Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our regular roundup of the most important things happening in the world of software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and related topics.
This week, our top story concerns the impact of VMware’s busy week at its VMworld 2015 user conference on cloud, virtualization, and containers.
TWiMS Top Story:
3 Top Takeaways From VMworld 2015—Tech Republic
What it’s about: VMware’s annual VMworld conference entertained more than 23,000 people in San Francisco this week. There was no shortage of news and product announcements, of course—nor the subsequent takeaways and perspectives about what it all means for cloud, virtualization, mobile, containers, and more. Conner Forrest at TechRepublic, for example, reports that “two main announcements signified VMware’s push to integrate containers—VMware vSphere Integrated Containers and the VMware Photon Platform.” On the cloud front, Network World’s Brandon Butler writes that even as VMware competes with the public cloud and builds out its own cloud offerings, it wants to provide a management platform for multiple cloud providers: “VMware President and COO Carl Eschenbach said at VMworld: ‘It’s not like we have our heads in the sand.… We want to be a purveyor of automating workloads across multiple clouds.’”
Why you should care: Containers and the cloud are potentially disruptive technologies for server virtualization—and many observers were looking to VMworld for VMware’s response. While some saw pushback on cloud “hype,” Forrest gives credit to VMware for embracing the container challenge. As for the cloud, there seems to be little doubt that helping users to manage their workloads across multiple cloud platforms is an important goal, but Butler warns that these capabilities are still “nascent” for the entire industry.
- Everything Announced at VMworld 2015—VentureBeat
- A Dozen Takeaways From VMworld 2015—Network World
- How VMware Aims to Distinguish Itself in the Cloud—Network World
What it’s about: The Apple rumor mill was working overtime this week in advance of the big Apple event slated for the middle of next week. Among the hottest speculation: A new iPhone 6s, a new (and more expensive) Apple TV that includes Siri voice control, and a possible payoff on the rumors of a “supersized” iPad, aka the iPad Pro—though multiple outlets suggest the latter may not actually be a part of the September 9 announcement. And, hey! There was actual news from Apple this week, as the company continued its enterprise push with a newpartnership with Cisco, which follows previous deals with IBM, MobileIron, and VMware’s AirWatch.
Why you should care: We’ll have to get back to you next week after the actual announcement, but any time a new iPhone comes out, it’s a big deal for mobile developers. And even if the iPad Pro gets left backstage, the event is likely to spawn the next round of speculation about what, exactly, the iPad Pro will be. In the meantime, the Cisco deal represents yet another influential friend to help Apple maximize its quiet but quite large enterprise business. As ZDNet’s Joe McKendrick notes, Apple already holds plenty of sway in corporations thanks to the rising popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies that let end users enjoy Apple devices. Rather, these partnerships seem designed to help enterprise IT satisfy the application and infrastructure requirements created by user demand for Apple devices.
- New Apple TV Will Steal the Show From iPhone 6s at September Event—Popular Science
- Roundup: iPhone 6S Rumors—MacRumors
- Apple Teams Up With Cisco, Expanding Corporate-Sales Push—Bloomberg
- Apple Has Occupied the Enterprise for Some Time; It’s Just Making It Formal—ZDNet
What it’s about: The future of online video got a big boost this week as a murderers’ row of tech firms—Netflix, Google, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Amazon—announced they’re banding together to work on a new royalty-free, open source video codec. The group, working under the banner of Alliance for Open Media, promises to build a single, standard codec that’s both open and free—which would be a considerable change from the Wild West landscape of streaming video formats today, a situation that potentially threatens large, commercial video providers as well as nonprofit or open source video users.
Why you should care: The software community and broader technology universe is no stranger to patents and patent litigation, but online video has been a particularly thorny category. This summer, for example, Ars Technica reported on the creation of a new patent group, HEVC Advance, vowing to charge royalties on the new HEVC codec designed to slash bandwidth consumption for video streaming or enable higher resolution formats, such as 4K streaming offered by Netflix and others. Mozilla CTO David Bryant wrote in a blog post that patent review and analysis is one of the biggest roadblocks for open video codecs—and one of the biggest drivers behind the alliance’s formation. “The Alliance provides a venue for us to share the legal legwork without having to worry about it being used against us down the road,” Bryant said. “That distributes the load, allows us to innovate faster and cheaper, and gives everyone more confidence that we are really producing a royalty-free codec.”
