What B2B execs need to know about Microsoft’s Github acquisition

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The average sales and marketing exec may not have any idea how much of the applications they use or provide to customers were developed using code from Github — or even what Github is — but Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of the service on Monday may soon change that.

Self-described as “the world’s leading software development platform,” San Francisco-based Github is an online service where those creating applications can host computer code, ensure version control and share the building blocks of their programs to others via open source models. The organization was founded 10 years ago and boasts more than 26 million users around the world.

As those in sales, marketing and other non-technical areas of the enterprise work more closely with developers to build applications to use internally or provide to their market, Microsoft’s decision to acquire Github could have an impact on how they are made. For years, Microsoft’s dominance of the software industry based on the success of Windows and other products led the firm to take a resolutely aggressive stance against open source. Though much has changed since then, reaction to the acquisition on Twitter suggested some developers aren’t completely comfortable with the ownership of Github by such a large corporate entity:

In a conference call to discuss the deal, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella seemed to anticipate a potential backlash and repeatedly positioned Microsoft as a “steward” of Github.

“We love open source developers. We’ve been on a journey ourselves with open source. Today we are all in,” Nadella said on the conference call, which did not open up to questions. “We recognize the responsibility.”

Outgoing Github CEO Chris Wanstrath expressed confidence in Microsoft’s ability to deliver on Nadella’s promises. He pointed to the company’s relatively hands-off approach to other major acquisitions such as Minecraft and LinkedIn, as well as its commitments to share more of its own code.

“In record time, they’ve gone from dabbling to full-on embracing the community,” he said.

Although Nadella said Microsoft would bring its direct sales and partner channels to help Github users access its global cloud infrastructure such as Azure and other services, Wanstrath’s replacement Nat Friedman emphasized that “anyone” could plug in their cloud services to the service, including Amazon and Google.

“Our vision is . . . creating a home where you can use any language, any operating system, any cloud, any device, for any developer,” Friedman said.

Particularly for organizations that are already “Microsoft shops” in terms of using Azure or working with its toolset, the acquisition may streamline some areas of enterprise application development. Friedman said the company will offer Microsoft developer tools, for example, directly within the Github marketplace, where developers often have to look for what they need from many places and pay separately for them today.

B2B execs may not need to get into a detailed discussion about Github with their developers, but Nadella suggested that the service will play a supporting role in many future efforts towards digital transformation.

“Developer workflows will drive and influence business workflows across the organization, from marketing to sales to service to IT and HR,” he said. “The real power comes when every developer can crate together, share code and build on each other’s work.”

 

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.