This Week in Modern Software logoWelcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, New Relic’s 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 goes inside President Obama’s secret team of tech geeks, 140 of them and counting:


TWiMS Top Story:
Inside Obama’s Stealth Startup—Fast Company

What it’s about: If the President of the United States walked into the room and personally recruited you to rebuild the country’s technology infrastructure, could you turn him down? He’s serious, and that room is the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House, by the way. As Lisa Gelobter says: “What are you going to say that?” Gelobter’s answer was “Yes”—she’s now chief digital officer for the US Department of Education, part of a 140-person-and-counting tech team that’s functioning something like an elite startup embedded inside the federal government. Its business? Only modernizing the technical infrastructure, applications, and processes of just about every federal agency.

ClintonRooseveltRoomWhy you should care: What was once something of a tech desert—the federal government—is beginning to draw top private-sector talent inside the Beltway. The team, led by Mikey Dickerson (who helped lead the team that rescued and former US CTO Todd Park, also includes the likes of former Googler Matthew Weaver, and it hopes to hit 500 people by the end 2016, shortly before President Obama will leave office. Its challenges are immense, from tackling government bureaucracy (to test just how entrenched the suits were, Weaver requested the official title “Rogue Leader”—and he got it) to the fact that its recruiting pitch includes the phrase: “You’ll have to take a pay cut.” But its mission is both noble and necessary, and the appeal of working on major problems with enormous public impacts appears to be working. Recommended reading.

Further reading:


Airbnb Open Sources Software to Lure Talent Amid ‘Insane’ CompetitionCIO Journal

What it’s about: Airbnb added three new apps to its open source portfolio earlier this month, but the motivation wasn’t just trying to give employees the best business tools or contribute to the software community at large. Sure, that might have been part of the equation, but the rental booking site hopes open-sourcing some of its toolkit will help recruit the best software talent in the face of what director of engineering Mike Curtis calls “insane” competition in the Silicon Valley labor market. 

Why you should care: In the software arms race, any little edge counts. Curtis tells CIO Journal that Airbnb will keep the proprietary stuff closely guarded, of course. But it will open source “generic” tools with wider industry use cases, such as its recently released Aerosolve machine-learning package and its Airpal cloud-based data querying tool. The latter, which works with Facebook’s open source PrestoDB, aims to simplify SQL queries to the point where you don’t need to be a big data wonk or business intelligence guru to run it. Indeed, one in three Airbnb employees have run a query on it in the year since it launched. Airbnb has contributed a dozen open source tools on its aptly named Nerds site (gotta love that!) to date, something the company hopes both contributes to greater good but also advertises its software innovation to potential hires.


Google Is Wielding Its Own Secret Weapon in the CloudThe New York Times

What it’s about: In the cutthroat competition for public cloud business, Google may be its own best customer testimonial. In advance of this week’s Open Network Summit, the Times’ Bits blog looked at Google’s plan to not only unveil cloud customers such as HTC but reveal much more than ever before about its own infrastructure. Google did just that on Wednesday, offering a look inside its data center networking, including its massive-capacity, lightning-fast Jupiter network.

Why you should care: As major cloud players continue to zap prices with their shrink-rays, it’s increasingly clear that features and underlying platforms will distinguish one from the other when enterprise users make their pick. Google is taking a big step toward writing its own story in this regard, and the synopsis might read something like: “We’re pretty good at this stuff.” Its Jupiter fabrics deliver 1 petabit per second of bisection bandwidth, according to Google, or “enough for 100,000 servers to exchange information at 10Gb/s each, enough to read the entire scanned contents of the Library of Congress in less than 1/10th of a second.” If it sounds like a bit of bragging, well, yeah—it is. But it’s bragging with a purpose: Attracting devs who want access to the same technology without having to build it themselves. Google’s Amin Vahdat connected the dots in a blog post: “The same networks that power all of Google’s internal infrastructure and services also power Google Cloud Platform.”


Move Over, Meeker: Byron Deeter’s State of the Cloud ReportBessemer Venture Partners

What it’s about: With a nod to Mary Meeker’s classic State of the Internet report, Bessemer Venture Partners’ Byron Deeter checks in with his 2015 State of the Cloud Report. Given cloud computing’s relative youth and rampant ascension, it’s no surprise the stats are staggering. Here’s one to start: Cloud revenues have increased tenfold in the last six years, from a scant $5.6 billion in 2008 to more than $56 billion in 2014. And it’s going to double again in the next four years, according to BVP’s projections, to $127.5 billion in 2018.

Why you should care: Deeter’s full presentation is worth a weekend watch or read, but it’s the forward-looking slides that may be most compelling for software pros. Deeter notes both the immense risks and opportunities in cloud security, unveiling a 10-point security plan for cloud startups on slide 37. To underscore the security landscape, Deeter quotes an unnamed cloud CEO who says a DDoS attack that took down the firm’s API caused more customer churn in one day than in the rest of its history. Wow. He also addresses the exploding market for cloud services built specifically for developers including, yes, New Relic. And for mobile developers, slide 44 underscores something we’ve talked about before in this space: the real money’s in enterprise apps, and it’s still a largely untapped market. Click through the full slide deck here or watch video of Deeter’s presentation here.


Bandwidth: The Next Frontier of Cloud ComputingZDnet

What it’s about: Is networking the next big thing in the everything-as-a-service age? It just might be, as firms like Pacnet vie to deliver networking capacity on a pay-for-what-you-use model that some industry folks say better suits cloud environments facing significant but uneven networking needs.                                                                                                

Why you should care: As author Drew Turney notes, there’s a common blind spot when it comes to cloud computing’s many shapes and sizes: Moving all that data from points A to Z, and everywhere in between, which can cause both performance problems and undue financial pressures. The promise of Networking-as-a-Service (NaaS), industry execs tell Turney, is that it can provide more efficient, scalable networking for short-term usage bursts such as customer traffic spikes or large cloud backup-and-storage jobs, enabling companies to later dial down their capacity as needed. Combined with Software-Defined Networking (SDN), NaaS makes it possible to build intelligent applications that manage their own networking needs, which might be the most significant enterprise potential of NaaS, says Nuage Networks architect Marten Hauville.


Page Bloat: Average Web Page Now More Than 2MBThe Performance Beacon (SOASTA)shutterstock_179757995

What it’s about: Do you need to put your website on a diet? Apparently so: The average Web page topped 2 MB as of May 2015, according to ongoing tracking at The Performance Beacon. That’s double the average page weight from just three years ago. The site projects average page weight will exceed 3 MB in late 2017.

Why you should care: Performance, performance, performance: Slow speeds are a killer in the modern software era. While author and SOASTA UX evangelist Tammy Everts rightly notes that page weight is not the only factor in Web optimization, we’re simply not paying it enough attention when designing and building Web pages. Images are the big culprit in the Web’s expanding waistline: they comprise nearly two-thirds of the average page’s weight, and video is a growing part of our Web diet, too. But other factors such as custom fonts play a role, adding weight even as the Web sheds previous performance hogs like Flash. The ideal weight? 1 MB, she says, which will save crucial seconds in load times. Sounds like it’s time to hit the virtual treadmill.


Roosevelt Room image is public domain. Bloat image 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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