GitHub gets a CI/CD service

Microsoft’s GitHub today launched the beta of a new version of GitHub Actions with full continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) capabilities built right into the service. General availability is planned for November 13.

The company also today announced that it now has more than 40 million developers on its platform.

Ten months ago, GitHub launched Actions, its workflow automation platform. Developers could already take actions to trigger all kinds of events and use that to build custom CI/CD pipelines. At launch, the GitHub team stressed that Actions allowed for building these pipelines, but that it was a lot more than that. Still, developers were obviously quite interested in using Actions for CI/CD.

“Since we introduced GitHub Actions last year, the response has been phenomenal, and developers have created thousands of inspired workflows,” writes GitHub CEO Nat Friedman in today’s announcement. “But we’ve also heard clear feedback from almost everyone: you want CI/CD! And that’s what we’re announcing today.”

With this updated version of Actions, developers can now build, test and deploy their code on any platform and run their workflows in containers or virtual machines. Developers also can test multiple versions of their applications in parallel thanks to a new feature called “matrix builds,” which lets you, for example, test three different versions of Node.js on Linux, Windows and MacOS at the same time. Because GitHub Actions are defined in a basic YAML file, making those changes is only a matter of adding a few lines to the file.

Supported languages and frameworks include Node.js, Python, Java, PHP, Ruby, C/C++, .NET, Android and iOS. Actions is also integrated with the GitHub Package Registry.

As the application is built, you also get live logs streamed to the Action console, and it’s easy to link to any line in a log file to discuss issues with the rest of your team.

These new features are available for free during the beta and will remain free for all public repositories.

Actions for GitHub Enterprise Server will launch next year and will include a hybrid option that will allow you to keep the code in a private data center and still use GitHub to orchestrate the workflows.

“GitHub Actions is the democratization of CI/CD and software automation. Developers can write workflows reacting to any GitHub platform event and reference open-source GitHub Actions — reusable pieces of code — to supercharge their software lifecycle the same way they are used to writing application code,” said Max Schoening, GitHUb’s senior director of Product Design. “It truly is community-powered CI/CD with a pricing model that works for everyone.”

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With this launch, GitHub is now also competing more directly with some of the CI/CD startups that have built businesses on top of the platform. That’s likely to create a bit of friction.

“GitHub has made a commitment to keeping their platform open to all partners, but only time will tell,” CircleCI CEO Jim Rose said in a statement. “Ultimately, developers are smart and will choose the best, most powerful tools available on the market, and we’re confident that that’s where CircleCI will continue to be. […] With more than nine years of data and experience on how teams move from idea to delivery, CircleCI is the leader in CI/CD and we are confident we have the best solution for developers.”

I expect that Rose’s comment will echo that of other CI/CD players, though it’s also worth noting, as Rose did, that Actions can be integrated with other continuous integration services to allow developers to trigger builds on their platforms. These providers can also make their own Actions available on GitHub.

“We see GitHub actions as complementary to what Codefresh does. It’s an additional way that users can leverage Codefresh to build robust pipelines in a scalable way. One interesting thing is that GitHub followed our lead in how they architected Actions. You can actually use GitHub actions as steps inside a Codefresh pipeline. So you see, we’re actually very aligned,” said Dan Garfield, the chief technology evangelist at CI/CD platform Codefresh. “Developers can find the Codefresh action right on GitHub!”

When I asked GitHub about this, Schoening provided the following statement: “GitHub and our community believe in choice and an open ecosystem. That is something we take seriously and build into everything we do. GitHub Actions lets developers integrate with all their existing tooling, mix and match new developer products, and hook into all parts of the software lifecycle, including existing CI/CD partners.”

Aion Network introduces first blockchain virtual machine for Java developers

Aion Network, a non-profit dedicated to creating tools to promote blockchain technologies, announced a new virtual machine today that’s built on top of the popular Java Virtual Machine. Its ultimate goal is increasing the popularity of blockchain with developers.

Aion CEO Matthew Spoke says one of the barriers to more widespread blockchain adoption has been a lack of tooling for developers in a common language like Java. The company believed if they could build a virtual machine specifically for blockchain on top of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which has been in use for years, it could help promote more extensive use of blockchain.

Today, it’s announcing the Aion Virtual Machine (AVM), a virtual machine that sits on top of the JVM. AVM makes it possible for developers to use their familiar toolset while building in the blockchain bits like smart contracts in the AVM without having to alter the JVM at all.

