GitLab has scaled to effectively host over 10,000 projects, representing roughly 400 GB of data, on one instance with the same speed and quality of the first project
1 software engineer on the IT team supports approximately 2,000 users
Faculty values it as a contemporary platform with which to teach courses and introduce current software development concepts to students
For the local IT team, it’s a place to collect and organize source code for all custom tools developed by the team
“ Over the past two years, GitLab has been transformational for our organization here at UW. Your platform is fantastic! ”
The Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering (the Allen School) at the University of Washington (UW) is consistently ranked as one of the top computer science and computer engineering programs in the US. The school is in the midst of a dramatic expansion as the demand for computer science degrees has never been higher. The Allen School currently consists of nearly 1,000 undergraduates, 250 PhD students, and 70 faculty members who leverage version control and continuous integration tools to complete everything from class assignments to open source research and educational outreach projects. Aaron Timss, Director of Information Technology at the Allen School, leads a team of 20 software engineers and technical staff who are responsible for selecting and optimizing the tech stack that supports the school's research, instructional, and development needs.
For years, the Allen School had been using Subversion (SVN) in conjunction with some homegrown scripts to support a flat, ad hoc version control system. However, faculty and students were getting frustrated with the slowness and workflow limitations of SVN, and having to rely on arcane Linux scripts to manage permissions on group directories and repositories. Fed up with SVN, many students and faculty quietly turned to online Git repository managers, such as GitHub, to host their course assignments and collaborate on projects. But in some cases, students were inadvertently leaving their class assignments ‘public,’ violating university policy. The Allen School had world-facing open source projects. The critical requirement was to find a solution which provided federated login for external collaboration, while ensuring protections on sensitive projects such as student coursework and unpublished research.
Faced with the challenge above and a rapidly growing user base, it was clear that the Allen School IT team needed to find a solution that met both the collaboration and security requirements of their students and faculty. The team initially considered a number of self-hosted options, including GitHub Enterprise; however, this platform didn't provide an easy way for research teams to share and collaborate on their open source projects externally with other investigators or institutions. After some additional research, in the fall of 2014, the team decided to move forward with GitLab.
The Allen School has now been using GitLab for over two years and they recently surpassed the milestone of their 10,000th project. Jason Howe, a Software Engineer on the school's IT team, led the process of making GitLab available to the school’s students and faculty. Six months after rolling GitLab out, Jason authored provisioning tools on top of GitLab to enable faculty members to easily add students to course-specific projects. As more students started to use it as part of their course work, adoption climbed, and the number of projects on GitLab skyrocketed.
IT staff noticed that students were now choosing to host more of their personal development projects on the service, and adoption by Allen School instructors jumped from the initial handful of early adopters to a few dozen. They also started to see interest in the platform from neighboring units within the university. The IT team is extremely pleased with GitLab’s ability to easily scale with the demands of their growing organization, and they appreciate GitLab’s fervor for further developing the platform and staying on top of security issues. Even as usage of GitLab continues to grow, Jason and the team still find the product easy to maintain. They spend just 1-2 days per quarter updating and maintaining GitLab.
The Allen School’s students, faculty, and IT team are happy with their decision to choose GitLab. Jason sums up GitLab’s benefits in two words: control and flexibility. From an admin or systems perspective, GitLab gives the IT team the necessary controls to ensure that sensitive university research and students’ coursework are all easily manageable and kept safe. And in terms of flexibility, GitLab is open source and that makes it possible for the IT team to build unique SSO and provisioning tools against GitLab’s API.