Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly roundup of the most important stories and events surrounding software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and other issues that influence modern software.
Note that TWiMS will not be published next Friday because we’re closed for Christmas. Look for a special edition of TWiMS before year end. In the meantime, this week, our top story concerns the most in-demand tech skills for the New Year.
TWiMS Top Story:
10 Hottest Tech Skills for 2016—Computerworld
What it’s about: If your New Year’s resolutions include career planning (or tech hiring), now is a great time to recalibrate what’s happening in the industry from a demand and compensation standpoint. It’s not just about investing in your skills development; it’s about investing in the right skills. Computerworld’s annual hiring forecast survey delivers another dose of optimism for software developers: Hiring managers can’t get enough of you: 40% of employers in the Computerworld poll say they are hiring programming/application development roles in the next 12 months. That’s backed up by another annual gauge of the tech job market, Robert Half Technology’s annual salary report, which lists developers as one of the most sought-after technology roles across many industries.
Why you should care: If you’re a software developer, these results can help chart your next career move. If you’re hiring developers, they’re a helpful indication of how much you’re going to have to spend on talent. No matter how you look at it, though, there’s no doubt that serious software skills will continue to command serious compensation: Developers factor prominently in both Computerworld’s survey and the Robert Half report. The recruiting firm projects growing salaries in each of its programming-related categories: application development, Web development, and software development. Mobile devs could have a particularly good year, with Robert Half projecting an 8.1% bump in the role’s salary range. Additional boosts come from specific coding languages in high demand, inlcuding C# (7%), Java (6%), Ruby on Rails (6%), and the broad category of Web services development skills (8%). Demand for cloud and SaaS-related skills continues to grow: One in four companies in the Computerworld survey say they will hang “help wanted” signs for these skills in the next 12 months. Surprisingly, the programming/application development category got bumped out of the Computerworld survey’s top spot by the IT architecture category.
- 2016 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals—Robert Half Technology
- Advice From Former Apple and LinkedIn Employees on Landing Your Dream Job—Fast Company
- The Life of a 17-Year-Old Full-Time Software Engineer in San Francisco—Quartz
What it’s about: Netflix’s video streaming service accounts for more than one-third of data consumption during peak periods in the United States. So it’s both unsurprising and welcome news to learn, via an exclusive report in the entertainment industry publication Variety, that Netflix engineers have spent years reinventing how it encodes videos. The whole piece is well worth a read, but here’s the upshot: Netflix has historically used the same encoding approach for every video in its catalog, which then serves up content based on the user’s bandwidth. But as Netflix video algorithms manager Anne Aaron tells Variety: “You shouldn’t allocate the same amount of bits for My Little Pony as for The Avengers.” Because no two titles are alike, the company is working to re-encode its library title by title, and even episode by episode, to optimize bandwidth consumption.
Why you should care: The efforts, set to be completed by the end of Q1 2016, should pay off for Netflix and its millions of users, as well as everyone else trying to access the Net’s clogged pipes. Netflix says the change should improve video quality while reducing data consumption by up to 20%. Just as important, this is also a lesson in maximizing your cloud environments: Netflix, perhaps Amazon Web Services’ most famous customer, has been moving its encoding jobs around to use idle capacity in its AWS environment. “Netflix’s Amazon servers may help you to binge on ‘Jessica Jones’ in the evening, but at night, when everyone is asleep, those very same servers are busy re-encoding the company’s catalog,” writes Janko Roettgers.
What it’s about: While some end-of-year tech forecasts tend to focus on the newest and shiniest innovations, InformationAge’s 2016 software forecast offers a refreshingly straightforward thesis: The more technology changes, the more it stays the same—or at least similar. As Editorial Director Ben Rossi writes: “Technologies seen as commonplace today, from the Internet to smartphones, all formed out of complex ideas from the past. Because of this, often the best way to predict the future is by taking a look at the past.” You’ll probably see and hear a lot more about federated identity management (FIM) on the Web next year, for example. But FIM is really just the Web-oriented reincarnation of Novell’s Directory Services and Microsoft’s Active Directory developed decades ago.
Why you should care: In an industry fascinated with the next big thing (and the next next big thing), the past can offer a unique lens through which to view the outlines of the future. Another great example from Rossi: Service-oriented architecture (SOA) wasn’t necessarily replaced by the cloud—rather, the concepts behind it laid the groundwork for microservices and containers, both of which are set for enormous growth in the enterprise in 2016. Rossi writes: “This idea was all about how application components could provide services to other components via a network’s communication protocol. It was thought to be ‘killed by the cloud,’ or it largely languished because cloud infrastructure wasn’t mature enough at the time—depends on who you ask.” As microservices and containerization become more common, Rossi adds, “the cloud will become like a utility, and companies can begin to charge for their services based on usage, much like electricity or water.”
