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 Intel’s multi-billion-dollar purchase of Altera.
TWiMS Top Story:
Eyeing the Future of the Data Center, Intel Buys Chip Maker Altera—Wired
What it’s about: Intel’s long-rumored interest in Altera, which makes field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), became a reality this week, with the chip-making titan expecting the deal to close in six to nine months. Intel will rely on Altera’s FPGA technology to better serve explosive growth in cloud computing and the expected rise of the Internet of Things (IoT)—and the implications of both on the evolution of data centers worldwide.
Why you should care: Lest there be any doubt about cloud computing’s impact, take a look at the price tag on Intel’s purchase of chipmaker Altera: $16.7 billion. That’s a lot of chips. While Wall Street analysts have mixed opinions of the deal, from a tech standpoint the motive appears clear: Altera’s FPGA tech will help catalyze Intel’s strategy for modernizing its chip business in the age of pervasive cloud computing and the coming IoT era.
The Platform offers a look at the deal from the heavy-duty technical perspective, noting that what was once considered a limited market for FPGA in the data center may be set to explode into something much larger. Another big name in computing, Microsoft, could be an early mover with its Azure cloud, too. (Microsoft’s Bing search engine is powered by FPGAs.)
Much remains to be seen, but The Platform points out that “with that massive of a cash deal, we have to believe that Intel knows something about the future of the datacenter.”
- Intel’s $16.7 billion buy is about cloud, programmable chips—The Denver Post
- Intel to Buy Altera in Effort to Grow Cloud, IoT Work—eWeek
- Altera Points to the FPGA Writing on the Wall—The Platform
- Intel confirms Altera purchase: What happens next?—ITPro
What it’s about: Cloud computing’s pitch to businesses has typically focused on potential cost savings, but that may be obscuring even bigger benefits: Building better software faster, in a manner that’s more innovative and responsive to organizational priorities and customer needs.
Why you should care: Whether you work in a cloud-first company or an organization just beginning a cloud push, it’s a good reminder that the cloud is about far more than costs. No one—especially not the CFO—is going to turn down potential savings or efficiencies. But the transformative power of the cloud is much broader, according to panelists on a recent discussion forum hosted by Amazon Web Services.
Forrester analyst John Rymer notes, for example, that not only does the cloud enable faster development cycles, it also creates new opportunities for testing and dog-fooding new products. Some companies are even using actual customers as their testers in cloud environments. Moreover, the cloud can enable the kind of organizational change some companies need in order to modernize and become more agile.
“The whole theme here is to be responsive, and so app-dev organization structures have to be much more closely connected to the business than they ever have been before,” Rymer told the panel audience.
What it’s about: Security’s a common denominator for skepticism of DevOps, continuous delivery, and other approaches to modern software development. All the more so when these approaches are deployed in the cloud. CIO Journal takes a peek at how Netflix, which famously powers its 62-million-user streaming service in Amazon’s cloud, manages massive security risks in an environment that is always changing and definitely always on.
Why you should care: Talk about continuous delivery: Netflix devs deploy code to production thousands of times a day. And Netflix, like other high-profile consumer services, has a big target on its systems when it comes to the bad guys. Security, to put it mildly, is a bottom-line issue. Automation is a big piece of the security equation for Netflix, including its homegrown Security Monkey suite, an echo of its Chaos Monkey automated disaster-monitoring tool. It also uses Scumbler to automatically scour websites like Pastebin for evidence of breached customer credentials and other threats.
Monitoring and notifications are critical to security, but DocuSign’s chief risk officer also tells CIO Journal that secure DevOps needs the human element, too. These “security champions” include developers and other team members responsible for checking work and always keeping security front and center.
What it’s about: Former Telerik chief strategy officer Stephen Forte lists the three roles that comprise his holy trinity when building new software products, especially when doing so in startup environments: Dev Lead, Program Manager, and Product Marketing Manager. According to Forte, this trio best engenders a customer-centric approach to app development while avoiding an engineering imbalance (typically with nontechnical founders/management) or a marketing and business-side imbalance (typically with technical founders.)
Why you should care: The Dev Lead job description should sound familiar to software developers in startup environments—and it’s not for the faint of heart … or stomach. The Dev Lead handles all of the “tech stuff,” from the development architecture to implementing a DevOps organization to coding to making platform and framework decisions, not to mention managing the engineering team and keeping it on track and motivated.
The Dev Lead is also responsible for working closely with the PM and PMM—and, in Forte’s view, that’s actually much harder than the technical responsibilities. It speaks to the interdisciplinary and interpersonal skills required of the modern developer, especially those who want to run new product launches: “It is the Dev Lead’s responsibility to work with the business (PM and PMM) in order to set realistic deadlines and proper expectations, all while not being the guy complaining about lack of resources,” Forte writes. “Not always an easy task.” Indeed, it’s not.
Small Firms Shift Toward Cloud-Based Software—The Wall Street Journal
What it’s about: Small businesses are spending more and more on cloud apps and services, according to Intuit survey data, with 85% expected to increase their online software spending over the next five years.
Why you should care: Traditional small businesses, from your local spa to your dog groomer to your favorite neighborhood watering hole, aren’t typically known as early adopters of new technology. (The gigantic, ’90s-era desktop monitor on the counter of my local drycleaner was a recent personal reminder of this phenomenon.) It’s certainly not true across the board; there are plenty of small businesses leveraging modern software and technologies, and more than one-third (37%) are “fully adapted” to cloud apps, according to Emergent Research data cited by the Journal. But the firm expects that to more than double to 78% by 2020.
For developers, small businesses comprise another significant wave in business app needs and users—while they don’t have the budgets of a large enterprise, there are a whole heck of a lot of them in the United States and worldwide. Ease of use will be paramount. As one business owner told the paper: “I don’t have time to be a technology expert.”
What Silicon Valley Can Learn From Seoul—The New York Times Magazine
What it’s about: Silicon Valley may be the epicenter of the global technology industry. But is its actual technology—and that of the U.S. in general—lagging behind other cities and countries?
Why you should care: Bay Area and Silicon Valley technologists tend to think they’re living in the place for tech. There might be some truth in that from a business point of view, but when it comes to infrastructure, other cities may actually outpace the supposed center of the tech universe. An expat San Francisco tech worker in Seoul, South Korea, says the city’s mobile infrastructure and technologies, for instance, are three to four years ahead of what he was used to back home: “When I go back to the U.S., it feels like the Dark Ages.”
Moreover, the bandwidth-and-infrastructure gap across the Pacific Ocean has led to radically different sensibilities when it comes to designing and building apps: Whereas the United States is “fetishistically minimalist,” writes Jenna Wortham, typically focusing on a singular purpose, Korean developers build apps that might resemble the Web 1.0 days in Silicon Valley: overloaded with features and functionality, without much concern for design elegance. Yet Korean consumers do one thing many American firms would love to see in the domestic market: Spend freely on their mobile devices. This should be a good conversation starter heading into the weekend—enjoy.
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