First, I should note a bit of a disclaimer: Opinions in this blog have been and always will be mine – and in no way represent the feelings of Coyote Creek Consulting or anyone other than me.
Atlassian Server and Data Center Licensing Announcement Explained
Well, the writing has been on the wall for a while – but it seems that dreaded day is here. Last Friday, Atlassian announced that they would sunset the Server products. Starting next February, Atlassian will no longer sell new Server licenses. Three years after that, they will stop all support for Server products, including bug fixes and security updates. Afterwards, your options are Jira Cloud – which will be the only option for smaller teams – and Jira Data Center.
I want to hate this decision.
On an emotional level – this is a gut-punch. I often say I try to be one of Atlassian’s biggest cheerleaders, but this week it’s been hard to be that. I started on Server because, for the longest time, that was our only deployment model. I still run a Server instance for Jira and Confluence in my home lab to support this blog. It’s how I’m able to capture a lot of the screenshots that I require for the blog posts. My licenses will come up for renewal before the price increases take effect, so I’ll be good for another year or so. After that – well, let’s hope I can get sponsorship.
However, after running the numbers, I can’t hate it entirely. In the end, it will save most customers something. A few will pay more, and a few others are left out in the cold, but most people will save money. I will add this – if you plan on moving to Data Center, it will behoove you to go ahead and buy your licenses as soon as possible rather than wait for Feb. 2021. Those price increases are sharp, just saying.
So – let’s talk about those numbers.
I should note a few things here. First, I am only looking at the base Jira Software product, with no add-ons. This is not completely realistic, but it’s good enough for a comparison. I do intend to have an overview of how you can do a detailed analysis of your instance to figure out if Cloud is right for you next week. But for now, this will be good enough.
For Cloud, it is using the Standard Plan. I should also note that Data Center’s license model has a lot more tiers than Server does. So even though you might be on a 10K Server license today, it doesn’t mean you will have to go up to a 10K DC License. You might be able to get away with a 5K license if you have less than 5000 users, which would save you half that cost. Hence the asterisk.
However, with a few exceptions, most people will save money versus their current Server Prices, so long as they are free to choose Cloud or Data Center. I fully get that not everyone is free to choose, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Now let’s get into it. As best I can tell, for the big three – that is Jira Software and Core Server, as well as Confluence Server – the prices are not increasing if you pay list price. If you are on a discount plan, your costs will increase, but that’s not most of us. The other Server products will see an increase, though, so it might make sense to review Atlassian’s docs for yourself.
But back to the big three, the only costs that will increase are on the $10 Starter Package – which is going away entirely next February. That means you’d have to pay the next tier up – which is a hefty jump indeed. This one saddens me the most, as this tier is invaluable for people learning to become an Atlassian System Administrator. I’m sorry, but the Cloud is no substitute in this regard, just by the nature of being what it is.
While this loss is sad, We can at least take a look at other scenarios to figure out how it will impact you moving forward.
So, About that Cloud thing you mentioned the other week.
Look, I don’t know how plainly to put it. Right now, if you are under 250 users, and Cloud is a viable option for you, you will save money on the Standard Plan over either Server or Data Center. This “break point” shifts when the new pricing goes into place such that anyone under 1000 users is now the winner.
Now, I don’t care for Atlassian’s Cloud Product because it has its problems. No use lying about it, and that’s not what you come here for. However, Atlassian is investing heavily in it, and I don’t think the problems are unsolvable. And I’ve been given some sneak previews from Atlassian – exciting features are coming soon. So yeah, between Server’s End of Life and Data Center’s lack of smaller tiers, Jira Cloud is something to look into.
However, not everyone has that luxury. This group was my first thought as I read through the announcement, and they still are. And I don’t think Atlassian is paying enough attention to them.
Simply put, specific segments cannot move to Atlassian Cloud. Here in the United States, these include teams in the Financial Sector, Healthcare, Government work, and Education. The requirement here is almost always regulatory, which means this isn’t a preference. They are required by law to host their data.
And this would be fine if Atlassian would provide lower tiers for Data Center. But as it stands, they won’t. So if a team happens to be smaller than the 500 user mark, they now have to pay for way more licenses than they need to meet regulations.
And what about Data Center?
Look – the price increases set to take place for Data Center are going to hurt. Most are around a 200% increase in price. If you choose to move to Jira Data Center, you will be paying more over what you paid for Server after February. Just that, plain and simple. If you can lock in your license before then, you will be saving a good chunk of change for the year. So my recommendation is lock in those licenses early if you are thinking about going this route.
The good news here is you don’t have to redo your architecture to take advantage of a new DC license. You can drop it into your current Jira Server instance in place of its server license, and you’ll instantly unlock the new features associated with Data Center. From there, you can take your time to build out your infrastructure to make it a true Data Center instance – or not. All depending on your needs.
