Dear Mike, Scott and the Atlassian leadership,

 

Atlassian recently made the decision to cease development of its self-hosted ‘Server ‘product line.

 

Public reaction was negative (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), but predictably so. New technology waves hit different industries and markets at different times. For Silicon Valley startups the move to Cloud is mostly complete. For regulated industries like healthcare it’s just getting feasible.

 

 

New technology also never completely eliminates the old. Mainframes and COBOL still exist. The world has many niches, and technology sinks into cracks that late technology waves may not reach. Standardized Cloud products cannot integrate with all behind-the-firewall systems, and cannot be customized to a level an on-premise hosted system can.

 

 
 

So while Atlassian’s strategy, timing, execution and (in particular) communication are hard to fault, this was still a really painful announcement for many customers: those behind the curve, or with niche requirements.

 

Non-profits

 

Consider one group in particular: non-profits.

 

The Atlassian Foundation has granted 61,000+ licenses to charities and non-profits. Many of these work in healthcare and other regulated industries where Cloud is not an option.

 

 

 

 

Most non-profits work on a shoestring budget, and despite Atlassian’s generous discounts for Cloud, for some the migration and ongoing costs will be prohibitive.

 

“As a part of a large non-profit organization, we need to look closer into Data Center options, but for now am taking a deep breath to avoid switching to more colorful language as response to the recent announcement to discontinue the server line.

We used Jira and Confluence (and some more) as the main tool for all our internal communication, documentation, discussion and project management. For these things, we cannot accept the risk of a user or Atlassian being compromised and our information being exposed.

Hence we run Atlassian products only on our internal network - they are not exposed to the internet (and never will be). And this policy will stay in place for the foreseeable future. We'd rather switch products entirely than migrate into the cloud.

In addition, we run shell scripts on the server itself to automate certain aspects in combination with other intranet-only "on premise" services which I cannot see happening "in the cloud".

And last but not least there is user management - we maintain our internal user directories for all employees and also use that to manage use/access to our Atlassian installations. The amount of effort needed to securely(!) connect our directories to an Atlassian-owned cloud is a showstopper on its own.

In the past, Atlassian has been very generous with Community licenses for which we are very grateful! But the only remaining non-cloud option for the future seems to be the very expensive Data Center license, which turns the generosity upside down. Please correct me if I missed some other non-cloud alternative.

Assuming that the decision to stop selling/supporting Server licenses is irreversible, the only option I see for us to continue using Atlassian products are massively discounted Data Center licenses for former Community license holders..

What this move already did is massively undermine the trust in Atlassian as a strategic partner and this will have a multiplicative effect in our organization unless some mediating measure for non-cloud options is announced very soon.”

 Kyb IT, Oct 18, 2020

 

We're a non-profit in a similar situation - and I expect many non-profits are as well due to the nature of their work in serving remote and underprivileged communities. 

We live in remote Alaska and have a WAN connection of about 4mbps with a low bandwidth cap. Cloud is 100 percent not an option for us given our current WAN options and intermittent connectivity.  The discontinuation of Atlassian's on-prem nonprofit licensing program will be crippling for our on-prem environment and the services we provide to the community. 

Kyle Hardin,  Oct 20, 2020 

 

DFTC?

 

What about Don’t #@!% the customer?" asks everyone negatively affected by any change Atlassian makes. I’m sure you’re tired of being preached at here.

 

We get it: resources are finite. Killing off Server will be painful for some customers now, but in the long term Server resources now devoted to Cloud will benefit thousands more customers. Atlassian is a long-term company.

 

Besides, Server was done – we all knew it – and making this official was a more honest way forward than charging increasingly usurious maintenance fees for little development.

 

So no DFTC red card! Yet still, this rush to the future, callously abandoning the old and slow – it feels like a breach of trust.

 

 

Feeling a bit betrayed on this one. As a nonprofit, we have to keep costs down, so the server option made this solution possible. We are also technology centric, so hosting ourselves is not a problem. We're barely months into implementation, and now this. This pricing change quadruples our cost. Are there going to be academic/public library discounts in the new pricing model?

