This Week in Modern Software logoWelcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly analysis of the most interesting and important news, stories, and events in the world of modern software and analytics.

This week, our top story concerns the “worst-kept secret” in banking: even risk-averse financial institutions are embracing public cloud.


TWiMS Top Story:
Why Banks Are Finally Cashing In on Public CloudCIO

What it’s about: Cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Platform have been growing at staggering rates, propelled by thousands and thousands of business customers moving their workloads and data to public cloud environments. Yet a few industries have remained relatively reticent about the trend. The highly regulated financial sector has been a favorite example of an industry wary of this newfangled cloud thing. But that’s changing, according to a report this week by CIO’s Clint Boulton. James O’Neill, a senior banking analyst at Celent, tells Boulton, “It’s the worst kept secret in banking that everybody is experimenting with cloud.”

money clouds: this week in modern softwareWhy you should care: When one of the most watched and regulated industries in the United States decides it’s time to embrace the cloud, everyone else has to stop harping on the security, compliance, and related concerns that often get lobbed into the cloud discussion. Should companies be concerned about security? Absolutely—but that’s true no matter where you run your workloads. Security, compliance, risk management, and related issues are a big deal for financial institutions whether their applications run in a public cloud environment or in a private data center. Take the World Bank, an organization that’s, as Boulton writes, “profoundly averse to risk.” That hasn’t stopped CIO Stephanie von Friedeburg from moving forward with the bank’s cloud strategy, beginning with a migration from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Office 365. That move slashed the costs of running in half, from $12 million to $6 million annually, and paved the way for moving additional apps to the cloud. Now, the bank’s cloud use is expanding, in part because von Friedeburg is emphasizing security: “To determine what should go into the public cloud and what [should] stay home von Friedeburg created a security framework in which apps are designated as ready for the public cloud; those that require remediation work or those that include too much complexity or sensitivity don’t move.”


How Charles Schwab Fought Back Against the Robo-Adviser Startup Invasion—Fast Company

What it’s about: If software can disrupt anything and everythinglast week’s item on fuel-delivery startups is a case in pointthen even the original disrupters can’t feel safe. Fast Company checks in this week with a profile on investing giant Charles Schwab, which itself changed the financial industry as the first discount brokerage back in the 1970s. The web spawned another generation of competing discount brokers, too, but lately Schwab’s biggest threat comes from a new class of “robo-advisers,” or investment firms that offer funds managed by software rather than people, driving down fees and other costs in the process.

Why you should care: As Harry McCracken writes, “Rather than leaving the robo-adviser idea to startups and hoping that it didn’t prove too disruptive, Schwab decided to face it head on with an offering of its own.” That offering, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, is not just a hedge against a new, technology-driven method of personal investing; it’s already the category leader in terms of assets under management. The story is a case study of sorts in how a massive, entrenched firm can evolve in the modern software world without cannibalizing its bread-and-butter business; as the story points out, Schwab’s robo-advising offering may actually be better serving a significant segment of its existing customer base. How did it happen? The team involved functioned like a startup within the larger organization, moving quickly, prioritizing user experience and design, and dog-fooding its own product. In fact, the project was a key part of a long-term strategy to modernize Schwab’s product development approach. Neesha Hathi, executive VP for Schwab Investor Services, tells McCracken: “One of our objectives in doing this was not only to build this great platform for users and advisers, but use this as a lever for reinvigorating our own development process and how we build products and platforms.”

Further reading: 


5 Things Containers Need to Win the EnterpriseCIO

What it’s about: Containers have been all the rage recently for very good reason: Offering flexible service and application delivery as portability, they’re one of the most promising and powerful new technologies in modern software. But the rise of container platforms like Docker and coreOS are tempered by key challenges in large, established enterprises. In a recent interview with CIO, Lars Herrmann, GM of Red Hat’s Integrated Solutions Business Unit, identifies five of those speed bumps—and what it will take to remove them en route to widespread container adoption in the enterprise. “What we clearly see is containerization has a lot of pull, but it’s more of a bottom-up approach right now,” Herrmann tells CIO’s Thor Olavsrud.

Why you should care: Some of the needs Herrmann identifies seem to be well on their way to fulfillment. Take orchestration, for example: Orchestration software like Google’s Kubernetes and related tools like Docker Swarm and coreOS Fleet might be the only things hotter than the container itself. But Herrmann highlights a couple of related items worth pointing out, if only because they’re often overlooked amidst the hype: For many large enterprises, even the latest and greatest technology advances are only as good as their ability to work well within existing environments. Startups might get to live the greenfield dream, but greenfield environments are often just that for large companies: a dream. Herrmann notes that better integration within the data center will be key for mainstream container adoption. Moreover, Hermann says, containers need to be able to coexist with legacy systems—and even enhance their strengths—because those systems are unlikely to ever disappear completely.


