Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our 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 myriad of other issues that influence modern software.
This week, our top story concerns efforts to bring open standards for software containers.
TWiMS Top Story:
Software Containers Bringing Tech Giants Together—Wired
What it’s about: Can software containers—like Docker—do for the cloud what shipping containers did for global commerce and logistics? It’s possible, though software containers have yet to fully develop one of the crucial characteristics that made shipping containers so transformative: standardization. As a result, some of the biggest names and fiercest competitors in tech are joining forces behind the recently announced Open Containers Project (OCP) in an effort to develop a set of open standards governing format and runtime.
Why you should care: Containers are one of the hottest topics in software right now, and the interest in application portability that’s driving this trend is unlikely to subside soon. And the container standardization project is backed by, well, almost everyone: Companies on board range from Amazon Web Services to Microsoft to Google to IBM to Red Hat and many more, not to mention both Docker and coreOS. (Read the full list of supporting organizations here.)
OCP notes that Docker’s surging popularity has made it something of a default standard-bearer for the industry, but that “there is widespread interest in a more formal, open, industry specification, which is not bound to higher level constructs such as a particular client or orchestration stack not tightly associated with any particular commercial vendor or project portable across a wide variety of operating systems, hardware, CPU architectures, public clouds, etc.” Worth watching OCP’s progress as software containerization continues its turbocharged growth.
- The Open Container Project and What It Means—Opensource.com
- Open Container Specifications—GitHub
- Containers as Bacteria and Other Docker Trends—The New Stack
- New Relic Generates Real Data on Docker Container Adoption—New Relic
What it’s about: Software simplicity was once a matter of survival for Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, co-founders of Instagram, especially given their nontraditional engineering backgrounds. Today, roughly 300 million users and a $1 billion acquisition by Facebook later, simplicity remains a corporate mantra, especially for the 100-person engineering team.
Why you should care: Today’s software industry tends to stress hyper-ambition: Scale or else! There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily, provided it doesn’t get in the way of building great software that people actually need and use. One of our favorite anecdotes: Early on, while trying to get Instagram off the ground at co-working space Dogpatch Labs, a neighbor began peppering Krieger with questions about JSON optimization and other in-the-weeds technical concerns. Krieger’s response: “Guys, you don’t have a single customer or user yet.” Instagram, once known for its relatively small team (see also: “Reddit Turns 10” below) managing a massively growing user base, is also a case study in leveraging modern software practices, from development to deployment, as its audience exploded. Recommended reading.
What it’s about: Skype founder Niklas Zennström checks in with an essay on why, in his view, there’s never been a better time to be a tech entrepreneur in Europe. Moreover, Zennström explains why the fact that none of Europe’s growing tech hubs will ever quite match the allure and staying power of Silicon Valley is actually one of the continent’s global advantages.
Why you should care: Has Silicon Valley lost its edge? Hardly. But Zennström, now of London-based tech investment firm Atomico, makes a compelling pitch not just for European tech entrepreneurship but for the general uncoupling of tech from any single place on the map. Sure, as Bloomberg points out, Silicon Valley boasts Sand Hill Road and a Hall of Fame list of unicorns and billionaires. But the same David-versus-Goliath, disrupt-or-die mentality that built Silicon Valley can now be turned against it. The explosion of mobile devices and broadband access has made software a global proposition, and the location of your customers matters much more than that of your offices: “When companies are battling for users in every continent, where you come from suddenly matters much less than where you are scaling into,” Zennström writes.
What it’s about: Apple’s partnership with IBM to sell iOS devices and apps to business customers was huge enterprise mobility news last summer, as InformationWeek and others reported. Just over a year later, Apple’s potential enterprise monster has sprouted a couple of new heads. The company announced new deals with two major enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms, MobileIron and WMware’s AirWatch, for securely deploying iOS apps in business environments.
Why you should care: The bring-your-own-everything era has brought millions of Apple devices into the enterprise. But that didn’t necessarily convince IT departments to support those devices, nor was it a given that there were enough bona fide business apps in the iOS ecosystem to make all those iPhones productive. Apple hopes to change that as two of the biggest names in EMM unveil separate strategies for enabling efficient, secure deployment of iOS apps for businesses. TechTarget notes that AirWatch’s new iOS app configuration templates will create an array of “single touch” apps in industries such as healthcare, airlines, and education. Meanwhile, MobileIron’s OneTouch will let ops folks deploy apps in a bundle instead of as one-off jobs, automating configuration, authentication, and provisioning in the process. Moreover, 451 Research analyst Chris Hazelton tells TechTarget the new partnerships could foretell a true enterprise app store within the broader Apple App Store.
9 Questions to Ask Your Software’s Beta Testers—The Next Web
What it’s about: Beta periods are vital for gathering feedback and improving your software before moving it to wider release. Nine tech entrepreneurs share the most important question they ask early users before seeking a larger market.
Why you should care: Companies launch software in beta so commonly that it’s almost easy to take this crucial stage for granted. But the beta phase of the development cycle is only as useful as feedback you get from your users. There’s value in each of these recommended questions, especially if you’re hoping to find people willing to pay you for the software. One of our favorites comes from Obinna Ekezie, former NBA player-turned-CEO of African travel site Wakanow.com: “Why wouldn’t you use this product again?”
Indeed, we sometimes focus too much on the features people love, which is also useful, but don’t let it overshadow data that could explain why people aren’t coming back to use your app or service time and again.
What it’s about: Reddit celebrated its 10th birthday on Thursday, and the company published a slew of fascinating stats that highlight how much the site has grown since its inception—and maybe tell us a little about humankind in the process.
Why you should care: Think you’re busy? Reddit employs 30 engineers who handle traffic of 334,626,161 monthly page views apiece; along with more than 7.6 million unique visitors for every engineer. Reddit runs on 213,078 lines of code, but that doesn’t paint a complete picture of development. Since the site underwent its second complete rewrite in January 2007, the Reddit team has completed 10,128 commits, adding 1,081,873 lines of code and removing 865,795 lines in that span. The most commented-on post of all time? A post that specifically asked users not to overload Reddit’s servers with too many comments. The most viewed posts in Reddit history, on the other hand, tell us less about technology and more about the human condition: President Obama’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) ranks second all time to a guy with a, um, unique (and NSFW) anatomy.