Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, New Relic’s weekly roundup of the need-to-know news, stories, and events of interest surrounding software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and the other issues that influence modern software.
This week, our top story concerns the big announcements from Amazon Web Services’ annual re:Invent conference.
TWiMS Top Story:
Everything Amazon Announced at AWS re:Invent—VentureBeat
What it’s about: If last year’s AWS re:Invent conference was about establishing Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a mainstream option for enterprise IT, this year’s event in Las Vegas was about making AWS (and by extension, the cloud) the clear option for enterprise CIOs and their teams. Moreover, we think that the bevy of announcements signal AWS’ intent to not only get companies to move more and more of their workloads to the cloud, but to help them get there quickly and efficiently. New products and services include Snowball, a 50-TB appliance for physically shipping data to the AWS cloud ecosystem; QuickSight, business intelligence software delivered as a service; Kinesis Firehose, a tool for inputing streaming data from Web and mobile apps (as well as IoT devices) into your AWS data stores for analytics purposes, and a slew of other stuff. Be sure to check out this recap of the major keynotes and announcements.
Why you should care: AWS is certainly not the only player in the cloud computing world—Microsoft, Google, and a long list of other companies would like a word with you, too—but it continues to show massive growth and even greater future ambitions as the dominant public cloud platform. (SVP Andy Jassy touted 81% year-over-year growth, 1 million active customers, and a $7.3 billion run rate in his keynote.) Nor is the company just holding open the doors in hopes that enterprise companies will simply walk in—it’s working to do as much hand-holding as necessary. Jassy also announced a new Accenture consulting division, Accenture AWS Business Group, that will specialize in solving migration, big data, and other challenges. Moreover, we believe that it’s increasingly apparent AWS intends to be more than an infrastructure backbone. Network World’s Brandon Butler, for instance, writes that QuickSight shows AWS is moving “up the app stack” with more SaaS offerings.
- AWS re:Invent Focuses on Helping Enterprises Move to the Cloud—New Relic Blog
- Amazon Web Services to Add Analytics—The Wall Street Journal
- 3 Takeaways from Amazon’s re:Invent Cloud Conference—Network World
- AWS re:Invent and the Risk of Filling in the White Space—Computerworld
What it’s about: Google has launched yet another open source initiative, this time with the goal to load news articles and other Web pages instantly on mobile devices. The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project declares on its site: “For many, reading on the mobile Web is a slow, clunky, and frustrating experience—but it doesn’t have to be that way.” To solve that problem, the AMP Project will deliver a common, HTML-based framework for publishers that will load news stories and other content instantly in any modern browser, under the noble auspices of building “a better mobile Web for all.” (The AMP Project has posted the initial technical specifications for AMP HTML to GitHub.) About that mobile Web: Remember all those doom-and-gloom forecasts of its demise in favor of native mobile apps? Well, that’s not really happening: While mobile apps are indeed popular, people still open their mobile browsers just as often, according to a new report.
Why you should care: If speed and performance are everything, then plenty of websites have their work cut out for them, especially when visited on a mobile device. Just last week, TWiMS covered the recent New York Times analysis of mobile ads and their impact on the load times of a wide range of news sites. The results weren’t pretty, even in the median range of performance. The AMP Project’s thesis, as it were, is that the performance of news sites and other content-focused pages shouldn’t be a matter of seconds—it should be instantaneous. (The AMP Project shouldn’t be confused with an ad blocker; it includes “compelling and effective ads” in its vision for mobile Web performance, and Google says it isn’t taking a cut, reports Fast Company.) And while the initial announcement and coverage has a news-oriented flavor to it, the AMP Project is in fact casting a much wider net: “The goal is for all published content, from news stories to videos and from blogs to photographs and GIFs, to work using Accelerated Mobile Pages,” the group says on its official site.
- The Mobile Web Is Alive and Well—The Wall Street Journal
- AMP Project—GitHub
- Accelerated Mobile Pages Project—official site
VW Exec Blames ‘a Couple of’ Rogue Engineers for Emissions Scandal—Los Angeles Times
What it’s about: Michael Horn, Volkswagen’s chief executive in the United States, blamed the automaker’s multi-billion-dollar vehicle emissions scandal on a small number of ne’er-do-well software developers who acted on their own, rather than a corporate-sanctioned effort to sidestep government regulations. Horn told a U.S. House subcommittee hearing: “This was a couple of software engineers who put this in for whatever reason,” according to the Los Angeles Times. So, if you’re keeping score at home: A couple of devs with no apparent motive are responsible for equipping 11 million vehicles worldwide with software designed to pass emissions control tests while in fact spewing much higher levels of pollution. That fraud cost Volkswagen a $15 billion drop in market value in a single day—and will cost billions more in government fines, vehicle recalls, and other expenses, not to mention permanent reputation damage.
