Atlassian mobilises to tackle incident-response needs of IT operations

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman September 4, 2018
Best known for its focus on the development side of the DevOps coin, a new product launch and the acquisition of OpsGenie signal the Australian company’s intent to widen its appeal in IT departments.

Atlassian Jira
An IT incident that leads to an outage for customers can have a big impact on a company’s reputation and revenue. In mid-July, for example, YouTube TV was forced to apologise for an unfortunately timed outage during the World Cup semi-final match between England and Croatia and offer disgruntled customers a credit amounting to one week of free service.

The stress levels involved for the IT teams responsible for getting an incident fixed aren’t great for business either, according to Scott Farquhar, co-CEO of teamwork software company Atlassian. That’s why the company has announced a new product, Jira Ops, at its Atlassian Summit Europe 2018 event, taking place this week in Barcelona.

Speaking on a stage that was plunged into darkness for a minute or two, in order to hammer home Farquhar’s point, he told the audience:

As software increasingly powers everything we do, outages in a popular online service can affect hundreds, thousands, millions, even hundreds of millions of people. Outages can have a real impact. Customers can’t book their flights, they can’t pay their bills they can’t make video calls to their friends. And whether you’re experiencing a major bug or having capacity issues, or whether you go down completely, a major incident is like going dark for your customers.

With the lights back on, Farquhar then went on to introduce Jira Ops. It’s built to tackle a specific problem: the patchwork of point solutions and a lack of clear process that hamper the efforts of IT teams to get things up and running again.

They might use an incident alert service such as OpsGenie, PagerDuty or xMatters to mobilise a response team via SMS messages and push notifications. They might then go on to create a ‘virtual war room’, using a combination of chat and video calls using, say, Slack. They might want to keep customers informed and updated, using a product such as Atlassian Statuspage, which last year was used by Atlassian users to send 175 million updates to customers about ongoing incidents.

On top of this, they may need service desk software to handle incoming reports from customers. And once an incident has been resolved and the dust has settled, they may conduct retrospectives on Atlassian’s Confluence service and track action items in Jira, in order to learn from their mistakes. While each service plays an important role, said Farquhar, a better way could be to coordinate the entire incident from alert to follow-up action from a single place.

That’s where Jira Ops comes into play. It integrates with all of the services mentioned above, as well as others, to keep everybody on an incident response team up-to-date on what’s going on. Said Farquhar:

Jira Ops takes information from that patchwork of products and organises it into a single, central location where those involved can see how long an incident has lasted, its severity and who’s in charge.

In other words, the dashboard helps them track the progress of incident response tasks, assign responsibilities and communicate on issues as they arise. They can draw relevant messages from Slack into Jira Ops to add context around the incident. According to Jens Schumacher, head of software teams at Atlassian, a lot of thinking behind the new product comes from inside the company itself. In effect, it has turned its own incident-response playbook into a commercial product for customers.

Unlike some Atlassian products, which are available for on-premise implementation as well as in the cloud, Jira Ops will be cloud-only for a very simple reason - if your IT systems are down, it makes no sense to rely on an on-premise incident resolution tool for managing that outage. A free beta version is already available to customers, with a paid 1.0 version scheduled for release, at an as-yet unspecified price, in early 2019.

Jira Ops the first product launch since Atlassian made its exit in July from real-time communications software via a partnership with Slack. As previously reported, Atlassian has offloaded to Slack the intellectual property that underpins its HipChat and Stride services, which will be discontinued (more on this in a follow-up story), in exchange for a stake in Slack.

More importantly, it’s a major signalling of Atlassian’s focus on the Ops side of the DevOps coin, a move that will take it into more direct competition with the likes of ServiceNow. In the company’s recent fourth-quarter earnings call, co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes outlined how the company is aiming to address a broader swathe of IT team needs:

We will be doubling down on supporting the needs of IT teams across companies of all sizes, what we call the Fortune 500,000. Serving IT departments is an adjacent market we’ve been serving for years, yet we barely scratch the surface of this significant opportunity. This year, you’ll see us placing more emphasis on the IT market through R&D investments, partnerships and marketing.

And sure enough, yet more evidence of this IT operations focus followed swiftly behind Farquhar’s introduction to Jira Ops, with the news that Atlassian is to acquire OpsGenie, an incident alert management service that already makes up an important part of the Jira Ops picture.

In a deal worth $295 million, Atlassian gets access to OpGenie’s 3,000 customers, including convenience store chain 7-Eleven and travel group Expedia. Given Atlassian’s intent to muscle its way into IT ops management software, the acquisition of a product designed to address service issues in a smart way, as Farquhar describes OpsGenie, makes a lot of sense.

As does Atlassian’s focus on both the Dev and the Ops sides of IT departments. After all, as Farquhar explained, around half of the attendees at the Summit are from IT teams and incidents are a flashpoint for communications and teamwork in IT departments:

Previously, many of you in the audience - myself included - who develop software would wash your hands of it when an incident occurred and say, ‘That’s not my problem. I just build the software. There’s a whole operations team and it’s their job to keep it up and running and make sure those services work for our customers.’ But that’s not the case anymore. These days, the realities of agile development, of operating in the cloud, and the realities of continuous deployment, mean you build it and you run it. Today, ops is embedded in development teams, developers are on call too, and incident response is a fact of life for these teams… And the truth is, responding to incidents is hard. There are a lot of things to consider in a high-pressure environment where every second counts.


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