“We didn’t want to modify the JVM. We wanted to build some sort of supplementary software layer that can interact with the JVM. Blockchains have a set of unique criteria. They need to be deterministic; the computing needs to happen across the distributed network of nodes; and the JVM was never designed with this in mind,” Spoke explained.

Aion set out to build a virtual machine for blockchain without reinventing the wheel. It recognized that Java remains one of the most popular programming languages around, and it didn’t want to mess with that. In fact, it wanted to take advantage of the popularity by building a kind of blockchain interpreter that would sit on top of the JVM without getting in the way of it.

“Rather than trying to convince people of the merits of a new system, can we just get the system they’re already familiar with on top of the blockchain? So we started engineering towards that solution. And we’ve been working on that since for about a year at this point, leading up to our release this week to prove that we can solve that problem,” Spoke told TechCrunch.

Up to this point, Aion has been focusing on the crypto community, but the company felt to really push the blockchain beyond the realm of the true believers, it needed to come up with a way for developers who weren’t immersed in this to take advantage of it.

“Our big focus now is how do we take this message of building blockchain apps and take it into a more traditional software industry audience. Instead of trying to compete for the attention of crypto developers, we want the blockchain to become almost a micro service layer to what normal software developers are solving on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

The company is hoping that by providing this way to access blockchain services, it can help popularize blockchain concepts with developers who might not otherwise have been familiar with them. It’s but one attempt to bring blockchain to more business-oriented use cases, but the company has given this a lot of thought and believes it will help them evangelize this approach with a wider audience of developers moving forward.

GitHub gets a package registry

GitHub today announced the launch of a limited beta of the GitHub Package Registry, its new package management service that lets developers publish public and private packages next to their source code.

To be clear, GitHub isn’t launching a competitor to tools like npm or RubyGems. What the company is launching, however, is a service that is compatible with these tools and allows developers to find and publish their own packages, using the same GitHub interface they use for their code. The new service is currently compatible with JavaScript (npm), Java (Maven), Ruby (RubyGems), .NET (NuGet) and Docker images, with support for other languages and tools to come.

GitHub Package Registry is compatible with common package management clients, so you can publish packages with your choice of tools,” Simina Pasat, director of Product Management at GitHub, explains in today’s announcement. “If your repository is more complex, you’ll be able to publish multiple packages of different types. And, with webhooks or with GitHub Actions, you can fully customize your publishing and post-publishing workflows.”With this, businesses can then also provide their employees with a single set of credentials to manage both their code and packages — and this new feature makes it easy to create a set of approved packages, too. Users will also get download statistics and access to the entire history of the package on GitHub.

Most open-source packages already use GitHub to develop their code before they publish it to a public registry. GitHub argues that these developers can now also use the GitHub Package Registry to publish pre-release versions, for example.

Developers already often use GitHub to host their private repositories. After all, it makes sense to keep packages and code in the same place. What GitHub is doing here, to some degree, is formalize this practice and wrap a product around it.

Skymind raises $11.5M to bring deep learning to more enterprises

Skymind, a Y Combinator-incubated AI platform that aims to make deep learning more accessible to enterprises, today announced that it has raised an $11.5 million Series A round led by TransLink Capital, with participation from ServiceNow, Sumitomo’s Presidio Ventures, UpHonest Capital and GovTech Fund. With this, the company has now raised a total of $17.9 million in funding.

The inclusion of TransLink Capital gives a hint as to how the company is planning to use the funding. One of TransLink’s specialties is helping entrepreneurs develop customers in Asia. Skymind believes that it has a major opportunity in that market, so having TransLink lead this round makes a lot of sense. Skymind also plans to use the round to build out its team in North America and fuel customer acquisition there.

“TransLink is the perfect lead for this round, because they know how to make connections between North America and Asia,” Skymind CEO Chris Nicholson told me. “That’s where the most growth is globally, and there are a lot of potential synergies. We’re also really excited to have strategic investors like ServiceNow and Sumitomo’s Presidio Ventures backing us for the first time. We’re already collaborating with ServiceNow, and Skymind software will be part of some powerful new technologies they roll out.”

It’s no secret that enterprises know that they have to adapt AI in some form but are struggling with figuring out how to do so. Skymind’s tools, including its core SKIL framework, allow data scientists to create workflows that take them from ingesting the data to cleaning it up, training their models and putting them into production. The promise here is that Skymind’s tools eliminate the gap that often exists between the data scientists and IT.

