Welcome back to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly breakdown and analysis of the need-to-know news, stories, and events of interest surrounding the software and analytics industries. This week, our top story concerns how the booming state of cloud computing in the enterprise is actually driving demand for cloud-savvy workers and increasing the clout of IT departments.
TWiMS Top Story:
State of Cloud: Docker, Hybrid Cloud Usage on the Rise—InfoWorld
What it’s about: RightScale has released its annual State of the Cloud report this week, and as InfoWorld’s Serdar Yegulalp writes, the data can be best summed up with a single word: “more.” As in more hybrid cloud, more private cloud, more public cloud, more containers, more DevOps-oriented tool usage, more, well, everything. Hybrid cloud usage is up from 58% to 71% this year among the 1,000-plus respondents in the survey, and Docker adoption continues to surge (but you already knew that). Multi-cloud environments are pretty much the default setting, with 82% of companies reporting multi-cloud strategies, running an average of three public clouds and three private clouds. Public cloud usage is also strong, up a tick to 89% (from 88%) among respondents. Amazon remains king of the public cloud platforms, but Microsoft’s Azure is gaining ground, now firmly in second place according to RightScale’s data.
Why you should care: Yep, cloud is a huge deal for modern software—but you’ve heard that one here before. So how about this instead? The report’s findings bode very well for cloud computing experts and potentially enterprise IT at large. Yegulalp notes that maturing cloud deployments are driving demand for maturing skill sets, which aren’t yet in abundant supply: “After the low-hanging fruit for what the cloud can accomplish is harvested, attention turns to pushing things even further, and the need for workers with boundary-pushing skill sets—data science, cloud-based DevOps, and container experts—rises accordingly.” ZDNet’s Joe McKendrick also points out the inevitable demand for cloud-relevant expertise, and has a potentially grander takeaway, too: Cloud isn’t diminishing IT departments; it’s making them more necessary than ever. “Organizations are almost pleading with IT managers to help them navigate the new cloud world,” he writes. “In the process, IT managers are evolving into cloud brokers.”
- As Cloud Computing Spreads, Survey Shows IT Managers Getting More Resourceful—ZDNet
- Research Shows Cloud Spend Going Up in 2016 for Two-Thirds of Enterprises—CloudTech
- Netflix Finishes Massive Migration to Amazon Cloud—Ars Technica
- Cloud Computing Becomes a Home for Data Analytics—Forbes
What it’s about: President Barack Obama’s final budget proposal included some eye-popping plans for bolstering the federal government’s IT and especially its cybersecurity capabilities, with $19 billion allocated for improving the government’s digital defenses, including $3.1 billion specifically for replacing legacy IT systems with modern technologies. The latter proposal includes a new Federal Chief Security Officer post. “One of the biggest gaps between the public sector and the private sector is in our IT space, and it makes everybody’s information vulnerable,” Obama said in his budget remarks, adding that systems underpinning major programs and agencies, such as Social Security and the IRS, are running on outdated software and infrastructure. The tech behind Social Security was written in COBOL in the 1960s, for example. President Obama added later: “If you’ve got broken, old systems—computers, mainframes, software that doesn’t work anymore—then you can keep on putting a bunch of patches on it, but it’s not going to make it safe.”
Why you should care: Transforming federal IT has been a key priority in the Obama White House. A supporting detail that data nerds can appreciate: For the second year running, the White House released all budget-related data on GitHub and Socrata for public use. The need to improve information security has been underscored by some high-profile hacks, including last year’s OPM breach and the more recent IRS issues as well as the basic fact that the federal government handles a vast amount of sensitive data about its citizens and other areas. That said, the proposal is a long ways from reality. The Republican-controlled Congress effectively said they wouldn’t even read it, setting the stage for a massive budget showdown compounded by election-year politics.
