GitHub asserts independence from Microsoft during Universe event

At GitHub Universe senior executives asserted the company's independent status ahead of its expected buyout approval from Microsoft this week

At GitHub Universe in San Francisco, the open source code repository company announced a new 'Actions' service described by head of platform Sam Lambert as the most significant feature for its community since pull requests, while other executives asserted the company's independent status ahead of its expected buyout approval from Microsoft this week.

Actions will help users build and deploy containerised projects on GitHub or external systems without having to run the code themselves, and will be a boon to developers who want to speed up or automate their workflows.

The company on Tuesday explained in an announcement: "GitHub Actions allows you to connect and share containers to run your software development workflow. Easily build, package, release, update, and deploy your project in any language, on GitHub or any external system, without having to run code yourself.

"By applying open source principles to workflow automation, GitHub Actions empowers you to pair the tools and integrations you use with your own custom actions or those shared by the GitHub community... Develop and share actions to automate any task your projects require."

Senior VP of technology Jason Warner opened the conference by recapping the recent history of the company and provided some fairly staggering user figures: 8 million GitHub Enterprise users, 2 million active users on Atom, 1.1 billion contributions this year, 8 million new developers this year. Head of platform Sam Lambert added that GitHub runs on 40,000 CPU cores with 5.4 petabytes of data, transferring 100 Gigabits per second.

While Actions was the big announcement of the day, the company also announced an update to security vulnerability alerts with Java and .NET both now supported, immediate today. And the GitHub Security Advisory API will allow developers to integrate advisory notices into their applications.

On the enterprise side there are updates to GitHub Connect, including Unified Business Identity as a limited public beta to allow administrators to bring multiple GitHub Business Cloud accounts under a single pane of glass view. The latest version of GitHub Enterprise meanwhile allows developers to search public repos on GitHub as well as their own private repositories in Business Cloud.

Independence

European regulators will decide this week if Microsoft passes its antitrust checks and is able to finalise the purchase of GitHub. In a press briefing after the keynotes, Warner said that the new relationship with Microsoft has not impacted the announcements made today, and nor will it effect the company's own infrastructure. In other words a switch to Azure over AWS or Google Cloud Platform is not in the offing.

"The reason GitHub was bought by Microsoft was not to make GitHub more like Microsoft, it was to keep GitHub the way it was, because there was something special there and Microsoft recognised that and wanted that in the portfolio," Warner said in response to an analyst question. "But it didn't want changes. When it comes to infrastructure it's the same thing.

"We're not going to be moving to Azure as a default, we are going to move to Azure when the service that Azure has is a very good service for us to use," he added. "We will continue to use AWS we will continue to use GCP, we will continue to use all our bare metal."

But the Microsoft buy will provide GitHub with broader access to enterprise resources, he said, significantly expanding the company's scalability and routes to markets outside of the North America region, where it has most of its business.

"We have always worked with the large cloud providers and large companies in general because of where we sit in the nature of software," Warner told Computerworld UK. "I don't think that any particular conversation or thing we were doing might have piqued Microsoft's interest other than that there are 31 million registered developers, there's something special about GitHub, they wanted to know more... There was no unequally special interest from their part as opposed to others, the difference I would say is that Microsoft seemed to understand a bit more - maybe quicker."

It's all good optics for Microsoft which has very publicly pivoted to supporting open source, in stark contrast to the company's behaviour before Satya Nadella began his tenure as CEO. Microsoft, however, was the elephant in the room and according to Reuters' sources it seems like European regulators are expected to approve the deal.

Warner's comments chime with those of Microsoft CFO Amy Wood, who recently talked with frankness that the company had been buying "networked assets", following other recent shopping trips that resulted in the buying of Minecraft and LinkedIn. With the GitHub purchase the company is acquiring a network of developers to complement its network of gamers and business professionals, and all of the data that comes with that.

During the press conference, GitHub spokespeople also hinted at new enterprise features down the line that would attempt to demystify GitHub data for non-technical, business users, as well as more features around strengthening enterprise security.

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