Atlassian HipChat shutdown surprises enterprise IT pros

IT pros had been skeptical about Atlassian's Stride, but HipChat's disappearance leaves them with lingering questions about licensing and support.

Atlassian's HipChat died a sudden death this week, as the DevOps software vendor teamed up with an erstwhile competitor, Slack, and turned over its ChatOps IP.

The Atlassian-Slack deal will see Slack acquire Atlassian's HipChat IP, as well as Stride, a successor to HipChat for ChatOps that was released in September 2017. Both HipChat and Stride will be discontinued as part of the deal by Feb. 15, 2019, in favor of Slack's ChatOps tools. Atlassian, which also makes popular DevOps tools such as Jira, Confluence and Bitbucket, also will take a minority stake in Slack.

IT pros were skeptical of Atlassian Stride, and judged it as too little and too late to compete with an entrenched ChatOps competitor. Atlassian HipChat was launched in 2010 and had a loyal following, though it's unclear just how many users it has; while Slack is popular, HipChat's discontinuation in about six months surprises many industry watchers.

"I guess we were right that Stride would fall, so that's not a huge disappointment, since that came out after Slack," said Chris Moyer, vice president of technology at ACI Information Group, a content aggregator based in Guilford, Conn. "But HipChat was before Slack and had quite a few loyal users."

HipChat's fate was already sealed last fall, when Atlassian rolled out Stride and encouraged customers to move to the new product almost immediately. But that migration effort fizzled by June 2018, and some Atlassian HipChat shops said the Slack takeover at least gives them more certainty about HipChat's fate.

"Stride only had about 12 plugins when I evaluated it a month or two ago," said Kevin Burnett, DevOps lead at Rosetta Stone, a global education software company in Arlington, Va., and an Atlassian customer. The company added plugins for Jira and Confluence in February 2018 and April 2018, respectively.

An uncertain future for Atlassian HipChat users

Still, Burnett is surprised to see Atlassian team up with a competitor, and he's unsure whether his company will follow in that direction. There are other options available such as Microsoft's Teams, which has proved to be a strong Slack competitor, as well as Google Hangouts Chat and Jabber. Rosetta Stone needs the centralized management and compliance policy features in Slack Enterprise, which comes with licensing costs. And he has concerns about how Atlassian will transition not just customer data but customer licenses and support agreements into Slack.

Just dropping HipChat entirely might reflect poorly on other services Atlassian has, if they decide it's better to just stop supporting and completely drop services.
Chris Moyervice president of technology, ACI Information Group

"Slack is a small company, so I don't know what its support is like," Burnett said. "I know Atlassian now has a small stake in Slack, but I'm also not sure how they'll do the transition [to Slack] and what will happen to existing [Atlassian HipChat] contracts."

For Atlassian customers who use monthly billing, instances of HipChat and Stride will continue to function until the customer terminates monthly billing, or until Feb. 15, 2019, whichever comes first, according to a company FAQ. Annual licenses will not be auto-renewed after July 26, 2018, and customers who choose to renew licenses will only be able to do so through Feb. 15, 2019. In the meantime, a Migration Hub page has instructions to migrate from HipChat to Slack, but there's no mention of how licenses carry over or how support agreements will work. Atlassian indicated on that page that it can't currently migrate from Stride to Slack, but that this is "coming soon." The page also doesn't offer a clear answer about existing HipChat licenses that don't expire before the Feb. 15 cutoff date, or how the companies will collaborate, if at all, on Slack support once Atlassian customers are migrated.

Moyer said he'd prefer to see Atlassian and Slack merge HipChat functionality into Slack, or make a compatible HipChat client for Slack instead of discontinuing the product outright.

"Just dropping HipChat entirely might reflect poorly on other services Atlassian has, if they decide it's better to just stop supporting and completely drop services," Moyer said.

This also means less competition in ChatOps, which makes it more likely for Slack to get gobbled up by another company such as Google and merged into another existing product, Moyer said. Google also launched a latecomer to the ChatOps market in March 2018.

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