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Atlassian chat tool revamp faces long odds in ChatOps shops

Atlassian's successor to HipChat Cloud has plenty of work ahead of it to attract converts and migrate their data from de facto ChatOps market leader Slack.

An Atlassian ChatOps product makes all the right promises, but IT pros are skeptical it will fare any better than Atlassian HipChat in the pursuit of rival Slack.

The Atlassian chat tool, Stride, combines voice, video and chat in one interface that can be used to make decisions and take action on those decisions from user-flagged messages within team discussions. Users can also mute notifications and incoming messages while in Focus Mode on Stride.

With Stride's introduction last week, Atlassian specifically called out Slack and Microsoft's Teams product, and dropped heavy hints that HipChat users will be pushed -- the Stride website uses the word "encouraged" -- to move to Stride soon. Enterprises that already use the SaaS version of HipChat are enthused about Stride, but there are plenty of skeptics on the sidelines about Atlassian chat tools' quest to capture market share, particularly from Slack.

"From what I can tell, it's mostly a rebranding effort to try to get people to use their product as a true alternative to Slack," said Chris Moyer, vice president of technology at ACI Information Group, a content aggregator based in Ipswich, Mass. Moyer is also a TechTarget contributor who closely follows the ChatOps trend. "They're adding some features to it for sure, but they're just a little too late to the game."

Moyer's company uses Flowdock for chat, and the tool has stored the company's entire chat history. Despite interesting features such as integrated voice and video collaboration available with Atlassian's Stride, the firm will be loath to move away from Flowdock unless Atlassian provides import utilities to siphon such data out of competitors' platforms, Moyer said. No such tools have been publicly discussed by Atlassian.

They're adding some features to it for sure, but they're just a little too late to the game.
Chris Moyervice president of technology, ACI Information Group

ChatOps tools are still emerging and market share is hard to pin down, but analysts said Slack has the early momentum.

To compete, Atlassian will surround Stride with integrations into the other products its customers already use, said Rob Stroud, an analyst at Forrester Research. Such integrations could include hooks into its own Confluence and JIRA, or the Kanban boards Atlassian acquired with Trello.

Atlassian chat tool's cloudy dilemma

For existing enterprise customers, however, the drawback with Stride is that for the foreseeable future, it will be offered only as SaaS. Large companies strongly prefer on-premises deployments. Some of these customers perceive Atlassian as too focused on cloud-based products, which is why they lobbied for the HipChat Data Center product, which was released in June. There are hints that Stride will integrate with other Atlassian on-premises products such as JIRA Server, but the company is mum about any plans for a Stride Server product. Other recent products, such as Bitbucket Pipelines, are also SaaS-only.

Some enterprise Atlassian chat customers that currently use the SaaS version of HipChat said they are interested in Stride SaaS.

"[An] on-premises [version] would have some advantages, like legal control of our conversation content, but we could work with the cloud version, which is what we do with HipChat currently," said Eric Hilfer, vice president of software engineering at Rosetta Stone, in Arlington, Va. The company uses Atlassian tools in its DevOps pipeline.

Rosetta Stone wants to integrate voice, video and screen-share meetings into text conversations that are linked into JIRA and Confluence workflows, Hilfer said. Right now the company uses Google Hangouts for video meetings, and has developer conversations in HipChat, so video meetings aren't wired directly into JIRA issues as developers discuss them.

Sticking with a SaaS-only product could hurt Atlassian's ChatOps ambitions in the long run, Moyer said.

"If they target more enterprise-level targets by offering on-premises versions, they'll have a lot more luck -- securing an on-premises application is much simpler," he said.

Stride is still in preview and Atlassian has added customers to an early access waitlist. It doesn't yet offer the kinds of integrations Hilfer wants, though that seems to be the plan. Meanwhile, as a relatively young IT software company, Atlassian has yet to discontinue a product such as HipChat, which will be "an interesting process to watch," Stroud said.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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