“The two big opportunities with AI are better customer experiences and more efficiency, and both are based on making smarter decisions about data, which is what AI does,” said Nicholson. “The main types of data that matter to enterprises are text and time series data (think web logs or payments). So we see a lot of demand for natural-language processing and for predictions around streams of data, like logs.”

Current Skymind customers include the likes of ServiceNow and telco company Orange, while some of its technology partners that integrate its services into their portfolio include Cisco and SoftBank .

It’s worth noting that Skymind is also the company behind Deeplearning4j, one of the most popular open-source AI tools for Java. The company is also a major contributor to the Python-based Keras deep learning framework.

BeliMobilGue raises $10M for its used-car sales platform in Indonesia

BeliMobilGue, a used car sales platform in Indonesia, has fueled up with a $10 million Series round for the race to dominate the automotive market in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The company was started in 2017 as a joint venture between Europe’s Frontier Car Group (FCG) and Intudo Ventures, a VC firm focused on Indonesia. BeliMobilGue said today that the capital came from FCG and new investors, which include Tunas Toyota — the authorized dealership for Toyota cars in Indonesia.

It’s worth noting that FCG itself is a venture which, as the name sounds, develops on automotive ventures in emerging (frontier) markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Its investors include Naspers/OLX, Balderton Capital, TPG Growth and Partech Ventures.

This Series A round follows a $3.7 million round last year for BeliMobilGue — which means ‘buy my car’ in Indonesia’s Bahasa language.

BeliMobilGue is aimed at making it easy for car owners to sell their vehicle.

The first step is an online price estimation for vehicle. If the owner is happy with the valuation, BeliMobilGue takes the vehicles in and, after a one hour check attended in person by its testers, it arranges a sale to its network of over 1,000 dealers and private buyers. The entire process is targeted at one hour and is free for consumers, BeliMobilGue CEO Rolf Monteiro told TechCrunch.

The company has 30 physical testing points across Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, and with this money in the bank it is targeting expansion to Java. By the end of this year, Monteiro forecasts that the number of physical stations will have passed 100.

Another target for this year is ancillary services. BeliMobilGue is focused on enabling dealers, many of whom are often small businesses rather than nationwide chains, to growth with its service so it is offering financial packages financed by a third-party bank.

“The difference between small and large dealerships is their access to capital,” Monteiro explained in an interview. “We are a little bit more comfortable [than a bank] to extend their finance because we’re not just using data, we’re sitting on that dealer relationship.

“Plus we are sitting on cars, so we are financing cars that come from our platform and [if necessary] we can help offload the car for the dealer,” he added.

BeliMobilGue aims to sell vehicles within an hour, that includes a comprehensive inspection that’s carried out by its staff and covers 300 points.

BeliMobilGue is far from alone in going after Indonesia, which is the world’s fourth most populous country and the cornerstone of most digital strategies for the region. An annual report from Google and Temasek forecasts that Indonesia’s online economy will grow to $100 billion by 2025 from $8 billion in 2015. Southeast Asia as a whole is predicted to reach $240 billion, which is telling of the significance of Indonesia.

With that in mind, regional rivals have doubled down on Indonesia.

Carro has raised $78 million to date — including a $60 million Series B last year — while Carsome has $27 million and iCar Asia, from venture builder Catcha, has pulled in $39 million to date.

Each of that trio serves multiple markets across the region, not Indonesia exclusively, which is where Monteiro believes he can find an advantage. While he admitted that BeliMobilGue could have raised more money — it stuck to finding ‘smart money’ over amassing pools of cash, he said — he sees the existance of competition as win-win for the industry.

“Indonesia is a massive market,” he said. “Whether it is us, Carro or Carsome, the competition helps educate the market and it will get us new business. But, as much as I welcome them, I want that dominant position.”

Adding strategic investors like Tunas Toyota is, Monteiro believes another key differentiator.

“An investor like Tunas has 25-30 years of experience, so, for us, this partnership is golden. We’re quite content with the round and how it played out,” he said.

