Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub rocked the open source world as the one-time opponent to all-things open source is now set to control a platform for all-things open source. The dollar amount of the deal was also not something to sniff at.
While analysts leaned positive on the deal for Microsoft, social media channels were alight with comments regarding what impact the deal would have on the open nature of GitHub.
One of those was a Twitter rabbit hole led by Gabe Monroy, project manager lead for containers at Microsoft Azure. Monroy previously served as CTO at Deis, which was an open source company focused on Kubernetes management that Microsoft acquired last year.
In his Twitter feed, Monroy laid out some thoughts on how the deal might play out.
Monroy’s comments were followed by numerous negative responses bringing up past Microsoft-led deals. (Pack a lunch before venturing down those rabbit holes.)
Those concerns were also brought up by analysts.
“I know that a lot of the community is concerned with the acquisition, some because they don’t still fully see Microsoft as friendly to open source and some because they just haven’t done a good job with acquisitions (Skype and Xamarian for example),” explained Edwin Yuen, senior analyst for cloud at Enterprise Strategy Group. “Those acquisitions that haven’t had issues haven’t grown as much as I think they could have because they haven’t been deeply integrated with the Microsoft product families (Minecraft and LinkedIn).”
One source that has remained quiet on the news is the Linux Foundation, which houses much of its open source code through GitHub. The organization said it did not have any comment on the deal.
Others are also looking to take advantage of the uncertainty.
GitLab, which offers a similar platform to GitHub, said it has imported more than 100,000 repositories and seen a 7x increase in orders since the Microsoft deal was announced. It was looking to capitalize on the deal by offering discounts on its top-tier plans.
Microsoft took a proactive stance in trying to tamper down those concerns as part of the announcement. CEO Satya Nadella repeatedly stressed that GitHub will remain an open and independent operation.
“We recognize the responsibility we take on with this agreement,” Nadella said. “We are committed to being stewards of the GitHub community, which will retain its developer-first ethos, operate independently, and remain an open platform.”
Yuen said he thinks GitHub will remain open “in one form or another.” But, he noted a bigger question was what Microsoft does in terms of integration going forward.
“If they really do ‘enable enterprises to use GitHub more,’ will they change GitHub?” Yuen asked. “If they want to get the best value from the acquisition they need to do some integration and change, yet that route will likely alienate the community. If they don’t do integration and change then what are they really getting out of GitHub? Could they just have partnered with GitHub rather than buy them, or maybe just created an ‘Enterprise Git’ product developed internally?”
That’s Billion With a ‘B’
It’s hard to blame GitHub for taking the deal regardless of the open-source impact. It has been a private company since its inception in 2008, thus GitHub’s financial picture has been murky.
What is known is that the platform had secured $350 million in two funding rounds that included Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Thrive Capital, and Institutional Venture Partners. It’s last funding round of $250 million in mid-2015 placed a $2 billion valuation on the company.
The platform claims more than 28 million registered users and 85 million repositories. It’s reported that the company generates income through various enterprise plans designed to allow for easier integration for developers.
A Bloomberg story from late 2016 found that GitHub had revenues of $98 million and a net loss of $66 million over a nine-month period that year. The story’s author noted on Twitter that GitHub had approximately $70 million in annual recurring revenues in 2014, $90 million in 2015, and $140 million in 2016.
Forbes reported that GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath had told employees in mid-2017 that the company had passed $200 million in annualized revenues.
It should also be noted that Wanstrath at that time said he would be stepping down as CEO, but would remain until a new leader was found. That search was pre-empted by the Microsoft announcement.
Taking a step back from the financial bottom line, Yuen noted that the deal could just be another move by Microsoft to bolster its perception among the open source community.
“This might just be another purchase to widen the Microsoft portfolio and give it better stature within the broader developer community, especially the non-Microsoft-aligned community,” Yuen explained. “Like the LinkedIn purchase (and honestly, the Minecraft one also), there are some ways that the integration can be useful, but it’s not entirely clear what the revenue benefit from the integration is. It may just be that Microsoft [merger-and-acquisition activity] is not being driven primarily around the business/revenue benefits but around the broader relationship and community building opportunities.”