This Week in Modern Software logoWelcome 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 Dell’s record-breaking acquisition of EMC.

TWiMS Top Story
Dell Buys EMC in Largest Tech Deal Ever—USA Today

What it’s about: The headline kind of about sums it up, doesn’t it? Dell, along with the private-equity firm Silver Lake, bought storage giant EMC for a whopping $67 billion, the largest ever deal in tech history. It’s a bold bet by Dell, not just because of the price tag: As multiple journalists, analysts, and other industry watchers have noted, the deal seems to be bucking a trend: As many tech giants strip down to their core businesses to become more agile, Dell will become an ever bigger IT behemoth. Dell also acquires EMC’s controlling stake in VMware, too, though the company says VMware will remain a separate, public entity.

Why you should care: Here’s a case where “it depends” is the most honest answer. As the wide range of coverage attests, the impact of this megadeal depends on your perspective. There remain loads of unrevealed details that could determine the deal’s fate—and given that Dell and now EMC are private, those details will likely stay under wraps for a while. In the meantime, all signs seem to point to a common determinator: it’s all about the cloud. Sure, Dell will still compete with the likes of HP and others, but as The Information and others note, the “new” Dell will now directly compete with Amazon Web Services and other public cloud platforms, even if it’s not necessarily building its own public cloud offering. SiliconANGLE CEO John Furrier called it “the end of client-server computing” and a validation of the AWS model, for instance.

It’s also worth noting that EMC brings other assets into the fold: EMC itself has been on a shopping spree, completing a purchase of cloud software and IaaS firm Virtustream this summer, for example. Research firm IDC also notes in an opinion brief that Pivotal, a joint venture of EMC and VMware, “either standalone or combined with Dell Software, presents an opportunity for Dell to gain access to several new types of customers, the developer, and the operations technology (OT) part of the industrial Internet.”

Further reading: 

Gartner’s Top 10 Tech Trends for 2016JAXenter

What it’s about: Research firm Gartner Inc. has released its annual top-10 tech predictions for the coming year, and it’s no surprise to see hot topics like the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and 3D printing make their appearances. This year, Gartner’s calls weave together various topics into what the firm calls “the digital mesh,” including two related categories: “Smart Machines” and “the New IT Reality.” In short, the digital mesh reflects the billions and billions of connected devices and services worldwide and the massive amounts of data that is being generated as a result. Gartner’s list is a good temperature check on what we’ll be seeing and hearing more of in the months ahead—and also great conversation starters for anyone in the tech industry.

Why you should care: JAXenter ‘s recap of Gartner’s trends and the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo conference highlights a few trends of particular interest to the software community. For one, traditional architectures simply won’t support this so-called digital mesh, which will require increasing flexibility and scalability over time. Expect microservices and containers to play a big role in what Gartner’s calling the “mesh app and service architecture.” Another huge trend, one that’s not necessarily new but just about everyone seems to agree will continue growing: Massive amounts of data, and a corresponding need to make sense of it. As Gartner’s Heather Levy writes: “Organizations must learn how to identify what information provides strategic value, how to access data from different sources, and explore how algorithms leverage Information of Everything to fuel new business designs.”

Further reading:


DevOps Becomes Increasingly Common Inside GovernmentFedScoop

What it’s about: A funny thing happens when you bring in a bunch of Silicon Valley pros to remake how federal government agencies use technology: Those agencies start to resemble Silicon Valley firms, at least in their IT departments. Chef CEO Barry Crist tells FedScoop’s Greg Otto of a recent visit to the IT team at the Department of Homeland Security: “It felt and smelled like a Silicon Valley startup,” something he and others attribute to agile development practices, DevOps, cloud services, and other modern software tools, as well as significant cultural changes that enable IT pros to cut through red tape and move faster.

rocket_shutterstock_144105559Why you should care: Hey, if the federal government can do it, so can you! FedScoop‘s piece highlights the growth and positive impacts of DevOps and modern tools in many government institutions, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) It details how DevOps, software, and transformative cultural change helped cut down on painful infrastructure maintenanceeven if the latter piece, in particular, was anything but easy. JPL’s CTO Tom Soderstrom describes a legacy system that once took 130 peoplewho needed to be physically present to enter their passwordsto migrate between NASA data centers. A team member said they could take the app, put it in a Docker container, move it to AWS GovCloud and run it from there with a fraction of the effort. “By the time the offsite people said, ‘It won’t work,’ I said, ‘We already did it, it works,’” Soderstrom tells FedScoop.

