GitHub Positions AI as Pivotal in Software Development Journey

At GitHub Universe 2023, the company introduced a new system called Copilot Workspace. This feature extends beyond the foundational AI pair-programming capabilities of the current GitHub Copilot.
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GitHub foresees the pivotal role of AI in the software development lifecycle. This perspective aligns with the growing demand for AI-driven tools that enhance efficiency and reduce software development time. 

GitHub’s belief underscores the industry’s shift towards harnessing AI capabilities, emphasising a synergy between developers and advanced algorithms to create innovation and streamline the software development journey.

According to data from GitHub, 92% of developers report using AI coding tools in and outside of work. Moreover, around 81% of developers believe AI coding tools will make their teams more collaborative.

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“In March, we shared our vision of a new future of software development with Copilot X, where AI infuses every step of the developer lifecycle. Since then, we’ve been working to scale and mature the underlying technology–and in the process, we created something even bigger. Our vision has manifested itself into a new reality for the world’s developers,” CEO Thomas Dohmke said during GitHub Universe 2023.

(CEO Thomas Dohmke at GitHub Universe 2023)

At GitHub Universe 2023, the company introduced a new system called Copilot Workspace. This feature extends beyond the foundational AI pair-programming capabilities of the current GitHub Copilot. It leverages OpenAI’s GPT-4 and a comprehension of the developer’s pertinent codebase to aid in transforming an idea into a plan and, ultimately, into operational code. 

“The Copilot Workspace represents the evolution of our vision, guiding ideas from conception to production throughout the software development lifecycle. From the initial contemplation of a project to its realisation, Copilot Workspace serves as your AI assistant. 

“As you articulate your thoughts, whether it’s about creating a snake game or any other concept, Copilot seamlessly integrates into the software development journey, aiding you at every step of the process,” Inbal Shani, chief product officer at GitHub, told AIM.

Going big with Copilot

GitHub continues to make great strides with Copilot. So far, over a million developers use Copilot in over 37,000 enterprises across 190 countries making it the most widely adopted AI developer tool in history.

“Just as GitHub was founded on Git, today we are re-founded on Copilot,” Dohmke said. In a bid to capture enterprise interest, at the event, GitHub unveiled Copilot for Enterprise. This integration allows developers to seamlessly connect Copilot with their codebase, facilitating intelligent suggestions not only for public repositories but also extending its capabilities to all internal and private code. 

“What we’ve seen when we started rolling out Copilot was that many customers wanted to have a customised model, one that understands their code base, their policies, regulations, the syntax,” Shani said.

( Inbal Shani, chief product officer of GitHub during GitHub Universe 2023)

At the conference, AIM spoke to a few of the enterprises that have adopted Copilot. A financial service giant, piloted with Copilot earlier in May, and has locked in on Copilot after testing Amazon CodeWhisperer as well as Google Duet. For them, Copilot made sense because they were already Microsoft Azure customers.

For a company that is not on Azure, factors such as ease of integration, collaboration features, and compatibility with existing workflows would be crucial in determining which tool to adopt. 

Maggie Hewitt, senior site reliability engineering manager, Duolingo (US), said that they have witnessed a 25% productivity increase with Copilot. Similarly, at AMD, the customised Copilot model provided accurate, high-quality AI suggestions tuned to their specific style of product design. 

“Working with GitHub on Copilot model fine-tuning, we enabled support for widely used hardware design languages such as Verilog, which is not possible with the commercial Copilot solution,” Alexander Androncik, senior director of software development, AMD said.

Moreover, at Universe 2023, GitHub also announced Copilot Chat, which will generally be available in December 2023 as part of the existing GitHub Copilot subscription. Leveraging your code as context, Copilot Chat elucidates intricate concepts, proposes code relevant to your open files and windows, identifies security vulnerabilities, and aids in locating and rectifying errors in code, terminal, and debugger.

Leveraging AI to make GitHub more secure 

At Universe 2023, GitHub also announced that its Advanced Security will feature AI-powered tools to uncover and mitigate vulnerabilities and sensitive data in code, for upgraded application security. 

Nearly, 80 percent of the breaches originate through credential leakage or secrets being leaked, according to Jacob Depriest, VP, Deputy Chief Security Officer at GitHub. “Secret scanning has been integral to GitHub’s advanced security, forming a key component of our security programme. 

“Historically, the focus has been on tokens with structured capabilities, like Azure or AWS tokens. Now, with AI, GitHub aims to detect generic secrets and patterns with low confidence in code. This enhancement is poised to significantly improve the platform’s capability, allowing for the identification and protection of secrets before they reach production or get embedded in the codebase,” he told AIM.

Moreover, AI is also being integrated to the code scanning autofix features, which are a part of GitHub’s Advanced Security. Code scanning autofix suggests AI-generated fixes using CodeQL for JavaScript and TypeScript directly in pull requests, assisting developers in resolving issues faster, and reducing the introduction of new vulnerabilities into codebases.

“This enhancement aims to make the process even more impactful before code hits production, significantly speeding up the developer workflow. Our core philosophy for the security program is to seamlessly integrate security capabilities into developers’ work environments, avoiding disruptions to their workflow,” Depriest said.

The Models 

Given Microsoft owns GitHub, the cloud-based Git repository provider leverages OpenAI’s LLM models. For example, the recently introduced chat functionality is powered by GPT-4. Similarly, GitHub Copilot is also powered by OpenAI’s Codex. 

Nevertheless, Depriest explained that GitHub utilises a combination of models tailored to its needs, recognising that diverse models serve distinct requirements. “Our emphasis is on selecting the right model for specific tasks. Across the GitHub platform, you’ll notice varied capabilities, from autocomplete and chat to AI-driven features in GitHub Advanced Security. Our approach is dynamic, and these models will likely evolve with time.”

Shani concurs. She said GitHub is not locked in on a specific model just because of its collaboration with Microsoft. “If you inquire about my perspective as an individual who came of age in the realm of AI when it was a niche, I anticipate a future where we inhabit a hybrid environment featuring a prevalence of tailored models as opposed to larger models.”

Pritam Bordoloi
I have a keen interest in creative writing and artificial intelligence. As a journalist, I deep dive into the world of technology and analyse how it’s restructuring business models and reshaping society.

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