were fired when Atlassian purchased Bitbucket. Their thinking, at the time, was that distributed version control was a great idea, but that Mercurial, not Git, would be the belle of the ball.
Today, however, Mercurial is almost forgotten, while Git is being integrated into tools from Microsoft, Perforce and Plastic SCM. Even Atlassian has embraced Git, tying it into Bitbucket and into their new, third-post project, Stash.
Neither Atlassian nor GitHub admits to competing with each other, but you can see that they’re both thinking about winning over the same target markets. And those markets are all clambering for distributed version control.
Why? Because software developers are hard to find, and teams are increasingly spread around the globe, due to software development hot spots being highly concentrated pools of talent in specific geographic locations.
But also, it’s because the Git model is so compelling to developers. The forking/merging mechanics of Git just make life easier for large projects where people want to experiment without breaking anything.
And to this end, Atlassian has been cranking away—overtime—on Stash. This Git repository-management solution is targeted at enterprise teams that are having trouble merging the barebones Git with the features and integration-rich enterprise environment.
Giancarlo Lionetti, group product marketing manager for developer tools at Atlassian, said the Atlassian team built Stash while thinking about “The workflow of how our teams were going to utilize pull request. You want to tailor your workflow to meet your needs. You can add the ability to set checks for when a pull request can be merged. You can check the build status and say: ‘I want X number of builds to pass and be successful before anyone can merge this pull request.’ ”
That’s right in line with the Atlassian way of doing things: Why build an issue tracker when you can build an issue tracker where every single line of data, everywhere in the tracker, can be accessed via a REST request?
This is the Atlassian answer to the enterprise’s ravenous need to customize and integrate: Build from the ground up on RESTful retrieval of all data. The same can be said of Stash. Atlassian has a knack for making its tools exceptionally developer-friendly. They’re fine craftspeople in that regard. They build tools that, to the layperson, seem limited or simple, but to the trained craftsperson seem elegant and perfectly designed.
Lionetti and the Stash team at Atlassian is hoping to bring this ethic to Stash, and thus, build a third post in the tent that is Atlassian. Confluence and JIRA have already gathered loyal followings and decimated existing enterprise development tools by being cheaper, easier and better. Can they do the same to a competitor—GitHub—that is also a hot new company decimating old markets?
Sooner or later, these two biggest new kids on the block will have to tangle, and developers will be the benefactors. With GitHub and Atlassian competing, ease of use, breadth of capabilities and development velocity will no doubt be the scoreboard of that competition.