Social media and developer communities all around the world are discussing the supposed acquisition of GitHub, the largest repository of open and closed source code on earth. Hosting over 57 million repositories and 20 million users according to the announcement by GitHub itself last year, Microsoft has valued GitHub at a staggering amount of $7.5 billion.
GitHub became the behemoth that it is today because of its strategy to only charge the closed source customers and leaving the open source community free to use the platform. GitHub’s growth has always been community driven, especially by the open-source community contributing to the platform since its launch in early 2008. But whether or not Microsoft gets all of these repositories that they paid for, is another question.
Who is Unhappy?
Shortly after the news spread, developers and tech bloggers all over the world took it to social media and expressed their opinions on the acquisition. Users and enthusiasts have not held back their resentment with GitHub for breaching the trust of the open source community by selling the platform to Microsoft – the same company that once called open-source as “cancer” and “communist” and hoped to kill open source.
Many other open source enthusiasts took a more radical approach and started asking the contributors to move to GitLab and other similar platforms to stop Microsoft ripping their codes. One Reddit user recently shared how Microsoft stole its code. The anguish is more or less justified with genuine concerns such as Microsoft installing telemetry programs on GitHub to remotely monitor the codes and kill innovation.
Who is Happy?
Enterprise users, on the other hand, are seeing this acquisition as increasing developers’ convenience to write, build and deploy code on the cloud. It will not only help enterprise users use CI/CD to deploy their code on Azure but also using software libraries and frameworks provided by Microsoft will be a lot easier.
Observers see the acquisition as part of strategy by Microsoft to increase the adoption of Azure, the direct competitor to AWS and Google Cloud Platform. Analysts like Sticky Bits took on Twitter to spin conspiracy theories about the same here, i.e., use GitHub to drive more cloud workloads to Azure.
To help with biases and make the playground even, here are some perspectives from opposite sides of the table. We believe, that as someone who is potentially planning a shift, should look at both sides of the coin and not make decisions in haste.
Why Plan a Switch from GitHub – Reasons to Worry
Open-Source Community Backlash
If comments on Reddit and Hackernews are anything to go by, the whole move has been met with a lot of skepticism and backlash at the least. Microsoft’s past rivalry with the open source community has a major role to play here.
In 2001, Microsoft’s then CEO Steve Ballmer called open-source operating system Linux a cancer and spread FUD on how using Linux and developing systems and apps on it meant that you’ll have to make your software open-source too. Back in the day, this used to be Microsoft’s strategy to push OEM computer manufacturers to use on Windows as the operating system – to which some users revolted and started asking refunds for their unused Windows licenses. This documentary is an account of the same.
Patent Trolling by Microsoft
In 2007, Microsoft claimed Linux violated 235 of Microsoft’s patents and sued mapping company TomTom. This raised serious concerns in the open-source community and people blamed Microsoft for patent trolling and killing innovation. One of the patents, Microsoft argued, was on the FAT32 file system which was being used by Linux, which further led on to the paranoia that Microsoft would come after every developer who used Linux embedded systems. TomTom, in response, argued that Microsoft had infringed on its navigation system patent, and joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), a consortium formed to protect Linux from patent infringement lawsuits after which, TomTom and Microsoft settled the lawsuit before a showdown between OIN and Microsoft could happen.
The Fate of Skype
Microsoft removed the P2P architecture of Skype when they first acquired it and faced a lot of backlash from its users, who accused Microsoft of installing systems to monitor conversations. Microsoft later introduced a lot of other features such as video calling, file sharing which consequently slowed the app and lost the support of Skype’s early adopters.
Why Stay On – Reasons Not to Worry
First things first – Microsoft has changed a lot in last 15 years, especially more so under the leadership of Satya Nadella. Further, instead of killing the open source community, Microsoft has started contributing to the open-source community. Of late, Microsoft has been a great steward for open-source.
Microsoft’s new leadership has taken some lessons from history and realised that it can’t be a dictator to the open source community, telling them to move their code to their own cloud platform Azure. Instead, on their blog, Microsoft has reiterated:
We will empower developers at every stage of the development lifecycle – from ideation to collaboration to deployment to the cloud. Going forward, GitHub will remain an open platform, which any developer can plug into and extend. Developers will continue to be able to use the programming languages, tools and operating systems of their choice for their projects – and will still be able to deploy their code on any cloud and any device.
Furthermore, Microsoft has expressed great intent in helping developers with every stage of the development – from ideation to deployment and scaling on the cloud. Microsoft has reiterated on their contributions to the open-source community in the form of open-source products and frameworks.
Newfound Love for Open-Source?
Microsoft not only open-sourced a lot of their code, but also struck a deal with Canonical, allowing Linux to run completely on Azure. These moves have been pivotal in signalling the shift in Microsoft strategy towards open-source communities, and away from Windows-dominance.
Especially for enterprise customers of GitHub, Microsoft will now be offering services and tools for developers and integrating it with GitHub. GitHub, unlike its competitors Bitbucket and Gitlab, doesn’t have a native build tool and can be integrated with a range of services and tools to run DevOps.
Open-Source Ambassador as the New CEO of GitHub
Finally, to gain the trust of the open-source community, Microsoft announced that once the acquisition closes this year, GitHub’s new CEO will be none other than Nat Friedman, an open source veteran and founder of Xamarin.
For Microsoft, It’s all about Azure and expanding its cloud computing operations. By getting access to the largest developer community, Microsoft is going to be pushing Azure for GitHub’s enterprise customers. Thanks to Microsoft, GitHub has become a viable option to the same enterprises who were once shying away.
The Bottom Line
Its best to evaluate strategically whether your organisation needs to switch. The reasons may vary from costs or ownership and management, to top-level buy-in, to paranoia. However, to avoid long-term losses arising due to knee-jerk reactions, here’s a quick little blueprint on what to consider:
- Pricing: You don’t want to end up paying less only to take on more long-term ownership costs. A thorough investigation on TCO should be top priority.
- Built-in DevOps toolkits: One platform may provide a ready-to-use toolkit out of the box and lock you in. The other might give access to a host of 3rd party integrations, but give you management overheads. A careful evaluation is a must.
- Migration: The consideration is less about moving ‘in’ to a new platform, but on ease of moving ‘out’ of it. For obvious acquisition reasons, most tools give an easy way in. A smart tool is one that gives an easy way out.
Drop us a line if you need more advice and much deeper tips and tricks.
Easter Egg Time
Not that it means anything, but guess where Gitlab is hosted?