CI/CD / Programming Languages

Add It Up: Even Open Sourcers Pay for Code Repositories

6 Sep 2018 6:00am, by

What are the ramifications of managing open source code primarily through a commercial software package or service? Should your company only use one code repository? These are the questions that were asked of 480 users of code repositories participating in a survey about open source. When asked about how they manage open source code, half said they use a free, vendor-provided solution like GitHub, but 53 percent also pay for code repository software or services.

Many people also use homegrown setups, usually based git. Among those citing a homegrown system, a whopping 60 percent also cited another offering type in use. It appears that vendor solutions are often cobbled together with two or more other version control systems, some of which may be open source like Apache Subversion (SVN). The use of multiple code repos is more prevalent at large companies with over 10,000 employees. This group cited 2.6 types of code repos used as opposed to the study average of 1.4.

Microsoft’s announced purchase of GitHub caused consternation among developers worried about a negative impact on the open source community. Some purists claim that since GitHub’s core is proprietary, it has always been ironic that GitHub has become the primary way independent developers collaborate on open source projects. Others still can’t reconcile today’s open source friendly Microsoft with its turn-of-the-century predecessor.

Microsoft is very sensitive to accusations that its yet-to-be-approved acquisition will give it a monopoly. Even if Microsoft’s combines its Team Foundation Server with GitHub’s commercial offerings, analysis of our own surveys as well as those by SmartBear and Stack Overflow, indicates there is little chance that Microsoft will come close to dominating the market for code repositories in the near future. Naysayers will claim that users of GitHub’s free offerings are ripe for an upsell, especially if Microsoft bundles additional free services in the future.

While that is a possibility,  there are three reasons why this would still not create a dramatic change in market share. First, many users of GitHub are only using it for personal projects. Second, open source projects can be managed at a high level using free resources while at the same time using paid solutions to handle minute-to-minute version control. Finally, despite companies like Facebook and Google embracing mono repository systems, at least anecdotally many companies still use multi-repo systems and will likely continue to do so. If that is the case, then it is very possible that free GitHub and paid-for Atlassian Bitbucket or GitLab will co-exist side-by-side.

Alternative vendor offerings are still commonly used to manage open source code.  It is unknown whether or not they will lose customers to a paid version of GitHub. More research needs to be conducted to determine if companies are more willing to single-source their code repositories. In the meantime, with so many companies relying on GitHub to manage their open source code, it is worth considering converting free GitHub into a community resource managed by a foundation.

Microsoft is a sponsor of The New Stack.

Feature image: Gold aurei of the Twelve Caesars, A.D. 69–96, The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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