An Interview with Atlassian’s Harsh Jawharkar

So, I watch a lot of YouTube. No joke, it has almost entirely replaced traditional media as the primary source of entertainment in my household. Why do I mention this seemingly random fact? Because occasionally, you will see a creator get some fantastic opportunity and thank their viewers for giving them enough visibility to get it. And well, it appears today is my chance to do that myself.

After I published the “So Long, Server” post, Atlassian reached out to me, thanking me for my article and asking how they could help out. At the same time, I was still getting many questions from you, my dear readers. So, why not ask for an interview and forward your questions? That’s exactly what I asked for, and I’m happy Atlassian accepted! Today I’m fortunate to meet and interview Harsh Jawharkar from Atlassian’s Enterprise and Platform marketing team, who was gracious enough to answer questions I gathered from everyone on social media! So, let’s get into it:

[TJG] Thank you for agreeing to answer my questions. I have, of course, given my thoughts around why Atlassian would choose to sunset their Server products now, but that will always be speculative at best. Can you explain directly to the readers why Atlassian is making this move, and why now was the time to do so?

[HJ] We are making this move in response to changing customer demands since the vast majority of our customers are choosing cloud offerings to power their organizations. 

Because of this, we started designing for a cloud-first future years ago, so we could deliver on the promise that we will run our software better than anyone else. As we assessed our progress towards that vision and as customers demanded more from our cloud products, we realized we needed to sharpen our focus. Dividing our resources between server, Data Center, and Cloud hindered our ability to innovate faster. By simplifying our on-premises offerings and focusing our resources, we can deliver more innovation faster.

To the point of why now – change often feels difficult, and there’s rarely a perfect time for it. At Atlassian, we pride ourselves on making hard decisions that can be painful in the short-term when we are confident that it will lead to long-term, sustainable success for our customers. By making this decision now and communicating openly while offering three years of support, we are giving our customers time and clarity so they can continue to plan for their long-term success. 

[TJG] Some people are worried that Atlassian wishes to become a Cloud-Only company. Therefore, these customers are reluctant to build on Data Center for fear it will eventually have an End-of-Life. What can you say to these people to calm their fears?

[HJ] 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. Atlassian will continue to offer and invest significantly in Data Center because we understand that it is a critical offering for many of our customers with strict business requirements or regulations. We intend to deliver a world-class experience for all of our customers regardless of how they deploy our products.

Over the past year, we’ve significantly invested in our Data Center offerings, ramping up the delivery of new enterprise-grade features like support for CDN, rate limiting, advanced auditing, and more. We also recently announced that we’re including some of our most powerful Atlassian apps and new features with our Data Center subscriptions to help you meet your need for better collaboration and increased insights.

  • Jira Software Data Center: Advanced Roadmaps (formerly Portfolio for Jira)
  • Confluence Data Center: Team Calendars for Confluence, Analytics for Confluence
  • Jira Service Desk Data Center: Insight – Asset Management, Insight Discovery

To learn more about what’s available in Data Center or what’s coming in the future, customers can also check out our Data Center roadmap: https://www.atlassian.com/roadmap/data-center 

[TJG] Apps have been in contention on Cloud since its inception. What steps is Atlassian taking to allow things like Custom App Development and deployment without involving a third-party hosting service?

[HJ] Our new cloud development platform, Forge, which is currently in beta and on track to being publicly available soon, was designed to address just this. Forge empowers developers to easily build and run enterprise-ready cloud apps that integrate with Atlassian products, leveraging the investments we’ve made to our cloud platform.

With Forge, developers can host their apps on Atlassian cloud infrastructure, which minimizes the time, cost, and effort spent on managing infrastructure, increases admin transparency and mitigates concerns about mishandling sensitive user data. Developers can build and customize new apps quickly with the Forge UI kit, a declarative language for defining user experiences. Forge also offers built-in compliance and Custom UI, giving developers complete control over the framework used while ensuring a high level of trust for scripts running in the app. 

Forge also comes with an intuitive command-line interface (CLI) tool, which offers a centralized place for app management and provides automatically provisioned environments to build, test, and deploy apps. When you use Forge, you also have the option to use continuous delivery powered by Bitbucket Pipelines and Functions-as-a-Service (FaaS) to write single functions, which means less time spent writing code and a lower barrier-to-entry for anyone wanting to write apps and integrations for Atlassian products.

[TJG] There is a lot of invaluable information on Server Products both in the Atlassian Knowledge Base and the Atlassian Community. However, some of this information applies to Data Center as well. What is Atlassian’s plan for these treasure troves of knowledge and help?

