So – I didn’t want to write this post. I consider myself an Atlassian Fan, and in general, I really like the company. And honestly, I’m a bit nervous about writing this piece, as I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me. I have a great career as an Atlassian Admin, and I tend to work well with the company.
But during last week’s Team ’22, I couldn’t help but notice something. Well, it was actually a lack of something. There was not one mention anywhere of Atlassian’s Data Center Products. Zero, zilch, zip. And that bothers me…a lot.
You see, way back in November 2020, I had an interview with Atlassian’s Harsh Jawharkar (who, it should be said, is no longer with Atlassian). In that interview, he said, and I quote:
“We are committed to investing in Data Center for the long term, and we hope that the velocity with which we are shipping new features and functionality to Data Center – and the fact that we are launching a brand new Data Center product, Bamboo Data Center – reassures you of this commitment.”Harsh Jawharkar, Nov 2020
I published that in good faith, and I have advised multiple companies on their large Data Center instances since. I honestly felt I could help guide companies confidently on that platform and deployment model because Atlassian would be there with it. Surely they wouldn’t ax both On-Premise models.
And second, they got zero time during Atlassian’s main conference. Given those factors, I have to add my name to the list of people who do not think Atlassian will support Data Center for much longer.
“But Atlassian Cloud is where the growth is.”
I hear this often from Atlassian. It’s how Atlassian justifies having such a disproportionate amount of their Development time go to Cloud. However, I’ve come to think this argument is made in bad faith. Why?
Just look at Atlassian’s marketing efforts. As an Atlassian Admin, I am bombarded on the web, social media, and even in mobile games with ads for Atlassian products. And do you know what each and every ad I see says to me?
- See how your company can perform on Atlassian Cloud.
- Migrate to the Atlassian Cloud
- Have you looked at Atlassian Cloud
- Seriously, Atlassian Cloud is right there.
- LOOK AT ATLASSIAN CLOUD NOW!
You load up Atlassian’s website, and Atlassian Cloud has a massive banner ad at the top. If I want ANY information on Jira Data Center from that page, I have to go to the pricing tab and click another tab under that page.
So yes, You are going to see more growth on Atlassian Cloud. If you tell no one that Data Center exists, then no one will pick it. This situation is the literal definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I still think if given an even marketplace and chance, customers would pick Data Center over Cloud most of the time. And I think Atlassian knows this, hence why they stack the Marketing deck so heavily in Cloud’s favor. It’s the direction they want to move in, and they are doing anything they can to see that future through.
Don’t #@!% the customer
So this brings me to my next point. We’ve established that given their development time and marketing, Atlassian hugely favors Cloud over Data Center. So comes the next logical question, “Why?” To understand this, I think we need to establish a brief history of how Licensing has worked for Atlassian in the past.
On the original Server line of products, when you first purchased Jira, Confluence, or any of their other tools, you were buying a perpetual license. If you never gave Atlassian another dime, you could still use your products for so long as you can keep a server running. This model has worked well for some companies, with Mojang coming to mind as a great example. You buy a Minecraft license, and you are good for all future game versions. Mojang funds all new development off further sales of the game and licensing of their IP. This arrangement has worked out well for them, considering the Microsoft buyout.
However, for server products, there is a wrinkle. You can only upgrade so long as you have an active support contract with them. This stipulation is how Atlassian guaranteed the continued funding they’d need for their development efforts. Most customers were happy to pay the annual fee, which was half of a new license plus half the cost of whatever Add-ons you were running.
But do you know what’s better than half the cost of a new license every year? All of the cost of a new license every year. When Atlassian released its Data Center line, it came with an Annual Subscription. This meant that you didn’t get to use the products if you did not renew the subscription and pay for Jira, Confluence, or Bitbucket every year. And Atlassian pushed HARD for people to move from Server to Data Center.
If this sounds familiar, you can stop me, but Atlassian started by putting features only in the Data Center. But even then, it was still more expensive to run Data Center over Server, so not everyone switched. Then they turned up the marketing on Data Center and barely mentioned the Server options. But some people still held out. Finally, they announced the discontinuation of the Server line of products to force those final holdouts off of their perpetual licenses. This situation is where we are now.
The thing is, there is a solid argument that the Data Center model is superior to the Server product. You can scale it up as you need to; it has all the features and capabilities of Server, and if you aren’t ready for the full multi-server setup, the migration to Data Center is still as simple as pasting a new License code to your Server instance.
However, do you know what’s even better than all of the cost of a new license every year? All of the license cost every month. This is where their Cloud product comes in.
When the Server sunset was first announced, I argued that moving to Cloud *could* be less expensive than running Server. And I stand by the math I used then. But unfortunately, my math used discounts that are no longer available. So as it stands now, at most comparable scales, I cannot get the Cloud product to be cheaper than my Data Center installs – and that’s even before I consider Apps for Cloud, and after I consider that Atlassian has been aggressively increasing their price here lately.
However, unlike the situation between Server and Data Center – a Data Center migration to Cloud is no small undertaking. The base architecture is entirely different, meaning you won’t have the same capabilities. So if your teams built integrations based on those Capabilities, they have to be completely re-engineered. In addition, if your teams rely on certain Apps for your Atlassian Stack, those might not be available – and if they are, they might not have the same feature set. This means you are going to have potentially difficult conversations with your teams. No – Atlassian worked hard to make Data Center a drop-in replacement for Server. I don’t see how they will always be able to make Cloud a drop-in replacement for Data Center – especially for large instances.
Open company, no bullshit
All this would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that Atlassian is still publically claiming they plan to have long-term support for Data Center. I mean, a corporation will do what they do, which most of the time is extract the most money for the least amount of effort.
But people are advising their teams, management, and companies based on Atlassian’s guidance about Data Center. Based on this guidance, I’m advising other Jira Admins about their careers. This is never a position I thought I’d be in, but here we are. And what happens when we take Atlassian on their word – despite every indication – and Atlassian pulls the rug out from under us (again)? We’ll be worse off for an eventual migration because we didn’t take the time to prepare we could have. If I’m being honest, THIS is what bothers me most.
Honestly, I’ve started preparing my internal teams for this. I’m just upfront, saying I don’t trust Atlassian long-term to provide us with a “No Bullshit” answer on Data Center and that we should start looking at what a Cloud Migration could look like. In the meantime, I’m advising Jira Admins to get Cloud Ready and Cloud Certified. It’s what I’m planning to do long-term.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not running for the exits yet. Atlassian otherwise has been a fantastic company to work with, and I still see my long-term future with them. But I think it is on us as Customers, Partners, and Influencers to hold the company to the standard they have set for themselves. If you, Atlassian, have plans now to discontinue Data Center, be Open with us, and don’t feed us Bullshit.
What do you think?
Do you think Atlassian has long-term plans for Data Center? Let me know if you agree and why or why not? I’m looking forward to a lively discussion on this and can’t wait to read your comments.
Yes, I still owe you a keynote recap. I’ve not been feeling the best this week, and thus my writing time has diminished. But I am working on it, I promise! Now that I have this conversation out of my head, I can focus on it fully, so that should help.
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But until next time, my name is Rodney, asking, “Have you updated your Jira instance today?”