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.
As you hopefully noticed, there was no TWiMS last week due to the Thanksgiving holiday (so maybe this should be TTWiMS—These Two Weeks in Modern Software), but now we’re back every week until Christmas! For this issue, our top item focuses on the first wave of technology forecasts for 2016.
TWiMS Top Story:
9 Enterprise Tech Trends for 2016 and Beyond—InfoWorld
What it’s about: Another Thanksgiving holiday weekend has come and gone, and you know what that means: ’Tis the season for tech predictions! We’re here to help sort through some of the best and most relevant for the modern software community, beginning with Eric Knorr’s enterprise tech calls for 2016 over at InfoWorld. Knorr sees plenty of interesting developments in his crystal ball, from devs incorporating much more machine learning in their apps to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) getting a second audition for a beefier role in enterprise IT environments. But number one on his list is number one on ours, too: “Cloud native shapes the future.” In particular, he sees that rapidly maturing management tools such as Google Kubernetes (more on that below) and the ecosystem that will grow around these technologies will better enable companies to manage the complexity that comes with containers, microservices, and cloud-native architecture—knocking down a key barrier to adoption in the process.
Why you should care: Clearing the path for widespread adoption is critical because, as Knorr writes: “Applications built from microservices running in containers have all sorts of advantages over monolithic applications.” He notes that the common vision for cloud architecture became quite clear in 2015: Software organization will increasingly run apps “composed of microservices outfitted with RESTful APIs. Most likely those services will run in containers, which give developers more control than ever in building, testing, and deploying applications. Containers in turn support DevOps, where ops leverages new automation, instrumentation, and monitoring—and devs take new responsibility for applications in production.” So far, few enterprises actually have all the necessary pieces in place to build and scale that approach. Expect that to change in 2016.
- 20 Predictions for the Next 20 Years—Fast Company
- Everything We Expect Apple to Announce in 2016—Tech Insider
- 5 Best Predictions for 2016: Best Apps Will Be More Intuitive—VentureBeat
- 2016 Technology Predictions for CIOs—The Enterprisers Project
What it’s about: Security firm Trend Micro issued an in-depth look at China’s burgeoning cybercrime industry and, well, this isn’t a bunch of teenagers pinging IP addresses and open ports from their parents’ basements. News outlets were fascinated by the story, issuing a wide variety of takes on the findings. As Ericka Chickowski writes in Dark Reading: “By pairing an apathy toward the law and a lot of well-executed ingenuity, Chinese cybercriminals have built a business empire as robust as any enterprise in the legal world.” The latest tools powering that empire include leaked-data search engines—essentially, a Google for sorting and searching the vast amounts of stolen data hidden on the Deep Web—to new skimming hardware for point-of-sale and ATM transactions to hard-to-detect pocket skimmers than can store data for more than 2,000 payment cards. In a (dark) sense, it all boils down to how valuable data has become: “Chinese cybercriminals have managed to enhance the way they share data as seen in the case of SheYun, a search engine created specifically to make leaked data available to users,” says Trend Micro.
Why you should care: It’s the dark side of modern software: The bad guys can adapt and innovate just as well and just fast as the good guys. As Trendo Micro’s Lion Gu writes, “The Chinese underground has not only kept up with events in the real world … it is also leading the way in terms of cybercriminal innovation.” It’s a compelling look at the powers that be on the Deep Web—and a reminder of the mission-critical need for baking security into every step of the development, testing, deployment, and monitoring processes—and ensuring that all of your partners and vendors do the same.
- Prototype Nation Whitepaper—Trend Micro
- A Comprehensive Look at China’s Cybercrime Culture—Dark Reading
Google Kubernetes Is an Open-Source Software Hit—CIO Journal
What it’s about: Google’s Kubernetes software for managing container clusters gets more than one mention in Knorr’s InfoWorld predictions for 2016, and there’s a simple reason why: As CIO Journal’s Rachael King writes: Google “has an open-source software hit on its hands.” As interest in containers—and Docker in particular—has surged over the past year-plus, a pesky little detail sometimes gets lost in the noise: developers and operations folks need a way to manage everything, especially as they scale. Kubernetes isn’t the only game in town—Docker has its own Swarm, and CoreOS offers Fleet—but it may be the most popular. King cites Cloud Technology Partners research that says Kubernetes has captured 80% of the cluster-management market since Google open-sourced the software in 2014. (Note that Docker points to other studies that indicate Swarm is the early leader, such as O’Reilly’s “The State of Containers and the Docker Ecosystem 2015” report, which indicates 38% adoption for Swarm versus 22% for Kubernetes.)
Why you should care: Given such disparate numbers, it may be too early to declare a winner in the container-management space. No matter who comes out on top, though, it’s likely going to be a booming adoption curve for such tools. That’s because they solve a legitimate problem for IT teams: Containers can quickly get unruly in production environments if you don’t have the right tools in place to manage and monitor them. King recounts a talk given by Steve Reed, principal software engineer for core engineering at Zulily, at this summer’s OSCON. In it, Reed shared that a Zulily team had begun tinkering with containers in production in May 2014, but abandoned the project because of complexity. Today, Zulily’s back on the container bandwagon because managing them has become much simpler. The company confirmed to King that it’s using Kubernetes to manage its Docker containers.