- The President’s National Cybersecurity Plan: What You Need to Know—WhiteHouse.gov
- Protecting U.S. Innovation From Cyberthreats—The Wall Street Journal
- Obama’s Last Budget, and Last Budget Battle With Congress—The New York Times
- New York CIO Declares Looming Staff Crisis—Government Technology
- Internet of Things to Be Used as Spy Tool by Governments: U.S. Intel Chief—Ars Technica
- Encryption Is Worldwide: Yet Another Reason Why U.S. Ban Makes No Sense—WIRED
Apple Fans Are Really Coming to Hate Apple Software—Los Angeles Times
What it’s about: Is Apple’s tightly woven ecosystem fraying at the seams? Some high-profile Apple fans are starting to say so. Apple’s software has been long renowned for its high quality and near flawless integration with other Apple apps and Apple’s equally regarded hardware lineup. But in recent weeks, criticism of Apple’s apps has started to mount, even among high-profile Apple lovers. As Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik writes, Apple software’s traditional “virtues have started to disappear,” causing a rash of user dissatisfaction. Significantly, it’s not just the unwashed masses grumbling in the dark corners of the Web: Alongside recent screeds from Marco Arment, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, and The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple, tech-review godfather Walt Mossberg recently wrote in a column for The Verge, “In the last couple of years … I’ve noticed a gradual degradation in the quality and reliability of Apple’s core apps, on both the mobile iOS operating system and its Mac OS X platform.”
Why you should care: In the software business, the work is never really done—even when you achieve Apple’s staggering heights. Even a shred of complacency in your software practices can open the door to problems, a situation exacerbated when you’re under Apple’s bright spotlight. Speculation abounds as to the causes of Apple’s software slip-ups: The relentless hardware release cycle, epitomized by the annual iPhone release frenzy, is commonly cited, and Mossberg wonders if Apple’s core apps have suffered as Cupertino “pursues big new dreams, like smartwatches and cars.” Regardless, the complaints are increasingly visible. (Hiltzik of the Times points out that it’s unlikely that Apple’s ardent fanbase is about to trash their iPhones and Macs but, “new phone, tablet, and laptop customers may be taking a closer look at alternatives, including Google Android-powered units as well as Microsoft devices, than they might have only a couple of years ago.” If that happens, Hiltzik argues, software will be the reason why.
- Mossberg: Apple’s Apps Need Work—The Verge
- About Walt Mossberg and Apple’s App Problem—The Loop
- Apple Has Lost the Functional High Ground—Marco.org
- Apple’s App Problem—Daring Fireball
- Apple Could Face Lawsuit After Software Update Ruins Some iPhones—Fortune
- Hackers Are Offering Apple Employees in Ireland up to €20,000 for Their Login Details—Business Insider
The Money in Open Source Software—TechCrunch
What it’s about: Battery Ventures executives Max Schireson and Dharmesh Thakker sparked an online controversy with this piece for TechCrunch on the financial opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors in the open source software world. They’ve got the right background for the topic: Schireson is the former CEO of MongoDB, and Thakker was managing director at Intel Capital, where investments included the likes of Cloudera, Red Hat, MongoDB, and other commercial open source firms. It’s not surprising that a missive penned by VCs on how to profit from open source would rub many people in the community the wrong way, given open source’s historical focus on software freedom, innovation, community, and accessibility. But the piece seems to have sparked a full-blown controversy, led by a harsh response from open source thought leader Simon Phipps in a column for InfoWorld that has now spilled over into the comments section of the original TechCrunch piece.
Why you should care: Phipps doesn’t mince words: “If this is how people who could be expected to be experienced and enlightened see open source, the prospects are grim for the rest of the field.” He proceeds to point out what he sees as grievous errors, particularly how Schireson and Thakker characterize the Apache Software Foundation. (ASF exec Shane Curcuru pointed out the error in a comment on the story, and Thakker clarified in a response.) Phipps doesn’t stop there, though, taking issue with the authors’ interpretation of open source licensing and other issues. Thakker’s general response is that Phipps’ ultimately missed the point of their post: They’re offering advice to CEOs and entrepreneurs on leveraging financial opportunities in open source. Phipps’ reply, via a comment on the TechCrunch post: “Far from missing the point that you are offering advice to startup CEOs, [I’m] suggesting the worldview from which your advice is originating does not recognise that open source is anchored on software freedom, collaboration, and an absence of monopolisation.” The debate is sure to engender plenty more responses, publicly and privately, and it speaks to just how important open source software has become and the dramatic changes the movement has undergone over the years.