Amazon Targets YouTube With New Online Video Posting ServiceBloomberg

What it’s about: Amazon announced this week Amazon Video Direct, a “new self-service program for creators and storytellers to make their video content available to Amazon customers.” In other words: Amazon has launched a YouTube competitor. Amazon already competes with services like Netflix, Hulu, and others with its Amazon Video unit, but the new service gives content creators a menu of distribution choices. That includes making ad-supported videos available to anyone—hence the YouTube comparison—or earning royalties by including videos as part of Prime Video for Amazon Prime subscribers. TIME’s Victor Luckerson notes YouTube’s massive, entrenched base of creators and viewers, but adds, “The retailer may be aiming to create a more premium experience that sits between homemade YouTube videos and movies on Netflix.”

television: this week in modern softwareWhy you should care: For anyone who builds websites and apps, it’s another billion-dollar reminder of the web’s insatiable appetite for video. Amazon’s new platform isn’t some pet project; it’s an ambitious attempt to expand its video library by tapping more directly into the kind of user-generated content that has made YouTube a runaway success. But in spite of the growing abundance of content and platforms, websites still don’t always do the best job with video—it remains a performance headache exacerbated by the need to ensure quality and speed across a diverse group of platforms and connections. As New Relic’s Parker Edwards said recently: “Those of us who have hosted such videos know the stress involved in ensuring a fast, consistent playback experience across a seemingly endless variety of different devices and environments.” But the stakes of ensuring high-performing websites and apps that include more and more video content keep getting higher and higher.

Further reading:


The Creators of Siri Just Showed Off Their Next AI Assistant, Viv, and It’s IncredibleThe Verge

What it’s about: Much ado about something this week in the world of AI chatbots: The creators of Siri took the stage at Disrupt NY to unveil a next-generation virtual assistant named Viv. The Verge’s headline kind of sums up the crowd response; multiple observers noted Viv blows away its ancestor Siri away in terms of capabilities. Viv, which won’t come out until later this year, is designed to handle far more complex interactions than Siri and other predecessors. Fast Company’s Daniel Terdiman shares this example: “The proof? Not just asking a voice assistant what the weather is, but asking whether it will be warmer than 70 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge the day after tomorrow, or if it rained in Seattle three Thursdays ago.” Moreover, cofounder and CEO Dag Kittlaus envisions Viv—unlike Siri—working on any device.

Why you should care: It’s getting a bit hard to write off this chatbot thing as a passing fad. The AI-chatbot-virutal-assistant-call-it-what-you-will trend spells an enormous opportunity for developers, because they’re the ones who will turn promising preview into everyday reality. As Fast Company’s Terdiman writes, services like Viv “will grow and evolve as thousands of developers add new capabilities to it.” Of course, there will be lots of players. Also making a public debut last week was AI assistant Ozlo, getting an introduction on Medium from cofounder and CEO Charles Jolley. According to Jolley, Ozlo already knows quite a bit about places to eat and drink, and will be learning more about the world now that he’s in it—Ozlo was made available to some 10,000 iOS users as part of an early access program. The gold rush is on.

Further reading:


Want a Good Tech Job? Report Says Open Source Skills Are Hotter Than EverZDNet

hiring sign: this week in modern softwareWhat it’s about: The Linux Foundation, in partnership with tech jobs site Dice, recently released its annual Open Source Jobs Report, and the takeaway is pretty simple: “Yay, open source!” Seriously, though, the report finds a perfect mix—at least for software pros with legit open source skills—of high demand for scarce talent. Some 59% of hiring managers are looking to increase hiring of jobs that require open source experience and skills; 87% of them say it’s hard to find the talent needed to fill those positions. And open source isn’t just hot, it’s hotter than other areas: Nearly two-thirds of hiring managers expect hiring for positions requiring open source know-how to increase more than in other areas of the business.

Why you should care: If you’ve got serious open source chops, you should only be unemployed by choice. Of course, it helps to know which skills are particularly in demand, and that’s where this becomes a cloud story: Both software pros and hiring managers agree that knowledge of platforms like OpenStack, CloudStack, and Cloud Foundry are currently in the greatest demand. Nearly 20% of developers expect containers to be the next sought-after skill, though recruiters (8%) may still be catching up to that trend. DevOps is another key area, with 57% of hiring managers actively recruiting for DevOps teams. Despite open source’s independent spirit of innovation, collaboration, and freedom, it continues its push into commercial viability. (There’s a reason why companies like Apple and Microsoft have seen the open source light.) Put it all together and this is a very good time for developers and anyone else who can unlock the power of open source software.

Further reading:


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Cloud banking, television, and hiring sign images courtesy of

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a wide variety of publications and companies. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek story, “Are You Too Old for IT?” He’s also a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards. View posts by .

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