Why you should care: Riiiiiight. The largest vehicle emissions fraud in history was the handiwork of two or maybe three—Horn acknowledged he didn’t have a precise number—rogue software developers with no clear rationale for their actions. (Maybe they were just messing with the QA team?) Thowing the engineers under the bus wasn’t especially well received by lawmakers and industry experts, according to the Times account of the hearing, for seemingly obvious reasons. Even if the explanation is accurate, it’s just about as damning: Your development processes are so siloed and broken that a few engineers with a grudge could slip something this egregious through the cracks of a company that employs more than 580,000 people worldwide? Was no one testing their work?
- Older VW Diesels Will Need Software and Hardware Fixes, Horn Tells Lawmakers—Automotive News
- Volkswagen’s U.S. Chief Blames Emissions Scandal on ‘Individuals’—Reuters
- VW Needs to Come Clean, Now—New York Times
Innovate or Die: The Rise of Microservices—CIO Journal
What it’s about: Sequoia Capital partner Matt Miller pens an op-ed piece for CIO Journal on the mainstreaming of microservices and how enterprises are turning to the development paradigm to manage digital disruption and remain competitive. Miller rightfully notes that microservices aren’t new. Rather, the establishment of three related technologies—containers, APIs, and scalable cloud infrastructure—are enabling a much broader swath of companies and industries to embrace the microservices concept, well beyond Web giants like Google or Facebook. So while microservices adopters certainly include technology-first firms like Square or Airbnb, they now also include mainstream titans such as GE and Goldman Sachs.
Why you should care: The most compelling evidence for the rise and staying power of microservices—and related tech like containers—is tucked into Miller’s final paragraph: Adoption is driven by the folks who actually write the code, not by industry hype or executive edict. “Most tellingly, we see developers voting with their feet,” Miller writes. “Developers use whatever best helps them get their job done. In today’s high-pressure environment, that means tools and platforms for microservices.” Miller quotes a VP of engineering at an unnamed firm in the Sequoia portfolio, who cites how much faster the engineering team moves as a result of microservices: “If we don’t innovate as quickly as our competitors, we will die.”
The Network Man: Reid Hoffman’s Big Idea—The New Yorker
What it’s about: The New Yorker’s “Letter From Silicon Valley” shared a message with the rest of the world this week: It’s Reid Hoffman’s universe and we’re all just living it. Nicholas Lemann’s expansive profile of the LinkedIn founder and Greylock partner covers everything from Hoffman’s meetings with President Obama and corresponding influence on the federal government’s tech strategy (U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patel is a LinkedIn alum, for example) to his relentless networking to his recent interest in artificial intelligence. Hoffman appears as the ultimate entrepreneur, man about town, burgeoning political influencer, and savvy investor, with perhaps a dash of Citizen Kane. It’s clear Hoffman’s interests extend well beyond Sand Hill Road and Silicon Valley.
Why you should care: Hoffman might not boast the household recognition of, say, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, but it might not matter: He’s become one of the most powerful people in technology, and perhaps its most connected. (He founded LinkedIn, for crying out loud.) So you can probably learn a thing or two from him. For example, you’re going to make mistakes (Hoffman passed on a chance to invest in Snapchat because he “didn’t get the ephemerality.”) And, yes, even with the democratizing force of cloud, mobile, and other technologies, it still matters who you know or, as Hoffman puts it, who’s in your “tribe.” (In his case, the answer appears to be “everybody.”) The piece also underscores how murky our tech-driven future might be, from the ethical implications of A.I. to the consequences—not necessarily good for everyone, or even most—of the so-called sharing economy and massive changes to the working world. On that front, even Hoffman doesn’t seem to have the answers yet.
What it’s about: The legendary Bloomberg Terminal—which is actually just an industry-wide nickname rather than the actual product brand—has begun appearing in museum exhibits, but don’t let that mislead you: It’s as current as ever, thanks to regular evolution over its 33-year (and counting) history. Fast Company profiles the rise and remarkable staying power of the Bloomberg Professional service, better known as the Bloomberg Terminal, a mainstay on financial trading desks and in similar settings in spite of the past several decades of technological innovation and disruption. Unlike other longstanding computer brands—the Mac or the Windows PC—most people have never used a Bloomberg Terminal, and we tend not to put its creator, Michael Bloomberg, in the same category as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. But maybe we should. Bloomberg, who was once the reluctant head of IT development at Salomon Brothers, founded the company that later took his last name after leaving Salomon with a $10 million severance check.
Why you should care: There’s loads of fascinating stuff here, and you don’t need to be a Wall Street trader to benefit. For starters, this story is a history lesson in the evolution of technology: Bloomberg decoupled its specialized terminal hardware and software and began offering Bloomberg Professional as a service via PCs 20 years ago, long before terms like “cloud” and “SaaS” were entrenched in the tech lexicon. Moreover, it’s a story of the power of data and how much value it can have for the right audience—in this case, finance pros. The Bloomberg Professional service (the actual name, which includes the terminal hardware) processes 60 billion pieces of market data every day for its 325,000 users. And its 4,000-person engineering team is under constant pressure to ensure the speed and performance of the underlying systems in an industry where a millisecond can mean millions of dollars won or lost on a trade. And you thought your users were harsh.
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