Continuous Integration Doom and Gloom?

Andrew Binstock has written an article for SD Times, postulating that the Continuous Integration market is rapidly changing; and that the effects of this change will be:

  • Consolidation of the enterprise market to 3 main products
  • Consolidation of the workgroup market to CruiseControl Hudson (as free Continuous Integration servers), and Bamboo (as a paid product)

Maybe. I’m not sure it’s that simple. He’s correct in that marketplace is rapidly evolving, for both free and paid applications. Yes, I think there will be a few dominant products in the Enterprise space, probably along vendor lines. For example, if you’re already invested in RAD and WebSphere, you’ll probably buy BuildForge.

Andrew’s guess is that Team City and Cruise won’t gain critical mass. Team City because there’s no tight integration with the rest of the JetBrains stack, and Cruise because it’s a comparatively late entrant to the market.

But there’s other forces to consider. For one, what about the .NET guys? There’s a terrifying number of them who don’t use Continuous Integration. Will they all go for TFS? CruiseControl.net is looking a little creaky, and there’s been plenty of interest in Team City by some of the .NET luminaries. Culturally, this community can and does pay for software, too.

While Hudson is quickly shaping up to be the alpha male of the CI tribe, it still doesn’t appear to have the installed base of the original CruiseControl. Recently CruiseControl was still beating Hudson in terms of downloads and installed base. If CruiseControl (often referred to as Cruise, which does muddy the waters somewhat) loses any projects to other products, where will they go? My guess is to Hudson if they stick with an open source product, or possibly Cruise, if they like the cut of ThoughtWorks’ jib.

Another trend that will be relevant: the market will be growing for some time to come. It’s increasing in sophistication as Andrew points out; but my guess is that we’re at least a couple of years away from saturation.

The other consideration is the economy. I’d like to think there will be opportunities as well as threats. I have no doubt that there will be less IT projects over the next few years, and certainly some cancellations. But what will the industry’s attitude be to waste? Will it be considered okay to defer integration? Will Continuous Integration be de rigueur? Will development managers insist that we demonstrate some ROI on the CI products that we choose? I hope we get better at this.

Andrew has done a great job in identifying some trends at the macro level. He’s picked some very tasty players for his prediction. But how this will play out? Who will walk away with a chunk of market share? I think it’s still wide open.

I have reached out to a few people for comment and will update this post. The Ant Hill Pro guys seem to agree with the 2-tier analysis of the marketplace.

Update: 13-06-2009 morning – Here’s the response from Ken Olofson of Atlassian:

I saw Andrew’s write up and it’s great that he’s picking us to stick around in a competitive market.. 😉 I think he’s tipping us for the right reasons, too. Bamboo is a core product for us; we don’t just develop integration with our own products, we focus on ease of use, collaboration, and integration with all the tools developers rely on. We try to lead with innovative features by being the first to develop EC2 support and two-way IM integration (still don’t think anyone else is doing this). Much of this comes from our own dogfooding since we use Bamboo extensively across all 12 development teams within Atlassian. Check this out: http://www.atlassian.com/agile/practices/continuous-integration.jsp Oh yeah, and we can’t forget about Atlassian’s legendary support.

He’d be a fool to disagree.

Update: 13-06-2009 evening. Comment from Jeffrey Fredrick, who has been a CruiseControl committer for years, and more recently he’s been working with the Urbancode guys.

I think Andrew makes an accurate distinction between the two markets, and I think my own recent history ads weight to this being more than lip-service. As you know I’ve been working with CruiseControl for a long time, all the way back to 2001. And then I joined Urbancode in April in the role of Technical Evangelist. But one of the points we agreed upon when I joined Urbancode was that I would continue to work on CruiseControl! The reason is that we really do believe that we’re competing in a different space for a different audience with a different value proposition.

Yes AnthillPro (or other Enterprise CI tools) can be used as a classic CI solution. But as teams get more sophisticated they want to automate more and more, and they want tools that can tie together the entire Build Lifecycle. And while some teams do this by writing their system around a workgroup level solution many others want to spend less time maintaining their build & deployment infrastructure and are happy to find an off the shelf solution that fits their needs.

As I just told JTF, I fully appreciate the latter point. People do scary things with build scripts and VCS systems that should be part of the plumbing of your CI system anyhow.

Update: 15-06-2009. Paul Julius pointed out that CruiseControl was tipped to survive as well. Apologies, CruiseControl users: I forgot to put it on the list.

