In this DevOps Chat we speak with GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij. Sid has guided GitLab as a co-founder to the heights of the DevOps market. Joining Sid and me is Ashish Kuthiala, who recently joined GitLab. I have always been impressed with the completeness of GitLabs’ vision of the DevOps toolchain and what the company wants to offer. Sid’s vision for this is something he calls Concurrent DevOps. You will hear more about Concurrent DevOps in our chat, as well as in the months to come.
Another thing about GitLab is is an open source-based company, which allows for a lot of transparency. With hundreds of thousands of organizations using GitLab and thousands of paying customers, GitLab is a great example of a DevOps success story.
As usual, the audio of our conversation is immediately below, followed by a transcript of our conversation.
Sid saw the first ruby code in 2007 and loved it so much he learned to program and made this his profession. Before that he was engaged in various businesses, from selling programmable infrared receivers to starting a recreational submarine company. He is always looking to publicly document an answer or to make a process more efficient. He was never good at sports but tries to make it up in quantity by hiking, sailing, skiing, snowboarding, speed skating, dancing Zouk, squashing, and running. In love participating in conversations on Hacker News, and reading Marc Andreessen’s tweets (now that Marc stopped this greatly increased his productivity).
Sid Sijbrandij: Thanks for having me.
Shimel: Thank you. And joining Sid and I is a friend of mine, recently joined the GitLab team, Ashish Kuthiala. Ashish, I didn’t mess that up too bad, did I?
Ashish Kuthiala: No, you didn’t. No, that was perfect.
Shimel: Alright! Well, one of the nice things about tech is, I get a lot of experience. Not a lot of Smiths in the group. [Laughter] And as I said, this is Alan Shimel, and we’re here with DevOps Chat.
So, guys—GitLab. You know, first of all, Sid, I’m sure you’ve probably heard this before, but I’m sure there are people in our audience who still have to ask themselves, “GitHub, GitLab,” right? And as silly as it sounds, they may confuse them sometimes.
So, let’s set it straight in terms of GitLab. Sid, you co-founded it. What exactly is GitLab and how does it differ, let’s say, from GitHub, and we’ll go from there.
Sijbrandij: Yeah, so GitLab started off as an open source alternative to GitHub, where you could have Git repositories, do version control, do some issue management, and it’s now grown a lot as a company and as a project. We now do the whole DevOps life cycle. So, anything from planning to rolling out what you’ve made—CI/CD, packaging, monitoring—all in a single application.
Shimel: Great. And I think you’re being modest, actually. GitHub is certainly—when you say branched out, it’s branched out, I mean, from what I know, and I’m no expert, obviously, the breadth of the vision is pretty dynamic. So, congratulations with that.
Sijbrandij: Thank you.
Shimel: Ashish, you were—thank you. Ashish, you recently joined GitLab, and why don’t you give us out, what’s your position there?
Kuthiala: So, Alan, I think you and I have known each other for a while, and I am very passionate about the promise of DevOps, especially at large scale enterprises, right? Not smaller teams or not those who had the luxury of building out their infrastructure and teams to adopt DevOps and realize the promises of that.
We still a lot of the larger enterprises struggle with adopting and realizing the promise of DevOps as it is. I mean, a lot of them are achieving results, but a lot of them are still in the journey and trying to figure out how to get there.
So, and I had heard about GitLab, I knew that they were building out a solution for this, but I think it was in the last DevOps Enterprise Summit, you, I, and Haydn ran into each other. And I started talking to Haydn and I learned more about the company, and I think it’s just the right product at the right time. Because if you look at all the challenges that exist in the big enterprise, there’s massive transformation needed, and there’s several things that prevent this from moving forward at the speed that everybody would like, whether this is different organizations within the large organizations to get them to collaborate together, whether this is stitching together the different toolset chains to kind of make this seamless.
And I think GitLab has really built something from ground up that addresses this problem. And the good news is that the velocity at which we are adding functionality, we are adding the needs that need to be addressed. Because we are an open source company, we are completely open and transparent, right? We gather input from everybody, a road map is opened. We take the input, we take contributions, and we build the right thing for solving today’s problems. And as needs change, I see this model as something that can really adopt to that, right?
Because the world of DevOps is changing very rapidly, and often there’s a fear of getting locked in with a vendor, too. With our solution, I think the openness of it and the direction it can go to solve problems as they change is a great promise, and we’re already solving a lot of problems. So, that was a big thing for me, you know, that I considered in joining GitLab.
And the other thing is the culture and open transparency that Sid and the company have built in the company. It’s just phenomenal for me, right? I mean, that was just an eye opening model of how everything we do is open to the world. It’s open within the employees. Anybody can contribute, anybody can look at everything we do and how we move forward to help our customers.
So, these two are the main things for me that really inspired me to join GitLab.