[HJ] We intend to keep and continuously improve resources available in the Atlassian Knowledge Base and Atlassian Community to help our customers get the most out of our products. Any server-specific resources in the Atlassian Knowledge Base and Atlassian Community will remain available at least for the next three years. Our Support Team regularly reviews this material in an effort to keep them up-to-date, which means you can expect us to be updating documentation to match our product offerings. For example, we will make updates to make it clear to customers when a post is applicable to both Server and Data Center. Given the volume of existing content, it will take us time to get the documentation up-to-date. We hope our customers continue to rely on the Atlassian Knowledge Base and Atlassian Community as a treasure trove of knowledge and help for all of our products. 

We are also updating our Atlassian University resources and training modules to ensure that any materials originally created for our server products that are applicable to Data Center are kept up to date.

[TJG] Many small companies are caught in a tough place by this announcement. Due to regulations, they cannot move to Cloud, but their size makes Data Center fiscally untenable. What is being done between now and February 2024 to add the security and certifications necessary to allow these customers to move to the Cloud without running afoul of regulations.

[HJ] First, to clarify, our cloud products have obtained industry-accepted certifications and comply with current industry standards and regulations, so you can feel confident that your company and customer data remain secure and compliant. We run our security program in compliance with a range of well-known industry standards. We appreciate that these attestations matter, as they provide independent assurance to our customers that we are on the right track. SOC2, ISO27001, ISO27018, PCI DSS, and CSA STAR are standards that we certify against at the moment. Atlassian has also completed a comprehensive GDPR compliance program, and we offer a Data Processing Addendum for customers. More details about these programs are available on our Compliance page.

Trello is our first cloud product to have received FedRAMP certification, and Jira Software Cloud and Confluence Cloud are currently under evaluation. We’re also working on Healthcare (HIPAA) and Financial Services Industry (BaFin, APRA, US) compliance for Jira Software, Jira Service Management, and Confluence Cloud. Our cloud platform and services roadmap also highlights a snapshot of the capabilities we feature today, along with a glimpse of what’s to come between now and February 2024. 

[TJG] For these same customers, is there a plan to allow smaller Data Centers to accommodate these people if they cannot move to Cloud.

[HJ] We realize this is a big shift, and we’re continuously gathering feedback from our customers. You can see here some of the ways we’re already responding to this feedback, and we will continue to communicate openly with our customers. One option for smaller server customers who cannot move to Cloud is to deploy Data Center products in a non-clustered environment, so they can keep their existing infrastructure and simply change their license key. When it comes to other ways we can facilitate a smooth transition for smaller customers moving to Data Center, we’re in active listening mode and want to make sure we make well-informed decisions that work for all our customers in the long run.

[TJG] Small teams who are moving from a smaller Server Tier under maintenance to a minimum 500 user Data Center Tier will have a dramatic increase in price – even with the incentives in place.  Has any thought been given to supporting these teams with a smaller Data Center Tier?  If so, what would that look like?

At this time the entry point for Data Center is the 500 user license and we have no plans to add lower tiers. However, we will continue to capture input from our customers and partners in this area to make sure we have offerings that meet your needs.

[TJG] Debugging on Atlassian cloud can be… challenging. We don’t have good access to the database or logs that many of us use for investigating problems. Has there been any thought given on how you can safely open up access to help the Admins of these instances?

[HJ] Atlassian’s cloud products are architected specifically for cloud infrastructure, so they’re not simply the server code ported to Cloud. We’ve evolved the architecture substantially to run our cloud products as modern multi-tenant SaaS services, so we can bring the real benefits of Cloud to our customers. So in terms of access to the database and logs, other enterprise SaaS products are a much better point of reference than our server or Data Center deployment options.

There are three main cases where admins rely on logs and database access for debugging today: performance and uptime, security and traceability, and change management. First, performance and uptime: when customers choose Atlassian’s Cloud, they’re entrusting us to run the software as their service provider. It’s our obligation to deliver consistently fast and reliable service without putting a burden on admins. One key benefit of Cloud is we can invest in architecture improvements, monitoring, and redundancies at a far greater scale than any one customer. We’ve been able to increase the user limits on our cloud products fivefold in the last two years without compromising performance, and we have an aggressive roadmap for continued improvements. We also back up our reliability commitments with financially-backed SLAs in the Premium and Enterprise plans, but all customers receive the benefits of our reliability work, regardless of plan. 

