Oct
18
2018
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Atlassian launches the new Jira Software Cloud

Atlassian previewed the next generation of its hosted Jira Software project tracking tool earlier this year. Today, it’s available to all Jira users. To build the new Jira, Atlassian redesigned both the back-end stack and rethought the user experience from the ground up. That’s not an easy change, given how important Jira has become for virtually every company that develops software — and given that it is Atlassian’s flagship product. And with this launch, Atlassian is now essentially splitting the hosted version of Jira (which is hosted on AWS) from the self-hosted server version and prioritizing different features for both.

So the new version of Jira that’s launching to all users today doesn’t just have a new, cleaner look, but more importantly, new functionality that allows for a more flexible workflow that’s less dependent on admins and gives more autonomy to teams (assuming the admins don’t turn those features off).

Because changes to such a popular tool are always going to upset at least some users, it’s worth noting at the outset that the old classic view isn’t going away. “It’s important to note that the next-gen experience will not replace our classic experience, which millions of users are happily using,” Jake Brereton, head of marketing for Jira Software Cloud, told me. “The next-gen experience and the associated project type will be available in addition to the classic projects that users have always had access to. We have no plans to remove or sunset any of the classic functionality in Jira Cloud.”

The core tenet of the redesign is that software development in 2018 is very different from the way developers worked in 2002, when Jira first launched. Interestingly enough, the acquisition of Trello also helped guide the overall design of the new Jira.

“One of the key things that guided our strategy is really bringing the simplicity of Trello and the power of Jira together,” Sean Regan, Atlassian’s head of growth for Software Teams, told me. “One of the reasons for that is that modern software development teams aren’t just developers down the hall taking requirements. In the best companies, they’re embedded with the business, where you have analysts, marketing, designers, product developers, product managers — all working together as a squad or a triad. So JIRA, it has to be simple enough for those teams to function but it has to be powerful enough to run a complex software development process.”

Unsurprisingly, the influence of Trello is most apparent in the Jira boards, where you can now drag and drop cards, add new columns with a few clicks and easily filter cards based on your current needs (without having to learn Jira’s powerful but arcane query language). Gone are the days where you had to dig into the configuration to make even the simplest of changes to a board.

As Regan noted, when Jira was first built, it was built with a single team in mind. Today, there’s a mix of teams from different departments that use it. So while a singular permissions model for all of Jira worked for one team, it doesn’t make sense anymore when the whole company uses the product. In the new Jira then, the permissions model is project-based. “So if we wanted to start a team right now and build a product, we could design our board, customize our own issues, build our own workflows — and we could do it without having to find the IT guy down the hall,” he noted.

One feature the team seems to be especially proud of is roadmaps. That’s a new feature in Jira that makes it easier for teams to see the big picture. Like with boards, it’s easy enough to change the roadmap by just dragging the different larger chunks of work (or “epics,” in Agile parlance) to a new date.

“It’s a really simple roadmap,” Brereton explained. “It’s that way by design. But the problem we’re really trying to solve here is, is to bring in any stakeholder in the business and give them one view where they can come in at any time and know that what they’re looking at is up to date. Because it’s tied to your real work, you know that what we’re looking at is up to date, which seems like a small thing, but it’s a huge thing in terms of changing the way these teams work for the positive.

The Atlassian team also redesigned what’s maybe the most-viewed page of the service: the Jira issue. Now, issues can have attachments of any file type, for example, making it easier to work with screenshots or files from designers.

Jira now also features a number of new APIs for integrations with Bitbucket and GitHub (which launched earlier this month), as well as InVision, Slack, Gmail and Facebook for Work.

With this update, Atlassian is also increasing the user limit to 5,000 seats, and Jira now features compliance with three different ISO certifications and SOC 2 Type II.

Oct
04
2018
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GitHub gets a new and improved Jira Software Cloud integration

Atlassian’s Jira has become a standard for managing large software projects in many companies. Many of those same companies also use GitHub as their source code repository and, unsurprisingly, there has long been an official way to integrate the two. That old way, however, was often slow, limited in its capabilities and unable to cope with the large code bases that many enterprises now manage on GitHub .

Almost as if to prove that GitHub remains committed to an open ecosystem, even after the Microsoft acquisition, the company today announced a new and improved integration between the two products.