Shimel: Great. So, Sid, I’d like to come back to you. Certainly, we can all have vision, but execution is what kinda separates winners from losers in the market. And I’d like to ask you, as the CEO, what’s the secret, if you want to share it with us, right? How do you translate this vision that attracts someone of Ashish’s quality and character and then translate that into an execution that actually translates to success in the market?
Sijbrandij: Yeah, I’d love to talk about that. We’re biting off a lot, so I think we’re now—GitLab offers a great solution for 10 different product categories. So, that’s massive. There’s a lot of engineering effort. For example, we have a CI/CD team that is just 10 people, and that they have to compete with people that are 100 times bigger. So, how do they do that? First, they’re just selected. GitLab CI is the leader in this space. There’s GitLab CI on the top right and then whole lot of nothing.
Sijbrandij: So, how do you do that with 10 people? Well, there’s a couple of secrets. The first one is—you don’t do that with 10 people, you do that with 1,800 people. So, we’ve got over 100,000 organizations using GitLab, and over 1,800 people contributed to the product. So, in the release that will go out in a week from now, there’s not just 1 contribution, there’s not 10, there’s 93 features that people contributed that aren’t paid by GitLab.
So, we see it as, instead of having a tool chain where you have to make the integrations yourself—and that’s not just a few, we identified over 24 integrations you have to make in a standard DevOps tool chain. Instead of making them all yourself with your DevOps tooling team, you work together with 100,000 organizations and 1,800 people to do that.
So, that’s the big secret. It’s open source. We work together. Then there’s some small secrets, and one of them is iteration. Iteration is one of our six values, and it’s something that everyone is super excited about when they join, but they all kind of don’t understand how painful it is, because it’s very, very painful to do the minimal thing. We’re now in a call with Ashish that Ashish will probably not like that we’re gonna probably change the header on our home page today, because we thought of something better. He’s probably gonna say no, but give me a month, I can think of something even better. And I will be like, “That’s great, Ashish. Think of something even better and then change it again.”
Sijbrandij: It’s very, very painful, and we do that throughout the company, and in product, it’s a very painful thing. My previous call was with Martin, and they’re working on a cloud native chart for GitLab, and we have a thing with uploads and we probably are gonna ship a chart with an NFS server as a part of that. A very clumsy thing, but it unlocks everybody else, and we can keep shipping. And one of our other subvalues is boring solutions, and I love that, because it’s so obvious. You say “boring solution” and people understand what you mean. We don’t go for the shiny toy. Our mission is, everyone can contribute, and people can only contribute if there’s a stable environment to do that, if they understand what you’re doing.
So, when I saw the GitLab code base a year after Dmitri created it, I expected to see a hobby project. Someone super passionate, but doing this outside of work, like, putting some new development paradigms in it and having something that is hard to comprehend, especially since 300 people already contributed in that first year.
And instead, I opened up the code base, and I saw a pristine Ruby on Rails application. Totally idiomatic, like, exactly how it should be, and we kept that. We don’t allow anyone to do anything that isn’t boring, and that enables everyone to contribute. That enables us to make forward progress, and we adopt the best of what’s out there. We embrace Kubernetes, we embrace Prometheus—really great, rock solid open source solutions that we can build for later on, and that’s been a big success.
Shimel: Absolutely. You know, Sid, that was a mouthful in more ways than one, right? So, let’s hit on a couple things. First of all, harnessing the power of open source, right? Right out of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, you know, the book, and what’s gone on is, I mean, the false multiplier there is amazing. Of course, there’s a certain amount of a herding cats element to it, right, in getting everyone moving the same way. But if you can, harnessing that power is just—you know, it’s amazing.
No. 2, you know, you spoke about iterations and sort of feedback loops and constant change, right? This is core to DevOps, right? This is DevOps 101 kinda stuff.
Sijbrandij: It really is. This is exactly what we deliver to customers.
Sijbrandij: Organizations adopt GitLab because we can make their DevOps life cycle three times faster, but you still have to work between the tools. They had these handles between the tools, they had these integrations that weren’t transparent, that weren’t seamless.
With GitLab, they can work concurrently. As soon as you push your change, QA is gonna run, security tests run, production is gonna have the first review up out there. There’s not a sequence to it. It is, you paralyze the whole process and you gain tremendous speed and you reduce your time to value, and you allow to get feedback and to improve based on that. That’s the value we bring as a product and of course, we try to practice that ourselves.
Shimel: Yeah. Well, so, but you more than practice it yourself. I think, you know, Sid, I’m a little different. You’re the CEO of this great company, GitLab. I’m an observer, I’m a fly on the wall of many DevOps companies, of many DevOps transformations, and I will tell you, the DevOps tools providers who do it best are those who eat their own dog food, who are practicing DevOps themselves. If you can’t do DevOps internally, don’t try to tell other people how they should do it or, you know, what they should be doing.