Next, security and traceability: server and Data Center customers rely on a combination of raw application logs and network activity to investigate user behavior. While it’s not feasible to provide customers direct access to this type of log in Cloud, we’ve made substantial progress improving the audit logging features of Atlassian Access to complement the existing audit logs in Jira and Confluence. The organization audit log now covers activities like user logins, changes to product access, and group membership changes across all products in an organization. We know that our most demanding customers need full traceability of all user actions. This is on our roadmap, and we’re targeting an initial release later next year.

Last, change management: the best way we can help admins avoid debugging is to help them manage change in the first place. To that end, we’ve recently rolled out two major new investments to our Premium and Enterprise customers: sandboxes and release tracks. Sandboxes are a direct replacement for developer license keys in server and Data Center. For each production instance, you get a fully-enabled second cloud instance to test config changes, explore new features, or evaluate Marketplace apps. Release tracks allows customers to opt-in to receive updates from Atlassian on slower, fixed intervals for additional predictability into what exact changes are coming to your instance and when.

[TJG] Followup: Self Learning is an important skill for every Jira Admin to have.  The fact is, we have a drought of people who are skilled in the installation or upgrading Jira.  To combat this, I’ve often recommended users get a the 10 user “Starter” Tier to experiment with setting up and upgrading Jira, and have even provided guides.

However, this tier is going away, even though the need is now arguably greater than ever.  Is there any sort of plan to adopt a “Starter” tier for Data Center or other non-cloud sandbox for people to learn how to setup, install,  run, and upgrade Jira Data Center?

We offer a 30 day trials for Data Center versions of our products (and these trials can be requested to be extended). In addition, we have many Atlassian University courses specifically designed to train admins and users on setting up and installing Data Center products, including Jira (https://training.atlassian.com/jira-catalog).
Finally, we are continuing to build out our already extensive documentation library for admins.

So, what do you think?

Unfortunately, that is all we have time for this week. I just wanted to take a moment and thank you, the readers. I’ve mentioned this before, but my expectations for this Blog were not high when I started posting regularly. The fact that so many of you continue to visit, read, and share my content still blows my mind. And now I am getting opportunities like this – well, it’s more than I ever dared hope. So, indeed, thank you for your support. All this would not be possible without you.

So a bit of community news, Coyote Creek has gone ahead and posted the second piece from the Blog, “How to Choose between Atlassian Cloud and Data Center.” If you are fast, you can still catch their webinar on the Changes to Atlassian Server and Data Center, which will take place just one hour after publishing this post. I hope to see everyone there!

https://coyotecrk.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/featured-image_Server-EOL_webinar_graphic.png

Remember, if you enjoyed this post, you can always subscribe with the form below to get the new posts delivered directly to your inbox. You can also find me on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn, where I share the latest news and posts, and occasionally ask for help on future posts from you, the readers. But until next time, my name is Rodney, asking, “Have you updated your Jira issues today?”

So Long, Server

First, I should note a bit of a disclaimer: Opinions in this blog have been and always will be mine – and in no way represent the feelings of Coyote Creek Consulting or anyone other than me.  

Well, the writing has been on the wall for a while – but it seems that dreaded day is here. Last Friday, Atlassian announced that they would sunset the Server products. Starting next February, Atlassian will no longer sell new Server licenses. Three years after that, they will stop all support for Server products, including bug fixes and security updates. Afterwards, your options are Jira Cloud – which will be the only option for smaller teams – and Jira Data Center. 

I want to hate this decision.

On an emotional level – this is a gut-punch. I often say I try to be one of Atlassian’s biggest cheerleaders, but this week it’s been hard to be that. I started on Server because, for the longest time, that was our only deployment model. I still run a Server instance for Jira and Confluence in my home lab to support this blog. It’s how I’m able to capture a lot of the screenshots that I require for the blog posts. My licenses will come up for renewal before the price increases take effect, so I’ll be good for another year or so. After that – well, let’s hope I can get sponsorship. 

However, after running the numbers, I can’t hate it entirely. In the end, it will save most customers something. A few will pay more, and a few others are left out in the cold, but most people will save money. I will add this – if you plan on moving to Data Center, it will behoove you to go ahead and buy your licenses as soon as possible rather than wait for Feb. 2021. Those price increases are sharp, just saying.

So – let’s talk about those numbers.

I should note a few things here. First, I am only looking at the base Jira Software product, with no add-ons. This is not completely realistic, but it’s good enough for a comparison. I do intend to have an overview of how you can do a detailed analysis of your instance to figure out if Cloud is right for you next week. But for now, this will be good enough.