Sean Hanson, Oct 16, 2020

That is the absolutely worst what you could have done to me any my company. We have built everything on Atlassians products (Confluence, Jira, Bitbucket, Bamboo) and we have trusted that you would not stab your customers in the back.

We can't migrated to the cloud and we will never be able to do so. Also as company of 100 ppl we wont be able to pay DC. You left us without any option.

No idea what to do.

Reinhard Kaiser,  Oct 17, 2020

Why would anyone trust Atlassian ever again?  Who would be naive enough to think that they're not going to get another cheery email in a year or two's time saying that DC is being dumped?

Geoff Daly,_ Oct 19, 2020

The matter of trust is crucial here. Atlassian made power-play move - take all of it or leave it.

Łukasz Wątroba, Oct 23, 2020

This is horrible!

We invested money and time on Jira and Confluence to setup our documentation and procedures using add-ons that are not supported on the cloud version. We also have other requirements that make the cloud version not suitable.

So, the only option left is to buy a data center version but the price difference is gigantic and won't happen.

To me, it's simply a decision of getting rid of "complicated" customers. Your message is heard loud and clear!

Vincent Roger, Oct 19, 2020

Best of luck Atlassian but this is not a journey I am interested in. 

To be completely honest, this feels like a complete revenue raising initiative that is going to burn bridges with existing customers.


I want to use substantially more colourful language to describe my feelings towards this but that would not be appropriate or helpful.

Annoyed Customer, Oct 16, 2020

 

This is disappointing news and my company for one will be forced to go elsewhere after many years of happily using Atlassian products. It's a shame that for corporate reasons you've chosen to discontinue the products you were providing us, but I understand it, that's business, if maintaining Server is no longer profitable for you then you need to stop maintaining it.

What sticks in the craw is the way that instead of telling us how sorry you are and wishing us luck in our transitions you instead insist on patronising us by telling us that you know our businesses better than we do and that we actually want to stop using Server, that we want to move to the cloud, that the cloud is the right place for usNo! Don't add insult to injury by telling us what's right for our businesses. Don't tell us that you're "Accelerating our journey to the cloud, together", because we never had a journey to the cloud. We had Server and Server was what we wanted.

And as for telling us that our reasons for not using the cloud are "myths" and that you've "busted" them for us? Condescending much?

Ralph Olsson Oct 20, 2020

 

 

Trust is a hard currency to earn, and easy to squander. For a Cloud-first company, trust is everything. If Atlassian is willing to throw a whole class of customers under this bus, and use massive price hikes to force change, can we trust them to build a stable Cloud platform that will remain reasonably priced?

 

A graceful alternative

 

This letter is to suggest a way forward:

 

Re-license Server products under an open source license.

 

Let Cloud win on its own merits, in its own time, without these scorched-earth tactics against your own customers. Open-source Server, so that we partners, customers and enthusiasts can keep it viable by sharing security fixes, bug fixes and (in time) improvements. Atlassian can keep DC as an up-sell, and focus on Cloud for the long term.

 

Why?

 

- To give excellent products that have had their run a dignified retirement.

- To help out non-profits and other customers unable to migrate.

- To honour Atlassian’s own developers by letting their product continue on.

- To promote Atlassian reputation, and further live out its values.

 

There are certainly risks. Might open source Server products cannibalise Cloud revenue? Possibly, but probably not. The world has moved on; nobody self-hosts these days without a good reason. Open-sourcing Server would be courageous in a non-Apple way.

 

For that matter, there are also risks in alienating a significant minority of one’s userbase by chasing them to an immature Cloud platform. Open sourcing Server could prevent a diaspora (already begun – see goodbyeserver.org), keeping Server holdouts in the Cloud sales funnel.

 

Summary

 

Re-licensing legacy products under open source is a graceful way of moving forward. It costs Atlassian relatively little, will restore broken trust, and help a ton of struggling non-profits. The world right now needs a bit less ruthless capitalism, a bit more compassion and grace.

 

   

 

Yours sincerely,

Jeff Turner

 

Atlassian, 2003-2009

Red Radish Consulting, 2009-present