It’s not a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” You have to live that, you have to talk the talk, walk the walk in order for you to truly understand it well enough to get other people to buy into it and be successful. So, kudos to GitLab for doing that.
You guys recently announced an acquisition in the securities space. We’re kinda running low on time, but I wanted to just touch on that. Sid, your take on it?
Sijbrandij: Yeah, we acquired a company called Gemnasium, and I think they’ve done the best job of any company of assessing all the different libraries, all the dependencies that are out there and saying which ones are vulnerable, which ones contain a problem. And that is functionality that’s gonna, that’s part of the DevOps life cycle, so we want them to be right in the product.
So, we’re really happy to join their team, and I’m super proud of them for embracing our values, because they joined us, and within three weeks, all the Gemnasium functionality ended up in GitLab, so.
Shimel: That’s cool.
Sijbrandij: We know we hired the right people, they’re amazing, so congrats to Philippe and his team.
Shimel: Yep. Congratulations to them. And look, we see it here, you know, this whole DevSecOps thing, if you will, if you want to call it that, is probably, along with testing, two of the hottest areas within the larger DevOps community.
Ashish, we’re almost out of time. Let me come back to you, though. So, you joined this fantastic organization. We’ve heard from Sid a little bit of a peek into what’s making this engine roar, this rocket lift off. What are you gonna bring to the table? What are we gonna see from you, Ashish?
Kuthiala: I think we need to take this message out to the marketplace, like, you know, a couple of things you talked about when people hear GitLab, they sometimes confuse it with the Git community and other Git offerings like GitHub, for example. So, we really need to tell the world what we are doing, and we are much more than just a repository engine, right? We do a lot more.
And now that, you know, we are out there trying to help other customers with their DevOps challenges, it’s actually a little bit more than what Sid mentioned here; he is being humble. So, not only are we practicing our own DevOps methodology to develop and roll out our application, but we actually use DevOps in every single aspect of running the company, right? Right from the hiring process when I joined to everything that I do in the company adopts a pipeline—you know, you create an issue and you run it through the pipeline and you merge that issue and it goes to production. If something is wrong, you know, it comes back.
Amazingly, everything, between signing for benefits to updating the webpages to running our tracking of issues of what we do, it’s all run through pipelines. And I think I see that as a future. You know, DevOps is not just to be applied to delivering IT value, but you know, it is a methodology that can be applied across running your company for all functions.
So, I think the version of GitLab is much bigger than just helping companies deliver efficient software really fast out there with feedback on the DevOps methodology. It’s almost to pivot and change the way we think about delivering value to our customers, in every aspect of running the company that we do. And I want to be part of that. I think it’s really exciting. I can’t wait to kind of start talking about this to everybody and, you know, seeing how we go down this journey.
Shimel: Great. Sid, we’re over time, but I want to give you the last word, so I’m gonna ask one last question for you. What can we expect to see next from GitLab?
Sijbrandij: We detail a really ambitious vision, and the vision is called Complete DevOps. And we said we’re gonna realize that this year, and we’re executing on that. We’re really proud, we integrated a complete web IDE in GitLab, so VS code running in GitLab. No need to check out this autocode base, you can just edit right there and then.
But it consists of a lot of parts. We’re gonna have real time editing of issue and merge request descriptions. We’re gonna add logging to GitLab. You can already do monitoring, but we’re gonna add something for your logs, we’re gonna add application performance monitoring. Lots of other things that we think are needed to have a complete solution.
So, if you started a startup, the only things you have to do is incorporate it, get a Kubernetes cluster, and install GitLab on it—job solved. Like, you’re up and running, you don’t need any other tools, and the only thing you have to do is, you push your code and already today, GitLab detects what language is it, it builds your code, it tests your code, it tests for all the security issues that might be there, it tests your code quality. It gives you all that. It gives you a review app to work with, kind of a staging app. That already works in GitLab today and we’re expanding on that, and I’m super excited to deliver that to the market this year.
Shimel: DevOps complete. Thank you. Ashish, Sid—thanks so much for being our guests on this episode of DevOps Chat. Continued success with GitLab. We’ll be checking in—actually, I’ll see some of the GitLab folks at IBM Think in a few weeks, and we’ll get an update there, but Sid, you’re always welcome to be a guest here, don’t be a stranger, and congratulations.
Sijbrandij: Thanks so much. Thanks for having us. I enjoyed this. Looking forward to coming back.
Shimel: Alright, Ashish—
Kuthiala: Thank you, Alan, for having us.
Shimel: – good luck, my friend. Be well. This is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com. You’ve just listened to another DevOps Chat, and we’ll see you soon on another DevOps Chat, everyone.