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GitLab removes its 'starter' tier: Users must either pay 5x more or lose features

Customer: 'It feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth'


Cloudy DevOps company GitLab has removed its $4.00 user/month Bronze/Starter tier, giving users the choice between paying for Premium at $19.00 or downgrading to the free tier and losing some features.

GitLab CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij said yesterday: "The Bronze/Starter tier does not meet the hurdle rate that GitLab expects from a tier and is limiting us from investing to improve GitLab for all customers."

Hurdle rate? This is investment jargon. Sijbrandij linked to a definition which describes it as "the minimum rate of return on a project or investment required by a manager or investor." In other words, GitLab decided it was not making enough money on the $4.00 user/month subscription.

The company's pricing handbook states reassuringly that "when in doubt, we will default to moving features to a lower tier" but the effect of the change is that any features in Bronze that are not in the free tier have been moved up.

How many features? "Each PM went through the buyer based pricing model referenced above for each feature in Starter to determine whether they should be part of Core or Premium going forward. The issue is not public right now, but the output was that all but one feature will be in Premium," said GitLab in response to a question.

Move up ... or back to free?

Sijbrandij said the price hoist will be mitigated by a transition offer. Existing customers with up to 25 users can renew for one more year at the existing $4.00 rate, or get a free upgrade to Premium along with a staggered discount at the next renewal: $6.00 on year 1, $9.00 year 2 and $15.00 for year 3. Larger customers get the mystery "contact your sales rep" treatment.

Some may manage with the free tier. Sijbrandij said that it has 89 per cent of the features in Starter. GitLab offers the free tier "for a single developer" and as an alternative to GitHub's free tier.

Starter, in the now-deleted description, was for single team usage. Features in Bronze that are in free include requiring approvals on merge requests, pipeline code coverage rates, iterations, assigning multiple people to issues, iterations, assigning weights to issues, repository mirroring, code quality reports, code review analytics and more.

The discussion on GitLab's forum is as you would expect. "There is little explanation as to why a 5x increase in costs to maintain starter features on-prem is justified, beyond gaining additional premium features. It feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth" said one customer.

We will definitely change to Github because there is no reason to pay 19$ for the few features we really need. Maybe [we] will hit the hurdle rate there

Another added: "We will definitely change to Github because there is no reason to pay 19$ for the few features we really need. Maybe will hit the hurdle rate there."

Others were more constructive. "Wouldn't it make more sense to have a base user pricing (dunno 4€/month) and add feature bundles?" said a user.

One complication is that GitLab requires that all users in a group are on the same plan. "My department of 40 does the vast majority (90 per cent plus of all commits/MRs) of the coding in the company, but we enrolled everyone within operations as well so that they could contribute on occasion. The rest of those users are never going to be worth spending $19 a month on, but it really sucks having to put up barriers from people who do like to contribute on occasion," said a user on Hacker News - though the company said it is looking at this use case and may "iterate the pricing".

GitLab is in part an open source product, but the open source version is the same as the free tier, so it is not a way to add features unless developers fancy forking the code.

Nobody expects .... the fivefold augmentation

The company does have a generous free tier, but the disturbing aspect of this is the uncertainty it introduces: price increases are expected but not fivefold increases. Source code is easy to migrate from GitLab to an alternative, but migrating all the other parts of a service that presents itself as a complete DevOps platform is difficult, so there is an element of lock-in.

GitLab is second only to Microsoft-owned GitHub in this market. GitHub is tough to compete with in part because of Microsoft's financial clout and the fact that GitHub is more a strategic asset to win developers than a profit centre.

GitLab intends to become a public company and states in its handbook that "the strength of our business model enables us latitude in selecting a favorable public offering environment and not be beholden to a specific date" – though there was a proposed date of November 2020, which it missed.

It is therefore possible that the company is endeavouring to improve its business model ahead of a public offering. In that light, forcing unprofitable customers either to go elsewhere or to pay more may make perfect sense, though it is not so good for the way it is perceived by the developer community. ®

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New audio server Pipewire coming to next version of Ubuntu

What does that mean? Better latency and a replacement for PulseAudio

The next release of Ubuntu, version 22.10 and codenamed Kinetic Kudu, will switch audio servers to the relatively new PipeWire.