For Cloud, it is using the Standard Plan. I should also note that Data Center’s license model has a lot more tiers than Server does. So even though you might be on a 10K Server license today, it doesn’t mean you will have to go up to a 10K DC License. You might be able to get away with a 5K license if you have less than 5000 users, which would save you half that cost. Hence the asterisk.

Source: Future DC Pricing. Markup calculated as New Price / Old Price * 100

However, with a few exceptions, most people will save money versus their current Server Prices, so long as they are free to choose Cloud or Data Center. I fully get that not everyone is free to choose, but I’ll get to that in a moment.  

Now let’s get into it. As best I can tell, for the big three – that is Jira Software and Core Server, as well as Confluence Server – the prices are not increasing if you pay list price. If you are on a discount plan, your costs will increase, but that’s not most of us. The other Server products will see an increase, though, so it might make sense to review Atlassian’s docs for yourself.  

But back to the big three, the only costs that will increase are on the $10 Starter Package – which is going away entirely next February. That means you’d have to pay the next tier up – which is a hefty jump indeed. This one saddens me the most, as this tier is invaluable for people learning to become an Atlassian System Administrator. I’m sorry, but the Cloud is no substitute in this regard, just by the nature of being what it is.  

While this loss is sad, We can at least take a look at other scenarios to figure out how it will impact you moving forward.

So, About that Cloud thing you mentioned the other week.

Look, I don’t know how plainly to put it. Right now, if you are under 250 users, and Cloud is a viable option for you, you will save money on the Standard Plan over either Server or Data Center. This “break point” shifts when the new pricing goes into place such that anyone under 1000 users is now the winner.  

Now, I don’t care for Atlassian’s Cloud Product because it has its problems. No use lying about it, and that’s not what you come here for. However, Atlassian is investing heavily in it, and I don’t think the problems are unsolvable. And I’ve been given some sneak previews from Atlassian – exciting features are coming soon. So yeah, between Server’s End of Life and Data Center’s lack of smaller tiers, Jira Cloud is something to look into.  

However, not everyone has that luxury. This group was my first thought as I read through the announcement, and they still are. And I don’t think Atlassian is paying enough attention to them.  

Simply put, specific segments cannot move to Atlassian Cloud. Here in the United States, these include teams in the Financial Sector, Healthcare, Government work, and Education. The requirement here is almost always regulatory, which means this isn’t a preference. They are required by law to host their data.  

And this would be fine if Atlassian would provide lower tiers for Data Center. But as it stands, they won’t. So if a team happens to be smaller than the 500 user mark, they now have to pay for way more licenses than they need to meet regulations.  

And what about Data Center?

Look – the price increases set to take place for Data Center are going to hurt. Most are around a 200% increase in price. If you choose to move to Jira Data Center, you will be paying more over what you paid for Server after February. Just that, plain and simple. If you can lock in your license before then, you will be saving a good chunk of change for the year. So my recommendation is lock in those licenses early if you are thinking about going this route.

The good news here is you don’t have to redo your architecture to take advantage of a new DC license. You can drop it into your current Jira Server instance in place of its server license, and you’ll instantly unlock the new features associated with Data Center. From there, you can take your time to build out your infrastructure to make it a true Data Center instance – or not. All depending on your needs.  

Another thing to consider on Data Center is your license model is different. On Server, your license is perpetual. That means if you let it lapse, you can still run and use Jira just fine. You won’t be able to upgrade it to a new version or get Support from Atlassian, but it will still work. Honestly, I’ve heard from some companies that run their Atlassian tools like this – only getting a new Server license when they plan to do an upgrade and only doing an upgrade every few years. 

However, in Data Center, that’s is not the case. If you let your Data Center license lapse, your instance locks up, and you cannot use it until you get a new one. This is because Atlassian considers its Data Center license to be a “subscription,” which you need to pay annually. Just something to think over if you haven’t looked at DC before. 

Viral Marketing

So – as I mentioned last week, I can be something of a marketing nerd. And I’ve loved Atlassian’s strategy they’ve employed for years now. They’d start small in a given company. Maybe a guy used Jira at his old job, and he recommends it to his team. They adopt it, build on it, and it works for them. The next team over sees their success, adopts Jira, and it grows. Before you know it, an entire department is using it. But then Legal notices what it can do and wants in. So does HR. And Accounting. Now your full company is using Jira, and you have a large instance.  