Gridstore acquires DCHQ and becomes HyperGrid

hyperform-dashboard_orig Gridstore, a company that focuses on building software and data center appliances for Windows Hyper V-based clouds, today announced that it has acquired DCHQ, a service that helps enterprises move their applications to any cloud or container infrastructure (with a specific focus on Java-based applications). With this acquisition, Gridstore is changing its name to HyperGrid and the old… Read More

Jury finds Google’s implementation of Java in Android was fair use

oracle v google Software developers can breathe a massive sigh of relief — a jury found today that Google’s implementation of 37 Java APIs in Android qualified as fair use. “Today’s verdict that Android makes fair use of Java APIs represents a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java programming community, and for software developers who rely on open and free programming languages… Read More

In Oracle’s world, Android is a crime against open source

Safra Catz, co-chief executive officer of Oracle Corp., gestures as she speaks during the Oracle OpenWorld 2014 conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. Catz made her first remarks as Oracle co-CEO at the conference when she introduced Intel Corp. President Renee James, who also spoke. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images Oracle and Google are back in the courtroom again — the same court they started in back in 2010, when Oracle first sued Google over the company’s use of 37 Java APIs in its Android operating system. The case, first decided in favor of Google, bounced up to an appeals court and was reversed, then appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. Now Oracle’s… Read More

Programming Trends To Look For This Year

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Google confirms next Android version won’t use Oracle’s proprietary Java APIs

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Google is ditching the Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in Android and moving to only OpenJDK, the open source version of Java. The news first came by a “mysterious Android codebase commit” from last month submitted to Hacker News. Google confirmed to VentureBeat that Android N will rely solely on OpenJDK.

“As an open-source platform, Android is built upon the collaboration of the open-source community,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. “In our upcoming release of Android, we plan to move Android’s Java language libraries to an OpenJDK-based approach, creating a common code base for developers to build apps and services. Google has long worked with and contributed to the OpenJDK community, and we look forward to making even more contributions to the OpenJDK project in the future.”

Android provides certain Java API libraries to support the development of apps in the Java programming language, broken into two parts: The APIs to the libraries and the implementing code developed by Google that make said libraries work. Oracle, which develops Java, has two implementations of these libraries: the proprietary JDK version and the open source OpenJDK version. Google’s decision to “consolidate” its efforts with OpenJDK, which Android already uses in some areas, means it will be sharing its implementing code.

The code commit in question, which shows 8902 files were changed, clearly notes OpenJDK code was added to Android:

Initial import of OpenJdk files.
Create new libcore/ojluni directory with src/main/java and src/main/native subdirectiories.
Build ojluni into core-oj jar.
Use openjdk classes from java.awt.font package.
Copy all files from jdk/src/share/classes and jdk/src/solaris/classes directories in openjdk into libcore/ojluni/src/main/java.
Copy following native files from openjdk to libcore/ojluni/src/main/native: [long list of files]

Google is hoping that developers will appreciate the change because it simplifies the code on which they build apps — a common codebase for these Java API libraries, as opposed to multiple codebases. That may be true, but if that was the only reason Google made the complete switch to OpenJDK, the company would have done so years ago.

When we asked Google why now, the company pointed to to the release of Java 8 last year and the introduction of new language features such as lambdas. As such, Google wants to put more resources into OpenJDK where the team can have a bigger impact on new features and improvements. That’s the developer story Google is pitching in any case, but there’s a massive legal narrative here that can’t be forgotten.

Oracle

Hacker News users are rightly wondering whether the code commit means the legal dispute between Oracle and Google has been settled out of court, or whether Google has decided to protect itself with regards to future Android versions in the event it loses. It’s a good question, but because the Oracle lawsuit is ongoing, Google declined to comment whether this code commit is related.

After acquiring Sun in January 2010, Oracle sued Google for copyright and patent infringement in August 2010, arguing that Android cannot use Java’s APIs without permission. Google countered by declaring that APIs can’t be copyrighted as they are essential to software development, collaboration, and innovation.

In May 2012, a jury found that Google did not infringe on Oracle’s patents, saying that Java’s APIs can’t be copyrighted. In May 2014, the Federal Circuit partially reversed the district court decision, ruling in Oracle’s favor: Java’s APIs can be copyrighted. In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case and sent it back to a lower court so Google could argue that it made fair use of Oracle’s copyrighted APIs.

Is it just a coincidence that after all the back and forth, Google has decided to completely embrace OpenJDK? Unlikely, but the end result is what matters: future versions of Android won’t be dependent on Oracle’s proprietary JDK version.

Either way, the case isn’t over (Google can’t exactly change existing Android versions), and the final decision will still be watched very closely as it could have a huge impact on software development as a whole. If Oracle wins, tech giants could hold a lot of power over developers creating new software based on existing apps and services. If Google wins, fair use laws could essentially protect the use of APIs.