What it’s about: The mobile app economy will swell past $100 billion in annual revenue in 2020, according to the latest App Forecast from App Annie. That means spending on mobile apps will nearly double during the next five years, up from an expected $51 billion in 2016. Low-cost Android phones and data plans in emerging global markets will drive much of that growth, the report says, while established markets like the U.S. will see tapering device adoption growth but rising app usage and corresponding revenue increases, according to the report. App Annie’s forecast figures to provide more evidence of the app as consumers’ go-to interface online, even though other reports suggest that declarations of the mobile Web’s demise might be premature (paywall at link). That debate aside, mobile app downloads and usage appear set for another explosion among global consumers, welcome news for plenty of stakeholders in the app economy.
Why you should care: It’s not easy to make money with mobile apps these days, but at least developers will be competing for slices of a much larger pie. App Annie’s report notes that games will continue to gobble the largest slice, but also predicts non-games revenue will quadruple by 2020, accounting for more than 25% of app store spending. Moreover, increasing app usage after the initial app store download in categories such as shopping and transportation “strongly suggests that advertising and commerce will form a significant proportion of economic activity in the app ecosystem beyond the $101 billion we are projecting in store sales.” In other words, even that whopping $101 billion figure doesn’t capture the full economic value of mobile apps.
Android developers might perk up at another key finding: Combined spending across Google Play and third-party Android app stores will surpass iOS App Store revenues for the first time in 2017, App Annie says, thanks to the same macrofactors driving overall growth: skyrocketing adoption of low-cost Android phones in emerging markets.
- The App Forecast—App Annie
- The App Economy Could Double to $101 Billion by 2020—VentureBeat
- App Annie: China to Surpass U.S. App Economy in 2016—AndroidHeadlines
- Onboarding: Do Your Users Understand Your App?—Untitled Kingdom
- As Mobile Apps for Employees Proliferate, CIOs Get Involved—TechTarget
Education IT: Hot Tech Trends to Watch—InformationWeek
What it’s about: Cloud, mobile, big data, and a host of related technologies and trends are enabling massive transformations and disruptions across just about every industry, and education is no exception. And just like in the corporate and government sectors, there’s no one-size-fits-all mold in education IT environments: public schools have different needs than private institutions, and K-12 priorities don’t match those of higher education. So while the fundamental technologies might be similar, the nuances and challenges for education IT tend to be different: “Whether the educational system enlightens grade school kids or university students, the knowledge imparted needs to encompass technology—both its use and the resources it provides,” writes Esther Schindler in InformationWeek. “As a result, educational IT departments have challenges that don’t precisely match those in typical enterprise computing departments.”
Why you should care: Great, easy-to-use software and accessible data hold enormous, but not fully realized promise in educational settings. iPads in the classroom, for example, are only as valuable as the experiences and information they deliver. And such experiences and information must show up appropriately according to age, language, and a host of other factors. Meanwhile, mobile and cloud are changing the very appearance of the classroom itself. “The days of computer labs with rows of screens waiting on students are slowly disappearing for both traditional and non-traditional students,” Jim Freyburger, South University’s associate chancellor for information technology, tells Schindler. Instead, new approaches such as flipped classrooms enabled by cloud- and mobile-delivered video streams, for example, are becoming more common. Schindler also notes that the move toward cloud and other technologies often requires a cultural shift, one that can be especially difficult for educational institutions not accustomed to rapid change. Similarly, budget issues make it difficult for schools to compete for the next generations of IT pros.
- The Case for Teaching Your Kids to Code—Fast Company
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