“Working with Atlassian on the Jira integration was really important for us,” GitHub’s director of ecosystem engineering Kyle Daigle told me ahead of the announcement. “Because we want to make sure that our developer customers are getting the best experience of our open platform that they can have, regardless of what tools they use.”

So a couple of months ago, the team decided to build its own Jira integration from the ground up, and it’s committed to maintaining and improving it over time. As Daigle noted, the improvements here include better performance and a better user experience.

The new integration now also makes it easier to view all the pull requests, commits and branches from GitHub that are associated with a Jira issue, search for issues based on information from GitHub and see the status of the development work right in Jira, too. And because changes in GitHub trigger an update to Jira, too, that data should remain up to date at all times.

The old Jira integration over the so-called Jira DVCS connector will be deprecated and GitHub will start prompting existing users to do the upgrade over the next few weeks. The new integration is now a GitHub app, so that also comes with all of the security features the platform has to offer.

Sep
11
2018
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Anaxi brings more visibility to the development process

Anaxi‘s mission is to bring more transparency to the software development process. The tool, which is now live for iOS, with web and Android versions planned for the near future, connects to GitHub to give you actionable insights about the state of your projects and manage your projects and issues. Support for Atlassian’s Jira is also in the works.

The new company was founded by former Apple engineering manager and Docker EVP of product development Marc Verstaen and former CodinGame CEO John Lafleur. Unsurprisingly, this new tool is all about fixing the issues these two have seen in their daily lives as developers.

“I’ve been doing software for 40 years,” Verstaen told me.” And every time is the same. You start with a small team and it’s fine. Then you grow and you don’t know what’s going on. It’s a black box.” While the rest of the business world now focuses on data and analytics, software development never quite reached that point. Verstaen argues that this was acceptable until 10 or 15 years ago because only software companies were doing software. But now that every company is becoming a software company, that’s not acceptable anymore.

Using Anaxi, you can easily see all issue reports and pull requests from your GitHub repositories, both public and private. But you also get visual status indicators that tell you when a project has too many blockers, for example, as well as the ability to define your own labels. You also can define due dates for issues.

One interesting aspect of Anaxi is that it doesn’t store all of this information on your phone or on a proprietary server. Instead, it only caches as little information as necessary (including your handles) and then pulls the rest of the information from GitHub as needed. That cache is encrypted on the phone, but for the most part, Anaxi simply relies on the GitHub API to pull in data when needed. There’s a bit of a trade-off here in terms of speed, but Verstaen noted that this also means you always get the most recent data and that GitHub’s API is quite fast and easy to work with.

The service is currently available for free. The company plans to introduce pricing plans in the future, with prices based on the number of developers that use the product inside a company.

Sep
04
2018
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Atlassian acquires OpsGenie, launches Jira Ops for managing incidents

Atlassian today announced the first beta of a new edition of its flagship Jira project and issue tracking tool that is meant to help ops teams handle incidents faster and more efficiently.

Jira Ops integrates with tools like OpsGenie, PagerDuty, xMatters, Statuspage, Slack and others. Many teams already use these tools when their services go down, but Atlassian argues that most companies currently use a rather ad hoc approach to working with them. Jira Ops aims to be the glue that keeps everybody on the same page and provides visibility into ongoing incidents.

Update: after Atlassian announced Jira Ops, it also announced that it has acquired OpsGenie for $295 million.

This is obviously not the first time Atlassian is using Jira to branch out from its core developer audience. Jira Service Desk and Jira Core, for example, aim at a far broader audience. Ops, however, goes after a very specific vertical.

“Service Desk was the first step,” Jens Schumacher, Head of Software Teams at Atlassian, told me. And we were looking at what are the other verticals that we can attack with Jira.” Schumacher also noted that Atlassian built a lot of tools for its internal ops teams over the years to glue together all the different pieces that are necessary to track and manage incidents. With Jira Ops, the company is essentially turning its own playbook into a product.

In a way, though, using Jira Ops adds yet another piece to the puzzle. Schumacher, however, argues that the idea here is to have a single place to manage the process. “The is that when an incident happens, you have a central place where you can go, where you can find out everything about the incident,” he said. “You can see who has been paged and alerted; you can alert more people if you need to right from there; you know what Slack channel the incident is being discussed in.”

Unlike some of Atlassian’s other products, the company doesn’t currently have any plans to launch a self-hosted version of Jira Ops. The argument here is pretty straightforward: if your infrastructure goes down, then Jira Opes could also go do down — and then you don’t have a tool for managing that downtime.

