I first became aware of GitHub as a version control system but quickly realised that it’s also a publishing tool and collaboration platform. Essentially, GitHub hosts Git repositories and it has fast become the ‘go to’ tool for developers working with open source.
There are 30 million repositories on GitHub and 12 million users. It’s quite an intriguing 400-person startup, which is valued at more than $2 billion.
But why should CIOs care about it? Here are 5 good reasons why you should pay attention.
1: The world is moving to open source
GitHub is the largest open source library in the world. Various governments and enterprises are moving towards open source by default. It still sounds a funny statement to say that “the world is moving to open source”, but there is truth in this.
Linux runs on 40.5 per cent of all servers globally versus 47.9 per cent for Windows. On the desktop, Linux, in all the various forms that it takes, is nipping on the heels of Apple iOS in terms of market share.
Earlier this month, the Australian Digital Transformation office signed an MOU with its UK counterpart that will encourage the building of open-source software and solutions.
2: Your team can learn from others
GitHub is a great resource and it hosts the source code for millions of projects which means anyone can read the actual code used to create those applications and see all the different versions of this code as it evolves.
This is a learning tool that your coders can really learn from others. The evolution of a good piece of code can be traced including all the fast followers who ‘forked’ and copied this starting point.
3. GitHub is free
Well, it is for individuals and small businesses. Everyone can see whenever you post on GitHub and the code becomes part of the open source for others to use. That is what makes GitHub powerful as it combines the wisdom of crowds – you can easily see where the winners and losers are. However, enterprises that want to keep their code private pay for the privilege.
4: Source code management is critical
Most organisations work with partners and offshore developers and their teams need to be able to work with different versions of code across various time zones.
When you use GitHub, you create a replicated copy on your own computer. You might rationalise that this is both a good thing and also a potential risk. However, as this is open source, we are talking about the rules are different.
5: You can hire the best coders
Just picture this, you have a library that automatically monitors who is active and who has been contributing. In GitHub, every coder will start to accumulate followers, in theory the more that follow you – the better you are.
Thus, when you have a project, you can search for the best coders as adjudged by their peers. This opportunity has not gone unnoticed and I came across a site that has created a new marketplace for the best GitHub coders, architects etc.
This site is named ‘topal’, and it claims to hire the top 3 per cent of freelance GitHub developers. Its clients include JP Morgan, AirBnB and Zendesk.
Let me close with one excuse not to use GitHub. Because it’s open source, hackers are fully aware of who is using what code. Vulnerabilities can open the door to an instant exploit of your code base.
Perhaps this is not an excuse but a word of caution. There are many reasons why you should use GitHub but you have to also understand that there are always caveats that should be taken into account.
David Gee is the former CIO of CUA where he recently completed a core banking transformation. He has more than 18 years' experience as a CIO, and was also previously director at KPMG Consulting. Connect with David on LinkedIn.