- Apple’s Swift Programming Language Now Open Source—Mac Rumors
- TWiMS: Tech Giants Back Container Standards—New Relic Blog
- 9 Big-Picture Takeaways From OSCON as Open Source Goes Mainstream—New Relic Blog
Clearing the Air Around Cloud Computing—Data Informed
What it’s about: Even as cloud computing continues its mainstream ascendance, some remain confused by the term—along with related words like “hybrid” and “hosted.” That does a disservice to enterprise customers, according to Bil Harmer, advisory board member at Good Data and a veteran security executive. Harmer penned a piece for Data Informed that has a singular stated purpose: Bringing clarity to the cloud. “Until we sort out the snake oil from the beneficial, we are going to continue to see unsatisfied customers due to mismatched expectations or, worse, we are going to see data breaches as software vendors hack legacy applications and try to sell them as cloud apps,” he writes.
Why you should care: Harmer attacks misconceptions that can hamstring enterprise cloud strategies. Among the main culprits, in his view: vendors that “cloud wash” their legacy software. “Cloud vendors that take their legacy software and run it in multiple virtual machines are not delivering cloud applications,” Harmer writes. It’s not that he has a beef with hosted or on-premise apps, he just wants companies to stop trying to gussy them up with some new lipstick and calling them cloud apps.
Harmer lists three key requirements for true cloud: “Multiple ‘tenants’ who use the same application/set of applications; a shared architecture across all tenants; and distinct separation between the instances run for each tenant.” Vendors that slap inaccurate labels on their applications make it difficult to properly manage expectations, contracts, security, and other needs. “Let’s not allow vendors to take legacy-style software, install it in their data centers, and try to claim true multi-tenant cloud software,” Harmer urges. “As software vendors, we need to be accountable, up front, and honest with our customers, especially in the cloud world, where we share responsibilities and liabilities.”
Software Developers’ Growing Elitism Problem—TechCrunch
What it’s about: There’s plenty of hand-wringing about cutthroat competition for developer talent, a chronic lack of diversity, community backlash, and other people-related problems in the tech industry. Could many of these issues boil down to elitism? Over at TechCrunch, DevMountain founder Cahlan Sharp weighs in on a “serious developer elitism problem.” Sharp is ostensibly responding to an earlier post, “Coding Academies Are Nonsense,” written by GameSalad CEO Stephen Nichols. But he quickly moves beyond the specific debate around the efficacy of coding schools and boot camps to identify some of the bigger-picture problems with elitism: It bolsters the gates that can keep a wider range of potential talent out of the tech workforce.
Why you should care: Sharp taps into the notion of a different kind of diversity: There are many types of programmers, and we shouldn’t be so quick to place them in an arbitrary and potentially unfair class system. “Is one discipline better than the other? Is a frontend developer not a ‘real’ developer if she can’t describe what a bubble sort is or does?” Sharp asks. “We should not stratify programmers into classes.” Indeed, elitism props up myths like the “pipeline problem” that are often used to excuse a lack of racial diversity, for instance, but don’t hold up to scrutiny. “A flood of newcomers into many related yet very different programming careers should be welcomed and encouraged,” Sharp advocates. “Code is a medium to solve problems, and we should applaud when we see so many novices eager to find tools to solve problems.”
- Why More Black Engineers Aren’t Being Hired in Silicon Valley—International Business Times
- In a Global Market for Hacking Talent, Argentines Stand Out—The New York Times
- The 20 Best Unicorn Companies for Paying Software Engineers Top Dollar—TechCrunch
Why We’re Addicted to Our Smartphones, But Not Our Tablets—Psychology Today
What it’s about: Liraz Margalit, a Ph.D. who studies consumer behavior, digs for answers to a perfectly reasonable question: Why has our rampant addiction to smartphones not carried over to tablets? It boils down to the fact that we think of these devices as very different animals. Even if the industry typically refers to both as “mobile devices,” that’s not how people actually view them. Rather, we see smartphones as gotta-have-it “connected devices” and tablets as passive “browsing devices.” So we check our phones 150 times a day, according to the stats Margalit cites, and 94% of college students feel “troubled” when they don’t have their device with them. Tablets, not so much. There’s neuroscience behind this addiction. Margalit writes: “Do you whip out your smartphone when you feel bored, lonely, or anxious in order to squelch those feelings? Be careful: In doing so, you are building strong neurological connections between the urge to check your phone and the buzz-like relief of doing so. Repeat those actions enough, and soon the casual updating of your Facebook status will become something much more urgent.”
Why you should care: For developers and designers, says Margalit, “These facts can be harnessed for good. Obviously we can’t know how users are going to access your sites, but in many cases, they will be in browsing mode. The experience in this case is instant; it’s here and now. They’re in connection mode during their spare time and will end up purchasing if the product is exciting enough.” Bottom line: Tablets are not just giant smartphones and mobile developers should work harder on differentiating their “connected” smartphone apps from “browsing-oriented” tablet experiences.
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Tune In to the Future
Can’t get enough modern software news and commentary? Be sure to check out our new Modern Software Podcast. New Relic Editor-in-Chief Fredric Paul and guests discuss the most important things happening in the world of software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and more. Listen to episode 3 or subscribe on iTunes.