Australia-based Atlassian has been a solid player in the code repository and collaborative development tool marketplace since 2002. Now, with a recent $60million investment from Accel Partners in hand, the company has acquired fellow Australian code repository software vendor Bitbucket, which increases its total number of users from fewer than 20,000 to more than 100,000.
[login](These numbers do not mean Bitbucket is or ever was a larger company than Atlassian, since most Bitbucket users are either free or low-cost account holders, while most Atlassian users have spent $800 or more to license the company’s software products for use behind their companyfirewalls.)
Even with the acquistion and the growing trend toward software as a service, says Atlassian marketer Jon Silvers, a majority of their clients are more comfortable hosting their code behind their own corporate firewalls than on someone else’s servers. That is still the core of Atlassian’s business, and they expect it to remain their largest profit generator for many years to come.
This is not about Open Source Software
While both Atlassian and Bitbucket happily host Open Source software projects for free, they are not significant players in this subset of the collabrative software development world, which is still dominated by SourceForge.net with newcomer Google Code coming up fast. Instead, Atlassian concentrates on private repositories for proprietary developers, a market served by CollabNet, Github, and several other players large and small.
These competitors use different version control tools, with Subversion and Git typically at the center of what they offer, in addition to wikis and a wide array of proprietary tracking and collaboration tools. Whether one company’s toolset is superior to another’s may depend in large part on a potential client’s specific workflow and development needs. CVS, once the king of version control trackers, seems to be on its way out, but it is stillavailable from the Free Software Foundation, which also runs its own code repository, Savannah, “the software forge for people committed to Free Software.”
And then there is CollabNet, one of the biggest of big dogs in the commercial code repository business, original home of the open source Apache Subversion version contral system.
CollabNet CEO Bill Portelli doesn’t seem to be concerned, in a competitive sense, about Atlassian acquiring Bitbucket. In an email to DevX.com, he said:
“Tools like Git and Mercurial are targeted at an interesting software configuration management niche called DVCS. It’s an emerging method of performing agile SCM that has both plusses and minuses. To give you a sense of the adoption of DVCS, the 2010 Eclipse Developer Tools Survey stated that Subversion, which CollabNet founded and still commercially sponsors, is used by 58% of the Eclipse community, or 19 times as many developers as use Mercurial. As an additional matter of DVCS comparison, the usage of Git is about twice that of Mercurial, and about 1/10th of Subversion.”
Come to think of it, Git is easy to download and set up, easy to use, and has plenty of documentation and a helpful user community. For a simple or ad hoc distributed development effort, why not just use Git? It works for Linus Torvald and the other Linux kernel developers, so it’s probably good enough for your project, too.
Why buy a cow when the milk is free?
You probably have an old PC around your home that can run the free versions of Git or Subversion. And nowadays, even most one-person software development shops have enough server capacity to run either of these programs or any one of another dozen version control systems available for free under free or open source software licenses. But when the Linux kernel moved to free, Linus-developed Git from proprietary BitKeeper, BitKeeper vendor BitMover didn’t go out of business. If anything, the company grew.
One classic dig at free software is that “it’s only free if your time is free.” There is some truth to this statement. If developer (or sysadmin) time is one of your more precious resources, you may be better off financially buying a packaged version control system — or even paying a third party to host your code for you, assuming they take security precautions that make you feel comfortable.
In other words, sometimes free milk is all you need, while at other times it’s handy to have a cow around that you can milk any time you like. But, depending on your developers and the way they work, after due consideration it might be best to buy your (version control) milk pasteurized and packaged, ready to pour and use.
You are the only person who can make this decision — after careful shopping and evaluation of competitive offerings, of course. And even if it seems that the choices are bewildering, all this competition means that both proprietary and free version control systems get more capable and reliable — and easier to use — every year.