Atlassian CTO Viswanath talks cloud computing platforms, scale, innovation

As Atlassian expands into new use cases and products, CTO ​Sri Viswanath is charged with building a cloud platform that can scale the business.

Sri Viswanath, CTO of Atlassian, will outline his vision for the company's cloud platform plan and tech strategy on Tuesday and you can expect a heavy dose of scale and new use cases.

Before coming to Atlassian, a collaboration software company, Viswanath spent three years at Groupon when he was CTO. Before Groupon, Viswanath was vice president of research and development for mobile computing at VMware. He also had stints at Ning, Glam and Sun Microsystems.

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Sri Viswanath, CTO of Atlassian

We caught up with Viswanath to talk shop ahead of his appearance at AtlasCamp, Atlassian's developer conference in Barcelona.

How does the Groupon experience apply to Atlassian? Viswanath said that the Groupon provided experience in managing a large number of people at scale. For instance, Groupon had 1,700 people spread across 10 areas across the globe. "That experience was good for learning how to run a large organization at scale," said Viswanath. "It takes a lot of focus and organization to get 1,700 people productive." Atlassian is similar in that its dispersed and global.

What's the cloud platform plan? Atlassian sells on-premise software, but the growth is in the surging cloud business. "Groupon gave me experience at Groupon with running SaaS at scale," said Viswanath. "Our plan is to build a robust platform that can scale 10x where we are now. Our mission is to be a tool to manage all teams and we need the scale to target a larger base of customers."

Will public cloud be an option for you? "We will have a mix of on-premise and public clouds," said Viswanath. "There's a synergy in building in the public cloud and having the data center assets too. We will see an increasing footprint on the public cloud and we're working on the vision on how much needs to be there."

Can public cloud be the bulk of your infrastructure? "There will be a significant investment," said Viswanath. One thing the public cloud does for Atlassian is allow it to scale up quickly. "We have so many options now," said Viswanath. "The new SQL offerings are stable and scalable now. I'm excited about the innovation we can do to leverage open source and the public cloud. On the infrastructure side things have become so much easier."

What about business alignment for you? Viswanath said the platform and product teams are in sync. The trick will be to develop a cloud platform that can create services that are leveraged across multiple product lines. Atlassian will be rolling out a series of product extensions that will be delivered via the cloud.

What makes Atlassian different? I asked Viswanath how Atlassian's plan differs from ServiceNow. After all, both companies evolved from service tickets and are branching out to new areas. Viswanath said the biggest difference is approach. Atlassian doesn't have a sales team and its software has been adopted organically. Developers pick Atlassian and then the company broadens its wallet share in the company. Now Atlassian is aiming to manage all teams across an enterprise. In addition, Viswanath said Atlassian's APIs allow for a large degree of customization. "We build a product that can be flexible and APIs so developers can revamp their user interface. Every use case is different," said Viswanath.

And then there's culture. Viswanath has been at Atlassian four months and found that the tagline "that we're an open company with no bullshit" plays out daily. "The company actually lives it. We are pumped by the foundation of the company and its ability to take it to the next level."

Is there a bet on what Atlassian business can grow the most? Viswanath said that the Atlassian marketplace is growing quickly. The company's APIs are also allowing the platform to be used for more use cases. "We're going to make sure innovation happens quickly," said Viswanath.