Jira Ops is now available for free for early access beta users. The company expects to launch version 1.0 in early 2019. By then Atlassian will surely also have figured out a pricing plan, something it didn’t announce today.

Aug
30
2018
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InVision deepens integrations with Atlassian

InVision today announced a newly expanded integration and strategic partnership with Atlassian that will let users of Confluence, Trello and Jira see and share InVision prototypes from within those programs.

Atlassian’s product suite is built around making product teams faster and more efficient. These tools streamline and organize communication so developers and designers can focus on getting the job done. Meanwhile, InVision’s collaboration platform has caught on to the idea that design is now a team sport, letting designers, engineers, executives and other shareholders be involved in the design process right from the get-go.

Specifically, the expanded integration allows designers to share InVision Studio designs and prototypes right within Jira, Trello and Confluence. InVision Studio was unveiled late last year, offering designers an alternative to Sketch and Adobe.

Given the way design and development teams use both product suites, it only makes sense to let these product suites communicate with one another.

As part of the partnership, Atlassian has also made a strategic financial investment in InVision, though the companies declined to share the amount.

Here’s what InVision CEO Clark Valberg had to say about it in a prepared statement:

In today’s digital world creating delightful, highly effective customer experiences has become a central business imperative for every company in the world. InVision and Atlassian represent the essential platforms for organizations looking to unleash the potential of their design and development teams. We’re looking forward to all the opportunities to deepen our relationship on both a product and strategic basis, and build toward a more cohesive digital product operating system that enables every organization to build better products, faster.

InVision has been working to position itself as the Salesforce of the design world. Alongside InVision and InVision Studio, the company has also built out an asset and app store, as well as launched a small fund to invest in design startups. In short, InVision wants the design ecosystem to revolve around it.

Considering that InVision has raised more than $200 million, and serves 4 million users, including 80 percent of the Fortune 500, it would seem that the strategy is paying off.

Jul
26
2018
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Slack forms key alliance as Atlassian throws in the towel on enterprise chat

With today’s announcement from Atlassian that it was selling to Slack the IP assets of its two enterprise communications tools, HipChat and Stride, it closes the book on one of the earliest competitors in the modern enterprise chat space. It also was a clear signal that Slack is not afraid to take on its giant competitors by forming key alliances.

That the announcement came from Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield on Twitter only exacerbated that fact. Atlassian has a set of popular developer tools like Jira, Confluence and Bitbucket. At this point, HipChat and Stride had really become superfluous to the company and they sold the IP to their competitor.

Not only is Slack buying the assets and Atlassian is effectively shutting down these products, Atlassian is also investing in Slack, a move that shows it’s throwing its financial weight behind the company, as well, and forming an alliance with them.

Slack has been burning it up since in launched in 2014 with just 16,000 daily active users. At last count, in May, the company was reporting 8 million active users, 3 million of which were paid. That’s up from 6 million DAUs and 2 million paid users in September 2017. At the time, the company was reporting $200 million in annual recurring revenue. It’s a fair bet with the number of paid users growing by one-third at last count, that revenue number has increased significantly, as well.

Slack and products of its ilk like Workplace by Facebook, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams are trying to revolutionize the way we communicate and collaborate inside organizations. Slack has managed to advance the idea of enterprise communications that began in the early 2000s with chat clients, advanced to Enterprise 2.0 tools like Yammer and Jive in the mid-2000s and finally evolved into modern tools like Slack we are using today in the mobile-cloud era.

Slack has been able to succeed so well in business because it does much more than provide a channel to communicate. It has built a platform on top of which companies can plug in an assortment of tools they are using every day to do their jobs, like ServiceNow for help desk tickets, Salesforce for CRM and marketing data and Zendesk for customer service information.

This ability to provide a simple way to do all of your business in one place without a lot of task switching has been a Holy Grail of sorts in the enterprise for years. The two previously mentioned iterations, chat clients and Enterprise 2.0 tools, tried and failed to achieve this, but Slack has managed to create this single platform and made it easy for companies to integrate services.

This has been automated even further by the use of bots, which can act as trusted assistants inside of Slack, providing additional information and performing tasks for you on your behalf when it makes sense.

Slack has an otherworldly valuation of more than $5 billion right now, and is on its way to an eventual IPO. Atlassian might have thrown in the towel on enterprise communications, but it has opened the door to getting a piece of that IPO action while giving its customers what they want and forming a strong bond with Slack.