Don't panic. As J M Barrie said: "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again." Fedora switched to PipeWire in version 34, over a year ago now. Users who aren't pro-level creators or editors of sound and music on Ubuntu may not notice the planned change.

Currently, most editions of Ubuntu use the PulseAudio server, which it adopted in version 8.04 Hardy Heron, the company's second LTS release. (The Ubuntu Studio edition uses JACK instead.) Fedora 8 also switched to PulseAudio. Before PulseAudio became the standard, many distros used ESD, the Enlightened Sound Daemon, which came out of the Enlightenment project, best known for its desktop.

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VMware claims 'bare-metal' performance from virtualized Nvidia GPUs

Is... is that why Broadcom wants to buy it?

The future of high-performance computing will be virtualized, VMware's Uday Kurkure has told The Register.

Kurkure, the lead engineer for VMware's performance engineering team, has spent the past five years working on ways to virtualize machine-learning workloads running on accelerators. Earlier this month his team reported "near or better than bare-metal performance" for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) and Mask R-CNN — two popular machine-learning workloads — running on virtualized GPUs (vGPU) connected using Nvidia's NVLink interconnect.

NVLink enables compute and memory resources to be shared across up to four GPUs over a high-bandwidth mesh fabric operating at 6.25GB/s per lane compared to PCIe 4.0's 2.5GB/s. The interconnect enabled Kurkure's team to pool 160GB of GPU memory from the Dell PowerEdge system's four 40GB Nvidia A100 SXM GPUs.

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Nvidia promises annual datacenter product updates across CPU, GPU, and DPU

Arm one year, x86 the next, and always faster than a certain chip shop that still can't ship even one standalone GPU

Computex Nvidia's push deeper into enterprise computing will see its practice of introducing a new GPU architecture every two years brought to its CPUs and data processing units (DPUs, aka SmartNICs).

Speaking on the company's pre-recorded keynote released to coincide with the Computex exhibition in Taiwan this week, senior vice president for hardware engineering Brian Kelleher spoke of the company's "reputation for unmatched execution on silicon." That's language that needs to be considered in the context of Intel, an Nvidia rival, again delaying a planned entry to the discrete GPU market.

"We will extend our execution excellence and give each of our chip architectures a two-year rhythm," Kelleher added.

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Now Amazon puts 'creepy' AI cameras in UK delivery vans

Big Bezos is watching you

Amazon is reportedly installing AI-powered cameras in delivery vans to keep tabs on its drivers in the UK.

The technology was first deployed, with numerous errors that reportedly denied drivers' bonuses after malfunctions, in the US. Last year, the internet giant produced a corporate video detailing how the cameras monitor drivers' driving behavior for safety reasons. The same system is now apparently being rolled out to vehicles in the UK. 

Multiple camera lenses are placed under the front mirror. One is directed at the person behind the wheel, one is facing the road, and two are located on either side to provide a wider view. The cameras are monitored by software built by Netradyne, a computer-vision startup focused on driver safety. This code uses machine-learning algorithms to figure out what's going on in and around the vehicle.

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AWS puts its latest homebrew Arm CPU – the Graviton3 – into production

Just one instance type for now, but cheaper than third-gen Xeons or EPYCs

Amazon Web Services has made its latest homebrew CPU, the Graviton3, available to rent in its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) infrastructure-as-a-service offering.

The cloud colossus launched Graviton3 at its late 2021 re:Invent conference, revealing that the 55-billion-transistor device includes 64 cores, runs at 2.6GHz clock speed, can address DDR5 RAM and 300GB/sec max memory bandwidth, and employs 256-bit Scalable Vector Extensions.

The chips were offered as a tech preview to select customers. And on Monday, AWS made them available to all comers in a single instance type named C7g.

