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GitHub's ultra-fast onboarding tool Codespaces makes its way to public beta

The new feature has been tried and tested in-house and will now be made available to enterprise customers

GitHub has announced it will be bringing its Codespaces feature, used by its in-house developers and enterprise teams, to the wider user base through a public beta.

Codespaces allow developer teams to quickly onboard new members by creating pre-built developer environments that significantly reduce first-time loading times, removing a key element of engineering friction.

These pre-built environments act as ready-made templates that can be issued to all new starters or freelancers and include all project dependencies, editor extensions, commands, and configurations a developer needs to get started quickly.

“Prebuilds were a huge part of how we meaningfully reduced the time-to-bootstrap in Codespaces for our core GitHub.com codebase,” said Tanmayee Kamath, product manager at Codespaces. “With that, our next mission was to replicate this success and enable the experience for our customers.”

Before Codespaces, it wasn’t out of the ordinary for GitHub developers to experience wait times of up to 45 minutes, which included cloning the 13GB repository and getting other dependencies. Organisations involved in pre-beta testing also reported long wait times.

GitHub has said onboarding times for in-house projects have drastically reduced since switching to Codespaces. Through a series of optimisations, GitHub was able to reduce bootstrapping time to 5 minutes, and then later to 10 seconds. The change sped up developer workflows and was especially useful since the company’s developers were pushing hundreds of updates a day.

Pre-built configurations are available as a public beta now for GitHub Enterprise Cloud and Team plans. They’re built on GitHub Actions virtual machines, which facilitate the fast creation time, provide rich logs for effective debugging, and come with a dedicated support service for repository admins.

Admins can create pre-builds for specific branches and regions in their repository and these will automatically trigger an associated Actions workflow that will manage the pre-building of the devcontainer configuration and any subsequent commits for that branch.

GitHub has started 2022 by announcing a flurry of new features, including an opened-up Advisory Database to allow more security experts to contribute tot he wider understanding of known vulnerabilities affecting GitHub projects.

Last week it also announced an AI-driven code-scanning tool for projects written in JavaScript and TypeScript so developers can check their codebases for exposure to common security vulnerabilities affecting projects written in those languages.

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