Others like Facebook and Microsoft also have a strong presence in this space and continue to build out their products. It’s not as though anyone else is showing signs of throwing up their hands just yet. In fact, just today Facebook bought Redkix to enhance its offering by giving users the ability to collaborate via email or the Workplace by Facebook interface, but Atlassian’s acquiescence is a strong signal that if you had any doubt, Slack is a leader here — and they got a big boost with today’s announcement.

Jul
10
2018
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Slack wants to make search a little easier with search filters

Slack’s search functions are getting another little quality-of-life update today with the introduction of filters, which aims to make search a little more granular to find the right answers.

The company also says searches are going to be more personalized. All of this is an attempt to get to the right files or conversations quickly as Slack — a simple collection of group chats and channels that can get out of hand very fast — something a little more palatable. As companies get bigger and bigger, the sheer amount of information that ends up in it will grow faster and faster. That means that the right information will generally be more difficult to access, and if Slack is going to stick to its roots as a simple internal communications product, it’s going to have to lean on improvements under the hood and small changes in front of users. The company says search is now 70 percent faster on the back end.

Users in Slack will now be able to filter search results by channels and also the kinds of results they are looking for, like files. You can go a little more granular than that, but that’s the general gist of it, as Slack tries to limit the changes to what’s happening in front of users. Slack threads, for example, were in development for more than a year before the company finally rolled out the long-awaited feature. (Whether that feature successfully changed things for the better is still not known.)

Slack now has around 8 million daily active users, with 3 million paid users, and is still clearly pretty popular with smaller companies that are looking for something simpler than the more robust — and complex — communications tools on the market. But there are startups trying to pick away at other parts of the employee communications channels, like Slite, which aims to be a simpler notes tool in the same vein as Slack but for different parts of the employee experience. And there are other larger companies looking to tap the demand for these kinds of simpler tools, like Atlassian’s Stride and Microsoft’s Teams.

Apr
02
2018
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Atlassian’s two-year cloud journey

A couple of years ago, Dropbox shocked a lot of people when it decided to mostly drop the public cloud, and built its own datacenters. More recently, Atlassian did the opposite, closing most of its datacenters and moving to the cloud. Companies make these choices for a variety of reasons. When Atlassian CTO Sri Viswanath came on board in 2016, he made the decision to move the company’s biggest applications to AWS.

In part, this is a story of technical debt — that’s the concept that over time your applications become encumbered by layers of crusty code, making it harder to update and ever harder to maintain. For Atlassian, which was founded in 2002, that bill came due in 2016 when Viswanath came to work for the company.

Atlassian already knew they needed to update the code to move into the future. One of the reasons they brought Viswanath on board was to lead that charge, but the thinking was already in place even before he got there. A small team was formed back in 2015 to work out the vision and the architecture for the new cloud-based approach, but they wanted to have their first CTO in place to carry it through to fruition.

Shifting to microservices

He put the plan into motion, giving it the internal code name Vertigo — maybe because the thought of moving most of their software stack to the public cloud made the engineering team dizzy to even consider. The goal of the project was to rearchitect the software, starting with their biggest products Jira and Confluence, in a such a way that it would lay the foundation for the company for the next decade — no pressure or anything.

Photo: WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

They spent a good part of 2016 rewriting the software and getting it set up on AWS. They concentrated on turning their 15-year old code into microservices, which in the end resulted in a smaller code base. He said the technical debt issues were very real, but they had to be careful not to reinvent the wheel, just change what needed to be changed whenever possible.

“The code base was pretty large and we had to go in and do two things. We wanted to build it for multi-tenant architecture and we wanted to create microservices,” he said. “If there was a service that could be pulled out and made self-contained we did that, but we also created new services as part of the process.”

Migrating customers on the fly

Last year was the migration year, and it was indeed a full year-long project to migrate every last customer over to the new system. It started in January and ended in December and involved moving tens of thousands of customers.

Photo: KTSDesign/Science Photo Library

First of all, they automated whatever they could and they also were very deliberate in terms of the migration order, being conscious of migrations that might be more difficult. “We were thoughtful in what order to migrate. We didn’t want to do easiest first and hardest at the end. We didn’t want to do just the harder ones and not make progress. We had to blend [our approaches] to fix bugs and issues throughout the project,” he said.