This process is honestly how I see Jira adopted most often. It’s not a top-down decision; it’s a bottom-up grassroots movement. However, will this process still work if the teams start on Jira Cloud, where the license costs are per user? I don’t know if one team manager will want to foot the bill for another team using “their” platform. It seems Atlassian might be thinking more of the top-down approach is the future. Or they have data that says this isn’t a problem. As I said, I don’t know, but I’m going to pay attention to what I hear from the ground.

Remember, you have time.

Look, this announcement feels sudden. But don’t let it spook you. Jira Server will still be here for over three years. This period gives you plenty of time to evaluate all your options and move there before Jira Server has its End-of-Life.   

However, hasty and emotional decisions are rarely good ones. It’s one reason why I wanted to wait to say much publicly until I could calm down, get the emotion out of it, and figure out the real story here. Trust me when I say that my outlook on Friday was a lot more panicked than it is as I write this today.  

So stop, take a breath, and relax. You’ve got this. If you are on a Server instance, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just the start of the next leg of your journey. 

Questions from you

Considering I made no secret of today’s topic to everyone, I figured I’d open it up to Social Media to see if they had any questions. And of course, you guys came through. So let’s see what your concerns are?

“Did Atlassian make a good call to announce this change considering, that cloud is still very much not a mature platform yet?” – Vitalijus Šerpytis

Do I think this timing is ideal? No – not at all. Look, we are still in a massive global pandemic, the economy is in a global downturn as a result, and to have this enormous change on what most companies consider a vital resource during this time is…less than ideal.  

However, I also don’t think they necessarily had a choice. In a previous article, I made note that Atlassian is a relatively small company for their outsized reach and influence. And this small company has been splitting its attention between Server, Data Center, and Cloud for a while now.

And yes, we know Cloud has been getting the lion’s share of the investment for a while now, too. It’s where all the new “cool” features are premiered. However, Atlassian Cloud does have some fundamental problems. You know it, I know it, and you better be sure Atlassian knows it. And at their current setup, they don’t have the resources to fix that.  

Atlassian also sees data that says most new people to their products are starting in Cloud. This fact tells them two things: A) Their future depends on Cloud, and B) They don’t have the resources to fix Cloud and support Server and support DC.   

Between Server and Data Center, Server’s been trending downwards, while DC upwards. Of course, this trend exists – people are migrating away from Server to Data Center and Cloud, so it’s going to go down, but the data still is what it is. 

So given all the facts above, if you had to make the hard choice, which would you make? As I’ve stated, I think this decision does ignore some critical use cases, but I can at least understand the decision.

“How can customers trust Atlassian is going to offer DC going forward given all their actions in the last few years?” – @jonjonbling

Hmm, just asking all the hard questions. Look, I am not a part of Atlassian, so I cannot say what they are going to do with any certainty. However, Server and Data Center have a fundamental difference that makes Data Center more attractive to keep onboard: DC is a subscription license.

For Server, you pay once for your license; then, you pay a smaller “Maintenance” fee every year after for access to upgrades and Support. If you don’t plan to upgrade and don’t feel you need support, don’t pay Maintenance. You can still use your Jira instance because you’ve already brought your license. 

However, with Data Center, you pay the full price every year to continue using your Jira instance. It’s a subscription, so if you don’t pay it, you don’t get to use Jira. This pricing model brings in a lot more money to the company. It might be cynical of me, but when in doubt, follow the money. Atlassian has a lot more incentive to keep Data Center alive than Server, so it will likely be around as their “On-Prem” offering. 

Here’s to a better week coming up.

This week has been a long one. I don’t know what the future may hold for the Atlassian Ecosystem or this Blog, but I know that we are adaptable, so we’ll do what’s needed to move ahead. So, I’m not going anywhere, and I’ll do my best to guide you through what’s coming up.  

However, you can help now me out. If you are financially able and find this Blog helpful, consider becoming a Patreon and supporting what I do here. Depending on your monthly contribution, you can get access to a Members-only discord, exclusive content that I will not be posting publically, as well as recognition on the Blog. Higher tiers can even participate in a Monthly AMA Conference Call or even a private one on one (virtual) meeting with me. Patreon is very much an experiment, but if you find it useful, please consider supporting the Blog.

What are your thoughts? Are you angry, worried, or looking forward to the changes? Is your organization planning to migrate to another platform? If so, which one? Leave a comment on Social Media with your thoughts and help the algorithms distribute the Blog. You can find me on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, where you can find new posts, community news, and interesting tidbits. You can also put your email down below to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox. But until next time, my name is Rodney, asking, “Have you updated your Jira issues today?”