- Alliance for Open Media Established to Deliver Next-Generation Open Media Formats—Alliance for Open Media
- Google, Microsoft, and Other Tech Giants Team Up to Create Next-Gen Video Codec—The Verge
- New Patent Group Threatens to Derail 4K HEVC Video Streaming—Ars Technica
- Forging an Alliance for Royalty-Free Video—The Mozilla Blog
On the Farm: Startups Put Data in Farmers’ Hands—The Wall Street Journal
What it’s about: “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O, and on his farm he had lots of data, E-I-E-I-O.” The Wall Street Journal recaps how some farmers are now harvesting data from their fields, equipment, and elsewhere in their operations to boost crop yields, control costs, and potentially create new revenue streams. While some of the biggest names in agribusiness have been investing heavily in technology solutions for farmers, a slew of new startups aim to give farmers more control over their information and how it gets used.
Why you should care: Visibility into data and control over how it’s used may be especially important to farmers as they begin implementing new software, sensors, and other technologies to be able to analyze data about everything from fertilizer application to crop production. That’s because the data won’t necessarily be used just to grow better crops or trim farming costs: Startups like Granular and Farmobile may also launch platforms that enable farmers to resell their data to commodities traders, farm equipment manufacturers, and other interests—which raises the usual debates about data ownership, monetization, and privacy. The next time you’re at the grocery store, you might wonder, How much data is on these shelves?
What it’s about: Speaking of data-driven business strategy: famous data guy Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight laid out his vision for a strong one at the recent HP Big Data Conference in Boston, and TechTarget’s Ed Burns has the recap. Silver, perhaps best known for the uncanny accuracy of his political predictions in presidential and U.S. Senate elections, says the current lack of standards and industry-wide best practices is hampering smart, data-driven decision-making in many companies today because it engenders biases. In other words, we coax our analyses to show us what we want to see, rather than what we should actually be paying attention to.
Why you should care: Silver noted that data visualizations may be especially susceptible to bias and misinterpretation, often because we stuff in too much information, making them more difficult to decipher. While Silver says it’s still the early days for the data-driven business, he offers a key recommendation for organizations frustrated with their efforts to become more analytical: Quantify data’s role in corporate decision-making processes and don’t define it as “100%.” Instead, consider setting data’s input into decision-making at, say, 80%, with the rest of the decision-making authority placed in human hands—this allows for a “reality check” that can help identify and correct for bias or bad data.
What Qualifies as a Tech Company, Anyway?—Yahoo Finance
What it’s about: Just how integral has software become to modern businesses? One indication is that the line between “technology company” and any other kind of business is being blurred to invisibility. Even Wall Street stock pickers are no longer sure what distinguishes a tech firm from a company in any other industry. For instance, the largest tech fund, the $11 billion Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF, doesn’t own Amazon or Netflix shares—but it does own Western Union, which was founded in 1851. “Decades ago, a tech company pretty much meant one that made computers, computing equipment and software. But now the designation is more a judgment call,” writes Michael Santoli for Yahoo Finance.
Why you should care: When even buttoned-down Wall-Streeters realize “how blurred the definition of a tech company has become in a time when nearly all businesses define themselves as one and software and digital communication are at the core of modern economies,” as Santoli notes, you know things are changing. New Relic likes to say that “every business is a software business,” and soon enough the idea may be baked into our everyday understanding of how all organizations operate. That seems to be what Santoli is getting at when he concludes, “Don’t tell the index providers, but there might come a time when the label ‘technology’ becomes so broadly applicable that it becomes pretty much irrelevant.” For an increasing numbers of companies that time is, well, now.
- To Run a Software Business, You Need a Software Analytics Platform—New Relic blog
- 5 Drivers of Enterprise IT Innovation—New Relic Blog