Viswanath stated that the overarching goal was to move the customers without a major incident. “If you talk to anyone who does migration, that’s a big thing. Everyone has scars doing migrations. We were conscious to do this pretty carefully.” Surprisingly, although it wasn’t perfect, they did manage to complete the entire exercise without a major outage, a point of which the team is justifiably proud. That doesn’t mean that it was always smooth or easy.

“It sounds super easy: ‘we were thoughtful and we migrated,’ but there was warfare every day. When you migrate, you hit a wall and react. It was a daily thing for us throughout the year,” he explained. It took a total team effort involving engineering, product and support. That included having a customer support person involved in the daily scrum meetings so they could get a feel for any issues customers were having and fix them as quickly as possible.

What they gained

As in any cloud project, there are some general benefits to moving an application to the cloud around flexibility, agility and resource elasticity, but there was more than that when it came to this specific project.

Photo: Ade Akinrujomu/Getty Images

First of all it has allowed faster deployment with multiple deployments at the same time, due in large part to the copious use of microservices. That means they can add new features much faster. During the migration year, they held off on new features for the most part because they wanted to keep things as static as possible for the shift over, but with the new system in place they can move much more quickly to add new features.

They get much better performance and if they hit a performance bottleneck, they can just add more resources because it’s the cloud. What’s more, they were able to have a local presence in the EU and that improves performance by having the applications closer to the end users located there.

Finally, they actually found the cloud to be a more economical option, something that not every company that moves to the cloud finds. By closing the datacenters and reducing the capital costs associated with buying hardware and hiring IT personnel to maintain it, they were able to reduce costs.

Managing the people parts

It was a long drawn out project, and as such, they really needed to think about the human aspect of it too. They would swap people in and out to make sure the engineers stayed fresh and didn’t burn out helping with the transition.

One thing that helped was the company culture in general, which Viswanath candidly describes as one with open communication and a general “no bullshit” policy. “We maintained open communication, even when things weren’t going well. People would raise their hand if they couldn’t keep up and we would get them help,” he said.

He admitted that there was some anxiety within the company and for him personally implementing a project of this scale, but they knew they needed to do it for the future of the organization. “There was definitely nervousness on what if this project doesn’t go well. It seemed the obvious right direction and we had to do it. The risk was what if we screwed up in execution and we didn’t realize benefits we set out to do.”

In the end, it was a lot of work, but it worked out just fine and they have the system in place for the future. “Now we are set up for the next 10 years,” he said.

Mar
27
2018
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Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, hits general availability

Last September, Atlassian launched Stride, its take on a Slack-like real-time communications platform for text, audio and video chats, into beta. Six months later, Stride is now generally available to any and all teams that want to give it a try.

While Atlassian is a bit cagey about providing exact user numbers, so the numbers it actually shared aren’t all the useful to gauge the service’s success. What the company was willing to say is that its users have now spent a quarter of a million hours in Stride’s Focus Mode, which is meant to allow worked to reclaim a bit of sanity in today’s notification-driven world by allowing you to turn off all incoming messages and notifications. As Atlassian’s head of communications products Steve Goldsmith told me, the company is happy with the state of Stride and that it’s growing quickly.

Since the closed beta launch, Atlassian has added about 50 new features and improvements to the service that include better ways to organize chat lists, better search and a number of improvements to the service’s video meetings features. Indeed, it’s these video chat features that the team is maybe the most proud of. “Small impromptu meetings don’t just happen when you have to switch context,” Goldsmith told me but declined to give us any numbers for how much time users spend in these chats beyond that “it’s a lot.”

Goldsmith also stressed that this is far from the final version of Stride. The team still has quite a roadmap of features that it wants to implement. But taking away the beta label, though, the company is signalling that it has worked out most of the kinks and that Stride is now ready for full enterprise deployments.

About a month ago, the Stride team also opened up its API to outside developers. Goldsmith was pretty open about the fact that he’s very happy with the final result but that he would’ve liked to see that happen a bit earlier. Stride’s API is the first product that sites on top of Atlassian’s new API platform. That probably made building the API a bit harder, but Goldsmith noted that that now makes integrating with Stride easier for other Atlassian teams.

Feb
20
2018
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Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, opens its API to all developers

 The arrival of Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, was probably the company’s biggest launch of 2017. While the company generally allows developers to easily integrate with its products, Stride’s API remained in closed beta for significantly longer than the product itself, which exited beta last September. Today, however, Atlassian is opening the Stride API to all developers. Read More

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