Further reading: 


Mobile Is Not a Neutral PlatformBenedict Evans

What it’s about: Rumors of the mobile Web’s demise may be exaggerated, but don’t confuse it with the browser-driven desktop Web. Andreessen Horowitz’s Benedict Evans serves up a thought-provoking blog post on a fundamental difference between the Web browser on a desktop (and how it effectively became synonymous with “the Internet” for most users) and how we go online on our mobile devices: With the latter, “it’s the operating system itself that’s the Internet services platform, far more than the browser, and the platform is not neutral,” Evans writes. Platform is the key word, of course, and there are essentially only two choices: Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. That gives Apple and Google tremendous power over what you see and do on your phone and other devices, thanks to APIs, UI/UX design changes, and other reasons.

Why you should care: For mobile developers, it’s a reminder that you’re likely going to be building at least two versions of your apps for the foreseeable future. Looking at both companies’ efforts to decouple content from an app and onto the home screen (or for other uses), and specifically Apple’s 3D Touch, Evans ask some key questions: “Can there be apps where this is the main UI? Can you use them for notifications?” And since 3D Touch isn’t on Android, “the fantasy of a cross-platform app gets even further away.” Evans also reminds developers that building iOS and Android apps cedes a great deal of control to the platform. That’s not necessarily news: If you want your app on the iPhone, you have to play by Apple’s rules. But the piece does a great job of illustrating just how different the mobile paradigm is from what most people think of as the Web. It’s also a good explainer for why developers and other stakeholders will continue paying close attention to Facebook’s ambitions for Messenger: The app may be the best current bet that a third platform that could disrupt the two dominant players.

Further reading: 


Whole Foods Makes Big Bet on TechFortune

produce-shutterstock_282841511What it’s about: Want to know precisely when those fair-trade avocados you’re pawing at the grocery store were harvested? You might soon be able get that date, and plenty of other data, thanks to the cloud. Fortune reports that high-end grocery chain Whole Foods Market is partnering with enterprise software firm Infor to build a new cloud platform to drive better data and competitive advantage across its retail merchandising and supply chain. One goal is to distinguish itself to consumers who think the food on one store’s shelf is the same as on another’s. It’s also intended to help Whole Foods catch up to the retail industry at large in terms of technology and automation: Fortune notes the company grew largely via acquisitions, and its operations are decentralized. To deploy a favorite tech term, its technology infrastructure wasn’t scalable, and needs to be standardized and modernized across its stores.

Why you should care: Have you heard New Relic say “every business is a software business” yet? Well, you’re going to hear it again: Every business, even a grocery store, is a software business. The Whole Foods technology makeover is about more than selling free-range eggs or organic leeks, too: The software implementation will effectively serve as a pilot for a potential new retailing software platform from Infor that extends well beyond the grocery business. Infor CEO Charles Phillips tells Fortune that much of the software used by retailers today was written before mobile, social, and other technology shifts forever changed the way people shop. Moreover, retail firms often rely on siloed software systems across different business units with little visibility and data sharing across these systems—a paradigm that can make it difficult to meet the needs of the modern consumer.

Further reading: 


VC Funding This Year Has Already Eclipsed the Mega-Numbers of 2014The Next Web

money_shutterstock_146968724What it’s about: If there are concerns on Wall Street about the state of the global economy, Silicon Valley doesn’t appear to share them. Venture capital funds have plowed $98.4 billion into new financing rounds worldwide through the first three quarters of 2015, according to the newest Global Venture Capital Report from KPMG and CB Insights. That means total VC funding in 2015 has already topped all of 2014 by nearly $10 billion, an 11% increase—with three months of deals still to come. While the U.S.—and especially California, where TNW notes VC investments have topped $11 billion for three consecutive quarters—remains the front-runner in VC funding, the KPMG/CB Insights report shows growth around the globe, especially in Asia and Europe.

Why you should care: If you can’t seem to get your software startup funded these days, you might not be trying hard enough—or you might need to be go back to the drawing board. CB Insights CEO Anand Sanwal said in a release: “The appetite for investment into fast-growing private startup companies remains insatiable.” For existing startups looking at their next financing rounds, the numbers are especially promising, with the median late-stage funding round hitting $35 million in Q3, up from $20 million in the same period last year. That’s being spurred by a staggering number of “mega rounds,” or deals of $100 million or more: There were 68 such deals in Q3 alone, bringing the 2015 total to 170 mega-rounds that total $19 billion in funding. Silicon Valley-based firms win the lion’s share of these deals, though Asia and especially China—aren’t far behind and are growing at faster rates.

Further reading: 


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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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