This past week’s CollabNet/Xebia Labs merger brings another challenger to the “end-to-end” DevOps market. There is a huge prize waiting for the winner. But which of the challengers has the right stuff to win this battle? Will any of the current pack even be around at the end of the day? Who will be the winners and losers? What will it take to win?
The eventual dominant player in the end-t0-end DevOps provider market will be rewarded with what should be a great pot of gold. It is this promise of hegemony over DevOps and the rewards it commands that have so many chasing the prize. CloudBees, JFrog and GitLab are some of the DevOps darlings in this market. Chef has a similar game plan, and now the new entity stemming from the CollabNet/Xebia Labs deal will also be a player. I believe GitHub/Microsoft will make a play in this market, too.
At this point in time, who knows which company will be triumphant and which will be regulated to the trash heap of also-rans? One thing I learned from my friend Brad Feld is that if you are not in the top three in your category, get out. In the end-to-end DevOps or complete DevOps market, there will be some winners and there will be some losers.
As engineers strive to streamline their application delivery pipelines to be able to achieve true continuous delivery, a massive stumbling block becomes an end-to-end delivery pipeline with tools that are seamlessly integrated. At one end of this spectrum we have organizations that acquire best-of-breed tools and glue them together themselves, owning the resulting plumbing. At the other end there are organizations that want tools from a single vendor that ‘just work,’ integrated out of the box. The pendulum today has swung toward the single vendor, integrated out-of-the-box side. The growth of platform vendors like GitLab and the consolidation of CI/CD tool vendors with larger ones is the result of this swing.
Right now, while several contenders have a great vision, none of them really have a bonafide end-to-end platform or suite with functionality all the way across. There are also other contenders that I have not mentioned, but here is my take on what is out there that I see:
- GitLab – The company recently won our DevOps Dozen DevOps solution provider of the year and it was well-deserved. Sid Sijbrandij and team have done a great job laying out a bold, ambitious vision of GitLab’s eventual full functionality. On top of this, they add almost 200 new features a month, every month. The company is growing by leaps and bounds, with almost 1,200 employees, and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars with a valuation of $2.75 billion. GitLab has the resources to go deep in this market and has built some tremendous momentum. On the other hand, the fact is today GitLab customers primarily use the Git repo functionality and the CI module. The other modules are still being built out to be market-competitive, including some good work in security. I suspect it may take a few acquisitions to give the company market-competitive solutions in some of the other areas it is building out. At the end of the day, you have to make GitLab a clear favorite to be one of the survivors/winners, especially with such a high valuation.
- CloudBees – The Jenkins train has pulled CloudBees to the top of the mountain, but to succeed in this race, the company is going to need more than that to stay there. Jenkins is a bit long in the tooth and Kubernetes has been a game-changer. Jenkins itself has been turned over to the Continuous Delivery Foundation (Linux Foundation) as has JenkinsX, which works very well in K8s environments. But CloudBees has shown it is more than Jenkins and made some key acquisitions including Electric Cloud, which have given the company great enterprise customers and added to its talent pool. Other, smaller acquisitions have given CloudBees some fresh new functionality such as feature flags, for instance, which are upgrading and refreshing the mix. At the end of the day, though, CloudBees’ potential in this market is based on its ability to execute on its vision of a dual-product lineup that features both software delivery management (SDM), which they have already announced, and upgrading their existing software, which helps people with their CI/CD pipelines. Having both working together could give CloudBees an unbeatable place in the market. This vision may not be as ambitious or broad as GitLab’s but could be more attainable, more quickly.
- JFrog – Shlomi Ben Haim and his “Frogs” have built a DevOps powerhouse by understanding developers’ needs and wants and using open source as a market-penetration weapon as well as or better than anyone else. The company’s community/customers are fanatical in their support and the “change the world with liquid software” culture it has built is contagious.
When you consider JFrog started with a repository for artifacts and what it built on top of it is pretty amazing. The company continues to add new repositories for many of the popular languages in use as well. The downside for JFrog is that it just added its JFrog pipelines via acquisition and is still working to make it a best-in-class solution. XRay is JFrog’s security product for testing artifacts and code prior to deployment, and I think it will probably make another acquisition to bolster its security chops. The Frogs have the energy and will to win this thing, but they have a lot of work ahead of them to compete with an end-to-end or complete DevOps vision. Rumor is a new version of the platform is on the way; we will have to see what this brings. The company may wind up being bought for billions by a larger player (GCP, Microsoft), which could make JFrog a winner in any event.
- GitHub – GitHub is just a repository, you say? Nonsense. Make no mistake about it, GitHub is going to be a player in this race. With the deep pockets and ambition to continue being a developer powerhouse at Microsoft, the company is determined to make sure GitHub is a complete DevOps solution. GitHub is adding functionality every day and has an amazing array of tools that plug into and extend GitHub. As the de facto standard—with something like 30 million developer accounts already and Microsoft’s Azure and war chest—don’t bet against GitHub being the last man or company standing here.
- CollabNet VersionOne/Xebia Labs entity. So, this is the new kid on the block—so new that we don’t even know its name yet. This merger was orchestrated by the private equity group TPG, which bought CollabNet last year and pledged $500 million to use to acquire and grow the CollabNet business into a complete DevOps platform. That $500 million probably represented a lot more than the firm paid for CollabNet, which was a 15 years-or-so-old company that had some good tools in the agile market. Since its merger with VersionOne, it has released a value stream management solution (it may not have been called that, but that’s what it is) and tried to market the whole thing as a suite. Obviously there was not a smooth path between the companies and some parts were missing; the street had the TPG transaction at less than $100 million. Some of its holes are getting filled with the Xebia Labs merger/acquisition. Rumor on the street was that TPG paid something like $226 million for Xebia—not a petty amount, but remember, Xebia raised about $100 million a while back. Again, the rumor is that a good chunk of that money was used to “buy” Xebia out of its ownership by the Dutch Xebia group. After paying that off, the current Xebia ownership used the remaining funds to try and keep Xebia competitive. You can do the math from there. In recent times we haven’t heard a lot from Xebia. It was assumed the company would either raise more money or look for a merger to gain enough girth to compete in this newly energized complete DevOps market. This deal seems to fit the bill.A real plus for this new entity is the addition of Ashok Reddy as CEO. Reddy is a seasoned player with large public company executive experience in the DevOps space, as well as GM of enterprise divisions. However, it is going to take more money and more functionality to create a market competitive entity in this space. There has to be a security module, for instance. The issue is with the inflated prices that companies in this space are garnering—what can be bought with the dollars left or what can be built holistically? Will TPG perhaps put more money on the table? It’s too early to count this new player out, but as the new kid on the block, it has to play catchup against some of the other players.
These are just five of the players. As I mentioned, Chef, one of the original DevOps darlings, also wants to play in the complete DevOps space. There are others lined up behind Chef, but we have to end this article somewhere. It is going to be an interesting few months as we see the winners in this space emerge.
In the meantime, if you like this kind of analysis—no-holds-barred, tell it like it is, open and free—check out Accelerated Strategies Group at https://accelst.com. ASG is the new analyst firm MediaOps is working with, and it is doing to analysis what open source is doing to software. Knowledge wants to be free.