Innovating in Sync: The Story of GitLab Duo

GitLab’s product manager for data science capabilities revealed how its suite of AI-driven tools became a reality.

Written by Lucas Dean
Published on Jan. 26, 2024
Innovating in Sync: The Story of GitLab Duo
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Standing still is akin to moving backward in the tech world. GitLab, a company at the forefront of integrating generative AI into its product offerings, is always in motion. 

The latest feather in its cap, GitLab Duo, is more than a suite of AI-powered features; it’s a testament to the company’s commitment to enhancing developer productivity and effective software building. 

GitLab Duo helps users, regardless of technical proficiency, more effectively accomplish tasks across the software development lifecycle, from planning and development to security and deployment, with fewer pain points and greater efficiency.

The need for GitLab Duo stemmed from an acute awareness of the advancements in generative AI and its potential to revolutionize software development. 

“GitLab identified a strategic opportunity to incorporate these technologies into our offerings to enable developer productivity and help customers build software more effectively,” said Taylor McCaslin, group manager of product, data science.

The initiative was a natural progression of the company’s investment in data science technologies since mid-2021, which began with the Suggested Reviewer feature, evolved into Code Generation and then integrated large language models. 

The team’s model-agnostic approach to AI-powered features allowed them to connect flexibly with various models from different vendors. 

This proved crucial in developing features like Code Suggestions, which intelligently routes requests to both Google Vertex AI and Anthropic’s Claude, depending on what action a developer is trying to achieve.

“It’s given us a lot of flexibility in how and what AI-powered features we develop; we aren’t constrained by any one AI model,” said McCaslin. 

 

GitLab booth with presenter at podium talking to audience of people
GitLab

 

An Open Book 

The path to innovation is seldom smooth. GitLab Duo’s journey was no different. 

“As with any new technologies, there are always bumps on the road as they are built,” said Taylor, noting the team faced scaling challenges with internally trained Open Source AI models during the initial foray into building Code Suggestions, one of GitLab Duo’s many features. 

 

“As with any new technologies, there are always bumps on the road as they are built.”

 

However, the early 2023 advancements by prominent vendors allowed GitLab to adopt and scale these technologies more efficiently. 

Meanwhile, GitLab’s open source roots helped motivate the team as they contributed to and improved these technologies alongside their partners.

“We were working with cutting-edge technologies and could do that out in the open where we could talk and share with partners, customers and other vendors,” said McCaslin.

The development of GitLab Duo was a cross-functional effort involving development, infrastructure, legal, security, marketing and sales teams. 

“We set up a cross-functional working group and had collaborative standups where anyone could raise questions or get help with problems that arose along the way,” explained McCaslin.

Underpinned by GitLab’s culture of open collaboration and documentation, this approach kept everyone, including users, informed and engaged.
 

Screenshot of Gitlab team members on a Zoom meeting
GitLab

 

Boundless, Boundaryless Collaboration

Ideas like having short toes, a bias for action, embracing change, iteration and working as part of the community pervade GitLab’s culture. 

“Our values drive how every team member works together, allowing GitLab to develop and deliver around the clock,” he said.
 

“Our values drive how every GitLab team member works together, allowing GitLab to develop and deliver around the clock.”

 

When McCaslin says around the clock, he means it literally. By implementing ‘follow the sun’ handoffs across global teams, GitLab’s product and engineering teams maintained momentum and leveraged diverse perspectives.

“We could develop feature iterations, have them tested while the developers who build them slept and deploy them first thing in the morning,” said McCaslin.

 

Flowchart showcasing GitLab Duo capabilities
GitLab

 

GitLab Duo is a culmination of diverse perspectives and ideas, not just breakneck progress. 

Team members from across the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand contributed to the product. 

“We don’t have offices anywhere. We collectively built our AI functionality with team members across the world,” said McCaslin, who is located in Big Sky, Montana. 

“Our AI features are built with a truly global perspective and collaboration.” 

The story of GitLab Duo is one of strategic foresight, collaborative innovation and a relentless pursuit of improvement. 

Likewise, it encapsulates the essence of GitLab — a company that is not only building innovative products but shaping the future of technology with a team as diverse and far-reaching as its ambitions.

 

 

Responses have bee edited for length and clarity. Images provided by GitLab Inc.

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