Another thing to consider on Data Center is your license model is different. On Server, your license is perpetual. That means if you let it lapse, you can still run and use Jira just fine. You won’t be able to upgrade it to a new version or get Support from Atlassian, but it will still work. Honestly, I’ve heard from some companies that run their Atlassian tools like this – only getting a new Server license when they plan to do an upgrade and only doing an upgrade every few years.
However, in Data Center, that’s is not the case. If you let your Data Center license lapse, your instance locks up, and you cannot use it until you get a new one. This is because Atlassian considers its Data Center license to be a “subscription,” which you need to pay annually. Just something to think over if you haven’t looked at DC before.
So – as I mentioned last week, I can be something of a marketing nerd. And I’ve loved Atlassian’s strategy they’ve employed for years now. They’d start small in a given company. Maybe a guy used Jira at his old job, and he recommends it to his team. They adopt it, build on it, and it works for them. The next team over sees their success, adopts Jira, and it grows. Before you know it, an entire department is using it. But then Legal notices what it can do and wants in. So does HR. And Accounting. Now your full company is using Jira, and you have a large instance.
This process is honestly how I see Jira adopted most often. It’s not a top-down decision; it’s a bottom-up grassroots movement. However, will this process still work if the teams start on Jira Cloud, where the license costs are per user? I don’t know if one team manager will want to foot the bill for another team using “their” platform. It seems Atlassian might be thinking more of the top-down approach is the future. Or they have data that says this isn’t a problem. As I said, I don’t know, but I’m going to pay attention to what I hear from the ground.
Remember, you have time.
Look, this announcement feels sudden. But don’t let it spook you. Jira Server will still be here for over three years. This period gives you plenty of time to evaluate all your options and move there before Jira Server has its End-of-Life.
However, hasty and emotional decisions are rarely good ones. It’s one reason why I wanted to wait to say much publicly until I could calm down, get the emotion out of it, and figure out the real story here. Trust me when I say that my outlook on Friday was a lot more panicked than it is as I write this today.
So stop, take a breath, and relax. You’ve got this. If you are on a Server instance, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just the start of the next leg of your journey.
Questions from you
Considering I made no secret of today’s topic to everyone, I figured I’d open it up to Social Media to see if they had any questions. And of course, you guys came through. So let’s see what your concerns are?
“Did Atlassian make a good call to announce this change considering, that cloud is still very much not a mature platform yet?” – Vitalijus Šerpytis
Do I think this timing is ideal? No – not at all. Look, we are still in a massive global pandemic, the economy is in a global downturn as a result, and to have this enormous change on what most companies consider a vital resource during this time is…less than ideal.
However, I also don’t think they necessarily had a choice. In a previous article, I made note that Atlassian is a relatively small company for their outsized reach and influence. And this small company has been splitting its attention between Server, Data Center, and Cloud for a while now.
And yes, we know Cloud has been getting the lion’s share of the investment for a while now, too. It’s where all the new “cool” features are premiered. However, Atlassian Cloud does have some fundamental problems. You know it, I know it, and you better be sure Atlassian knows it. And at their current setup, they don’t have the resources to fix that.
Atlassian also sees data that says most new people to their products are starting in Cloud. This fact tells them two things: A) Their future depends on Cloud, and B) They don’t have the resources to fix Cloud and support Server and support DC.
Between Server and Data Center, Server’s been trending downwards, while DC upwards. Of course, this trend exists – people are migrating away from Server to Data Center and Cloud, so it’s going to go down, but the data still is what it is.
So given all the facts above, if you had to make the hard choice, which would you make? As I’ve stated, I think this decision does ignore some critical use cases, but I can at least understand the decision.
“How can customers trust Atlassian is going to offer DC going forward given all their actions in the last few years?” – @jonjonbling
Hmm, just asking all the hard questions. Look, I am not a part of Atlassian, so I cannot say what they are going to do with any certainty. However, Server and Data Center have a fundamental difference that makes Data Center more attractive to keep onboard: DC is a subscription license.
For Server, you pay once for your license; then, you pay a smaller “Maintenance” fee every year after for access to upgrades and Support. If you don’t plan to upgrade and don’t feel you need support, don’t pay Maintenance. You can still use your Jira instance because you’ve already brought your license.
However, with Data Center, you pay the full price every year to continue using your Jira instance. It’s a subscription, so if you don’t pay it, you don’t get to use Jira. This pricing model brings in a lot more money to the company. It might be cynical of me, but when in doubt, follow the money. Atlassian has a lot more incentive to keep Data Center alive than Server, so it will likely be around as their “On-Prem” offering.