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Beijing reverses ban on tech companies listing offshore

Announcement comes as Chinese ride-hailing DiDi Chuxing delists from NYSE under pressure

The Chinese government has announced that it will again allow "platform companies" – Beijing's term for tech giants – to list on overseas stock markets, marking a loosening of restrictions on the sector.

"Platform companies will be encouraged to list on domestic and overseas markets in accordance with laws and regulations," announced premier Li Keqiang at an executive meeting of China's State Council – a body akin to cabinet in the USA or parliamentary democracies.

The statement comes a week after vice premier Liu He advocated technology and government cooperation and a digital economy that supports an opening to "the outside world" to around 100 members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC).

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Nvidia teases server designs for Grace-Hopper Superchips

x86 still 'very important' we're told as lid lifted on Arm-based kit

Computex Nvidia's Grace CPU and Hopper Superchips will make their first appearance early next year in systems that'll be based on reference servers unveiled at Computex 2022 this week.

It's hoped these Arm-compatible HGX-series designs will be used to build computer systems that power what Nvidia believes will be a "half trillion dollar" market of machine learning, digital-twin simulation, and cloud gaming applications.

"This transformation requires us to reimagine the datacenter at every level, from hardware to software from chips to infrastructure to systems," Paresh Kharya, senior director of product management and marketing at Nvidia, said during a press briefing.

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Nvidia brings liquid cooling to A100 PCIe GPU cards for ‘greener’ datacenters

For those who want to give their racks an air cut

Nvidia's GPUs are becoming increasingly more power hungry, so the US giant is hoping to make datacenters using them "greener" with liquid-cooled PCIe cards that contain its highest-performing chips.

At this year's Computex event in Taiwan, the computer graphics goliath revealed it will sell a liquid-cooled PCIe card for its flagship server GPU, the A100, in the third quarter of this year. Then in early 2023, the company plans to release a liquid-cooled PCIe card for the A100's recently announced successor, the Hopper-powered H100.

Nvidia's A100 has already been available for liquid-cooled servers, but to date, this has only been possible in the GPU's SXM form factor that goes into the company's HGX server board.

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Broadcom to buy VMware 'on Thursday for $60 billion'

Think we speak for everyone when we say: Seriously, what the f...?

Broadcom is to acquire VMware for $60 billion in a deal that will be announced on Thursday.

That's according to the Wall Street Journal. VMware is scheduled to report its Q1 2023 results on the same day, so the Thursday announcement theory is not entirely unrealistic.

Neither biz has had anything to say about the reported deal at the time of writing, with VMware declining comment on rumor and speculation.

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Screencastify fixes bug that would have let rogue websites spy on webcams

School-friendly tool still not fully protected, privacy guru warns

Screencastify, a popular Chrome extension for capturing and sharing videos from websites, was recently found to be vulnerable to a cross-site scripting (XSS) flaw that allowed arbitrary websites to dupe people into unknowingly activating their webcams.

A miscreant taking advantage of this flaw could then download the resulting video from the victim's Google Drive account.

Software developer Wladimir Palant, co-founder of ad amelioration biz Eyeo, published a blog post about his findings on Monday. He said he reported the XSS bug in February, and Screencastify's developers fixed it within a day.

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FTC urged to protect data privacy of women visiting abortion clinics

As Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v Wade, safeguards on location info now more vital than ever

Democrat senators have urged America's Federal Trade Commission to do something to protect the privacy of women after it emerged details of visits to abortion clinics were being sold by data brokers.

Women's healthcare is an especially thorny issue right now after the Supreme Court voted in a leaked draft majority opinion to overturn Roe v Wade, a landmark ruling that declared women's rights to have an abortion are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution.

If the nation's top judges indeed vote to strike down that 1973 decision, individual states, at least, can set their own laws governing women's reproductive rights. Thirteen states already have so-called "trigger laws" in place prohibiting abortions – mostly with exceptions in certain conditions, such as if the pregnancy or childbirth endangers the mother's life – that will go into effect if Roe v Wade is torn up. People living in those states would, in theory, have to travel to another state where abortion is legal to carry out the procedure lawfully, although laws are also planned to ban that.

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