On October 26th 2018, Microsoft acquired GitHub for 7.5 Billion dollars. GitHub is a company that provides collaboration services to 31 Million software developers. Using the Git version-control system, and open source and freely available software for managing changes to computer code, GitHub was able to build a set of commercial features that made collaboration between developers easy to manage. For software developers, this technology has enabled greater flexibility and productivity – providing high speed, cheap local branching, staging areas, and multiple workflows.

GitHub is a remarkable story. In the roughly 10 years from inception to sale, the company saw incredible growth. GitHub uses a freemium business model where basic services are free, but more features and services are available for monthly subscribers. This freemium model has allowed GitHub to gain user adoption and grow revenue at an incredibly fast rate. Analysis from similarweb.com shows that GitHub has total monthly visits fluctuating between 529 and 561 Million.

 The Value Proposition

Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system also created the Git source control management tool. The creation of Git in 2005 was a practical move; Torvalds needed to collaborate on the source code that powered the Linux operating system. Linus understood that the developers get both entertainment and social interaction by sharing code with others. This motivation to create value through shared code is foundational to what Linus calls the “Hacker Ethic”.

Statistics from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GitHub

The Git source control management (SCM) tool allowed others to access and retrieve code using command line tools across a network. For many, however, utilizing a command line interface and developing a deep understanding of the Git commands at the terminal was too burdensome. GitHub was able to recognize the broad potential for such a code sharing tool and implemented features that allowed individuals to more easily attain both social and entertainment benefit from sharing code. In addition, business found value in the tool as an easy way to support developer needs to contribute without the need to setup complex network authentication mechanisms (such as VPN access).

Statistics from: https://www.similarweb.com

GitHub sells premium services that help business reduce infrastructure costs by storing and managing enterprise code repositories online. Unlike free code repositories – which are always publicly available – premium GitHub users have the ability to secure their code repositories against public access. Premium features also include management of user permissions and single sign-on functionality for ease of use in integrated development environments such as Eclipse.

Surviving the Attack

In early 2018 GitHub servers were the target of the largest distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack recorded to date. This attack pushed a massive volume of web requests to the GitHub servers in an attempt to disrupt their business operations. At it’s peak, the volume reached 1.3 terabits of data per second (1,300,000 Mbps) originating for over a thousand different systems and ten thousand different unique endpoints.

GitHub is a technology company through and through. Reliability of their service is critical to their success as a business and reputation within the industry. In the face of this attack, they did not disappoint. GitHub, and their partner Akamai, minimized the service disruption to only 8 minutes. The quick action of GitHub and Akamai to route and scrub network traffic demonstrated to developers that GitHub takes its role as a steward of their data seriously.

On October 25th, a single day before the closing of the Microsoft purchase, GitHub successfully attained FedRAMP certification with the US Government, a certification that demonstrates security and diligence at the most demanding levels for use with secure US Government communications.

Conclusion

GitHub was able to recognize that a large portion of the technical community was looking for new ways to share and collaborate. What stopped many of these individuals from using git-scm was the steep learning curve, lack of technology infrastructure, and changes to their coding practice that git-scm required. GitHub was able to recognize these industry challenges and remove them by simply providing git services from the cloud. This migration to the cloud provided increased accessibility, find-ability, and usability for both new and experienced technologists. GitHub solved a real problem that a massive number of people struggled with; and they did it by simplifying tools that already existed.