- 11 Things Computer Users Will Never Experience Again—InformationWeek
Setting a DevOps Mindset for 2016—The Enterprisers Project
What it’s about: It’s easy to shout, “DevOps!” But actually reaping the benefits of DevOps requires real effort and investment in culture, processes, and technologies. For many organizations, that evolution is just beginning. Over at The Enterprisers Project, XebiaLabs CEO Derek Langone discusses what’s necessary for setting a DevOps mindset in the year ahead, from the accessibility and usability of tools to the inefficacy of those tools without a corresponding cultural shift.
Why you should care: Langone taps into several critical pathways to DevOps success—pathways that can turn into pitfalls for companies that don’t go all-in on the DevOps approach. For instance, the tools you put in place for automation, monitoring, and the like need to be accessible and usable to everyone on the team. Moreover, your DevOps processes need to be scalable: “Your automated deployment process has to work now, and also in the future when you add another hundred servers or adopt a new cloud service,” Langone writes. And even the best processes and technologies won’t mean a thing if there isn’t true collaboration across once-siloed teams. Interest in and discussion of DevOps hit fever pitch in 2015; 2016 could be the year that separates DevOps winners from also-rans.
- Will 2016 Be the Year to Make or Break DevOps?—TechRepublic
- Why Your DevOps Process Should Have Security Baked In—TechTarget
How to Spot and Magnify the Powers of Your Engineering Superheroes—First Round Review
What it’s about: Does your engineering team resemble the Justice League or The Avengers? Maybe not, but you should still be on the lookout for each individual’s superpowers, and how to help them complement each other. That’s the gist of a First Round Review interview with Looker founder and CTO Lloyd Tabb, who articulates a well-thought-out vision of the superhero types he looks for on a top-notch engineering team: the aquaman (the deep-dive expert who solves the toughest problems), the flash (the speed demon who cranks out work and gets prototypes up quickly), the priest (who lives by order and code quality and builds stellar APIs), and the Spielberg (knows what people want from their software). And they need a leader: That’s the paladin, in Tabb’s terms: “They are both warriors and healers. The most important trait of an engineering manager is that she must be able to heal her team.”
Why you should care: The core of Tabb’s cleverly detailed superhero philosophy has nothing to do with technical chops: Sure, you need people with the requisite skills up and down the stack, but people is the operational word here, and the human element can’t be discounted when building all-star tech teams. Tabb tells First Round Review: “Technologies change. Startups come and go. For the long-term success of both the engineer and me, I’m interested in what fuels the person, more than their last achievement. Then you can start to see where the love of work is coming from and the very depth of what inspires them.”
The State of Robotics for 2015—TechCrunch
What it’s about: HAX partners Cyril Ebersweiler and Duncan Turner close out the year with a look at the current (and future) state of robotics. And while we may not be living in a Phillip K. Dick novel just yet, the duo report that “robots are gradually moving from labs to news reports to entering our daily lives.” Drones may be leading the current charge into the mainstream, but other autonomous cars (including Tesla’s auto-pilot feature released this year) and consumer-oriented 3-D printers aren’t far behind. And if you think those things are cool, they barely scratch the surface of what’s coming.
Why you should care: Should we prepare now for the inevitable robot attack of 2016? Maybe not. But it’s clear that what was once the purview of science fiction is quickly becoming a household reality. In examining the basic challenge of precisely defining what a robot is, the authors note several emerging categories that might more closely resemble our daydreams and pop culture representations: Service robots, from those already working on the warehouse floors of retailers like Amazon.com to bots that can clean your offices or wash your windows—even robots that will mix you a stiff drink and listen to your troubles at the bar. Don’t like doing house and yard work? Lifestyle robots that will vacuum your house or mow your lawn are “commoditizing fast,” and there are plenty of other use cases, too.
Cheaper components and turnkey hardware and software are driving robotic adoption, but the authors note significant challenges, too. Funding for robotics remains relatively scarce, and the robots themselves aren’t quite ready to assume overlord status: Most remain “quite dumb,” according to the report. And robots also have a PR problem: “There is still resistance in the public mind, with oft-cited themes of robots taking over our jobs, harvesting our organs, or taking over the world.”
- Full Stack Robotics: A FutureTalk With Ron Evans [Video]—New Relic Blog
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