Enterprise repo wars: GitHub vs. GitLab vs. Bitbucket

Enterprise repo wars: GitHub vs. GitLab vs. Bitbucket

GitLab and Atlassian have GitHub in the cross-hairs among organizations seeking enterprise-grade features for their privately hosted repos

GitHub may be the first name in open source repository hosting, but when it comes to private repo hosting services with additional bells and whistles aimed at enterprises, the game is not so cut and dry.

GitHub’s rivals -- including GitLab and Atlassian Bitbucket -- have been targeting the needs of enterprises in an effort to one-up their better-known competitor among organizations seeking restricted access to their repos. All three vendors base their platforms on the Git distributed version control system. Each offers an on-premises solution for hosting repos inside your firewall -- GitHub Enterprise, GitLab, and Bitbucket Server.

And here is where the battle for the enterprise begins.

GitLab, for one, cites the enterprise as its forté, pointing to its success among organizations that prefer to host their own repos.

“We were born in the enterprise,” says GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij. “People that host their own server are our largest market.”

The company claims it has a larger share than GitHub when it comes to users who host their own repositories on their own servers. GitLab customers can also run GitLab software within their own cloud environments. Customers cited include companies such as Expedia, AT&T, IBM, and Nasdaq.

Atlassian’s Jens Schumacher, head of software teams, makes similar claims about his company’s Bitbucket platform.

“From a broader level, Atlassian has been focusing on professional enterprise teams really from the beginning, whereas GitHub is more focused on the open source audience,” Schumacher says.

GitLab and Atlassian both claim their respective enterprise platforms offer features above what GitHub Enterprise offers.

GitLab Enterprise Edition, which is aimed at organizations with more than 100 developers, offers five levels of authorization for access, as well as provisioning for continuous integration and delivery. GitLab also includes a chat client and planning board akin to a Kanban board. In addition, it features support for private Docker containers and a Docker registry. Future capabilities for GitLab include cycle analytics capabilities, to analyze software development stages with the intent of enabling large organizations to achieve the efficiency of small software development teams.

Atlassian cites premium Bitbucket features such as authentication and distributed teams support. Smart mirroring, in which users can create a mirror of a repo, is also offered.

In addition to Bitbucket Server, Atlassian also offers Bitbucket Data Center, which is aimed at large enterprises requiring high availability and performance at scale. The Data Center variant features a cluster of Bitbucket Server nodes.

Bitbucket Server and its cloud offerings can be extended with hundreds of add-ons, providing capabilities such as code analysis and workflow.

“The big reasons why clients or customers choose Bitbucket over GitHub Enterprise are, number one, the integration with the Altassian tool suite is pretty important to them,” Schumacher says. This suite includes Atlassian’s popular Jira project management tool.

GitHub, for its part, takes the rising competition in the enterprise space in stride.

“Our perspective is we’re building software for people regardless of where they are in the moment,” says Todd Berman, GitHub vice president of engineering.

GitHub’s work has even been an aide to its competitors, he adds. The Git Large File Storage (LFS) protocol was developed and open-sourced by GitHub, and it's now in use at Atlassian and GitLab.

In fact, GitHub does not look at GitHub Enterprise as a separate product from, Berman says. The enterprise product has been successful because it is the same as the open source repo site. But it offers a separate set of functionality for on-premises customers, he adds.

GitHub generates revenue via both behind-the-firewall GitHub Enterprise and private repositories hosted on Additional features of GitHub Enterprise include instance permissions and support for SAML, LDAP, and the CAS single-sign-on protocol.

“GitHub makes its money off of people using GitHub for privacy,” Berman says. Adobe, for example, has 8,000 software engineers using GitHub Enterprise, according to Berman. The company claims 44 percent of the Fortune 50 uses the service.

GitHub Enterprise is packaged as a virtual machine, providing a miniature version of inside a firewall. It can be deployed on a public cloud. GitHub recently added project management and code review capabilities to These will make their way to the next GitHub Enterprise release. Plans call for adding capabilities such as supporting larger installs and data portability between the cloud and enterprises.

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