GitLab.com users have always had free access to the Gitlab programmer’s toolset including GitLab Runner. Today it announced a new feature called Gitlab Runner Autoscale that allows continuous code testing at scale, and to make that even more palatable, the company teamed up with cloud infrastructure provider DigitalOcean to provide free hosting for testing that code.
Yes, it’s really free.
“We are introducing Gitlab runner Autoscale [and we are teaming with DigitalOcean] to provision more servers as you need them. We will make sure there are enough machines to run your code,” Sytse ‘”Sid” Sijbrandij, CEO of GitLab told TechCrunch.
DigitalOcean gets access to a developer community it craves and by showing them their skill set around fast server deployment, they are likely hoping to convert some percentage of the free users into paying customers.
The idea is to solve a real problem around code testing bottlenecks that can result in delays in deployment.
“Companies can go from zero if nobody is pushing code to hundreds of runners if everyone is submitting code. They can hook into a DigitalOcean account and provision as many servers as they need. Because it’s fast, they never start in a queue. It’s secure because you deprecate the server when you’re done testing. And it’s cost-effective because you don’t have to run the servers the entire time,” Sijbrandij explained.
These runners are actually an ideal cloud use case. They require a number of servers with often intensive computing requirements, but usually only for a short period of time while testing. When they’re done, the servers can go away.
In an in-house data center, there is a limited amount of server space for this type of testing and that can result in a bottleneck where coders have to wait in a queue for access to servers to test their code. In a time of agility and constant updating that kind of bottleneck makes little sense.
The DigitalOcean deal is good for a year, then both sides can revisit it. GitLab actually has tens of thousands of users, but only a small percentage are paying. Those customer happen to be deep-pocketed enterprise customers who are willing to pay for more advance features and service, which helps support the open source project.
It’s worth noting the paying customers won’t get free DigitalOcean access. They will have to negotiate directly with them or another cloud provider to get the same type of elastic access as the open source users.
GitLab launched in 2011, but became GitLab, Inc in 2014. It was a member of the Y Combinator class of 2015 and has grown from the 9 employees it started with in YC to over 70 today. It’s raised over $5.5 million.
DigitalOcean launched in 2011 and has raised just over $123 million in equity financing. Its most recent funding came in the form of $130 million in debt financing last week.