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Atlassian Launches HipChat Server for Team Collaboration Behind the Firewall

| by Steffen Opel Follow 4 Followers on Feb 17, 2015. Estimated reading time: 5 minutes |

Development and collaboration software vendor Atlassian recently launched HipChat Server, an on-premise version of its text, audio and video chat, file and screen sharing, as well as third party integration offering for team collaboration.

HipChat has so far only been available as a cloud-based service for group and private chat. The new HipChat Server edition can now be deployed on private networks behind corporate firewalls and is aimed at teams in sectors with increased security and privacy needs or regulations, such as financial services, government and healthcare, or in countries with respective privacy laws.

HipChat User Interface (OSX)

HipChat Server provides the same encompassing list of features across platforms and integrations as the cloud edition, notably:

  • Native clients for Mac, Windows, Linux , Android, iOS,  and of course a web app
  • Audio/Video chat and screen sharing across all native apps
  • Integrations with all Atlassian tools (JIRA, Confluence, Bamboo, Stash, Bitbucket), and many third party products
  • A REST API for custom integrations and add-ons
  • Persistent and fully searchable conversation history (text, links, files)

In addition, HipChat Server addresses concerns unique to corporate environments:

InfoQ reached out to Jonathan Nolen (Principal Product Manager HipChat) about Atlassian’s latest portfolio expansion.

InfoQ: HipChat Server is the first Atlassian product that expanded from a cloud to an on-premise offering rather than the other way round. What led to your decision to offer HipChat behind the firewall too?

Nolen: From the day we acquired HipChat, we've been hearing from customers that they wanted a solution that they could run on their own IT infrastructure. There are still many companies who are unwilling or unable to put any of their data on a cloud provider. There are companies in Europe, for example, who are legally obligated to keep all of their employee data in country. And there are companies who work in highly regulated industries who require a higher level of oversight and control.
Our mission is to bring HipChat to every team, and we weren't about to let these reasons stand in our customers' way.

InfoQ: Your beta had apparently been installed by more than 4000 companies. That seems to be a fairly huge number, even given the large customer base for existing Atlassian server products. Do you expect HipChat Server to become as widely deployed as say JIRA and Confluence? Or does it have a much larger market outside of IT teams even?

Nolen: As you point out, this is the first time we've taken a Cloud product and brought it behind the firewall, so it presented a huge technical challenge. We ran an extensive beta to make sure we had done as much real-world testing as we possibly could.

As for the size of the deployment, we believe that HipChat has enormous potential. Every person, in every type of organization, needs a communication tool like HipChat. Our customers often say it's a product they never knew they needed and now would never live without. So the market is huge, and someday might indeed be even larger than JIRA or Confluence.

InfoQ: Deployment of HipChat from an OVA image or EC2 AMI is already remarkably simple. Your colleagues have recently published an Atlassian Stash Docker image as "first official step towards dockerizing our products" – will HipChat be available dockerized too?

Nolen: Docker support for HipChat is something we continue to explore. It's a very interesting idea. If you'd like to register your support, or you're interested in following our progress, vote on the feature request.

InfoQ: Upgrading HipChat is also trivial with a single command readily available in the UI or CLI. How does the built in self-upgrade mechanism work?

Nolen: HipChat Server polls update servers run by Atlassian that host new software components in Debian packages. We can push upgrades to HipChat components, configuration settings, or underlying software components through this mechanism. The server itself supports Debian's Advanced Package Tool (APT).
Our goal is to release new versions of HipChat Server very frequently, and we've tried to make it button-click easy for admins to upgrade.

InfoQ: Notably you are also offering a migration from HipChat Cloud or between HipChat Server deployments, and the underlying export/import mechanism helps with compliance needs too. Is it also sufficient for backup and disaster recovery scenarios?

Nolen: Absolutely. When you export your data from HipChat Server, you get all of the bits necessary to reconstruct your instance in the event you need or want to.

InfoQ: The system requirements suggest that you can handle a significant number of users with moderate vertical scaling already. Regardless, is HipChat going to be available in a clustered "Data Center" edition as well to support horizontal scaling and high availability, just like JIRA, Confluence and Stash?

Nolen: As you mention, we built HipChat Server to support a very large number of users, even on a single instance. Many customers are also looking for high availability features that clustering can bring, like application failover. If you are using the VMware deployment option, HipChat can already be made highly available by using the built-in features of the VMware platform. For customers running on AWS, we are also exploring application-level high availability. If you want to follow our progress here, vote on the feature request.

InfoQ: HipChat Server can be extended with Atlassian Connect based add-ons too. Do you expect customers to primarily deploy their own integrations or do you also see a respective opportunity for Atlassian Experts and Marketplace Vendors?

Nolen: As with other Atlassian products, I expect both options to be popular. You can already do some amazing things with HipChat add-ons, and the platform is getting more powerful all the time.

InfoQ: One-to-one video chat still relies on a third party service. Are you considering eliminating this last external dependency and potential privacy concern?

Nolen: Our video chat service only routes data, and does not store any information outside of the HipChat Server. However, we do intend to allow admins to fully disable HipChat Video if they want.

HipChat launched in January 2010 and has been acquired by Atlassian in March 2012. A write-up on the High Scalability blog provides insights into how the HipChat architecture evolved, being capable of handling the product’s exponential growth to billions of messages, while also accounting for the considerably different cloud and on-premise hosting scenarios.

The HipChat Server documentation provides more details, including a FAQ and the API reference (see also our previous coverage). HipChat is available in the Atlassian Store and, unlike other Atlassian server applications, licensed on a yearly subscription base. Just like with the other applications, Atlassian donates all payments for the $10 HipChat 10 users “Starter” licenses to Room to Read. Support is offered via the HipChat Server Knowledge Base and the HipChat Server forum.

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