Update: 18-06-2009. Yegor Yarko from Jetbrains responded a couple of days ago. I’ve been remiss. Sorry. Yegor stresses that this is his personal opinion, and not an official JetBrains response:

Andrew’s article is probably a good one to cover business-level, but there is another angle that is more appealing to me.

To my bad (or good) I am not deep into the marketing and would rather judge products based on the feature set/ease of use, etc.

Targeting a product for a specific sector or type of users is a good thing but targeting alone means nothing. I’d rather pay attention to the product attitude and refinement of details. These are the factors that affect the everyday users most.

As an insider for TeamCity, it’s hard for me to make an objective comparison for different CI products. After all, there are different opinions of what is most important or usable and our vision is already implemented in our product.

Different people/companies can value different properties of the products and the classification has probably many more entries then two or three.

From my experience CI process is very individual in any non-trivial size project. These varying requirements give birth to different offerings on the CI solutions market. And while the enterprise/workgroup division is probably correct, there might be key differences between the projects/companies that fall into the same category. No single CI solution is able to cater to all needs.

I’d also agree to your note that the market is yet to grow.


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10 thoughts on “Continuous Integration Doom and Gloom?

  1. Eric Minick says:

    Actually, us Anthillers aren’t commenting on (or weren’t trying to comment on) how the market will shake out. We do think the basic Enterprise vs Work-Group distinction he makes is accurate though.

    We don’t compete against Hudson or CruiseControl or other team level CI tools. If those meet (or almost meet your needs) it’s hard to justify an enterprise solution when budgets are tight. For that matter, team level tools often meet the developer’s needs.

    Where Enterprise tools differ is their focus on the release manager, deployment engineer, SCM guy and QA manager. The developer is just one of many people who need to be served. When the scope of challenges impacts this larger audience, or their are extremely difficult build problems, Enterprise CI tools like AnthillPro have a bigger role.

  2. simpsonjulian says:

    Eric – thanks for your correction. Quite right, your post was about the differences in CI tools and I have updated my post to reflect that.

  3. Thanks for the kind words about my write-up. This will be an interesting technology sector to watch develop.

  4. simpsonjulian says:

    Andrew – thanks for writing an interesting article! There were some bets (in the pub ) about the industry made at last year’s CITCON Europe. They’ll be cashed in in August. It’ll be fascinating to revisit one year’s worth of change, let alone more.

  5. Alex Honor says:

    Great right up.
    I also agree on the rough market segmentation model (i.e., team vs enterprise). Tool choices made at the team level are often inexpensive or free because it’s difficult to justify big purchases based on productivity gains at that level of the organization.
    I also agree that the market is still pretty new and it is premature to assume it’s going to consolidate any time soon. I agree with the comment Eric Minick makes re: enterprise model products, wherein you include other roles in the product’s feature set. These features may make the product more complex giving it a tougher learning curve. Their flexibility or wider scope does pay off given the right scale though.

  6. Dax Farhang says:

    Great write ups by both, particularly the distinction between workgroup vs. enterprise and the notion that Microsoft will continue to make a play at any enterprise market that is worthwhile. There are two key characteristics of the enterprise which are worthwhile to note – they often do not have homogeneous .NET, Java or native codebases, nor do they have consistent tool sets or development processes across their many workgroups. We at Electric Cloud focus on providing optimal value to these types of enterprises who are looking for a flexible solution to fit their complex needs.

  7. Banos says:

    Dunno why this article is titled Doom and Gloom! Doom for some CI tools I suppose. but not Gloom for us ‘consumers’ the the evolution and maturation of CI in the enterprise is a good thing.
    Its interesting to see some round ups and preditions for the market. Funnily enough I’m looking around in the space now for next step decisions. So all the views in here are interesting.
    There have been a few posts in the CruiseControl mail list recently that have been a bit doom and gloom interestingly enough… maybe time to subscribe elsewhere too and look up out of the trenches…

  8. Hi Banos,

    I think there will be a little gloom for those companies who leave the CI marketplace. And that’s never good for us as consumers (unless you’re like me takes 30 minutes to choose toothpaste because they get torn between sensitive teeth tartar removing added bicarb toothpaste, and extra cleansing liquid gel gum strengthening toothpaste).

    I was also wondering about the size of the market. I like to think it’ll grow. Then I wonder if some people will ever write unit tests or use CI.

  9. […] was Continuous Integration Doom and Gloom? It’ll be interesting to see what the winter holds. Everyone still seems to be in the […]

  10. Our Parabuild the build and release management system. It is one of the oldest enterprise CI servers and is alive and kicking.

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