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This Year In Modern Software: Cloud, Mobile, Containers, DevOps, and More

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This Year In Modern Software: Cloud, Mobile, Containers, DevOps, and More

Cloud has finally begun to dominate the software landscape, along with the mainstream arrival of containers and DevOps.

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Welcome to the first annual edition of This Year in Modern Software (TYiMS), a recap and analysis of the top trends revealed in This Week in Modern Software (TWiMS), our regular weekly breakdown of the need-to-know news, stories, and events of interest surrounding the software and analytics industries.

Not surprisingly, for this year’s top overall trend, we look to the cloud:

TYiMS Top Trends:

Clouds Dominate the Software Landscape

What happened: It seemed hardly a week went by in 2015 without important new developments on the cloud computing front. The cloud was by far the single most frequently cited software trend in our inaugural year of The Week in Modern Software. The stories came constantly: Eye-popping momentum for AWS, new battles in the price wars, new players like Alibaba reportedly entering the public cloud fray, feverish interest in containerization and microservices architecture (more on that below), thoughtful opinion pieces on the state of cloud computingheck, even Oracle trumpeted the cloud at its recent OpenWorld event. But Amazon Web Services’ giant re:Invent conference offered a good temperature check in October, and it was scorching. SVP Andy Jassy used his keynote to tout 81% year-over-year growth for AWS, with a million active customers and a $7.3 billion annual run rate. And that’s just one platform, albeit the biggest one. We wrote at the time: “If last year’s AWS re:Invent conference was about establishing AWS as a mainstream option for enterprise IT, this year’s event in Las Vegas was about making AWS (and by extension, the cloud) the clear option for enterprise CIOs and their teams.”

Why it matters in 2016: The cloud’s best is yet to come as innovations and technologies mature and push farther into mainstream use. For all of AWS’ impressive growth, it’s mind-boggling to imagine what those numbers might look like three or five or ten years from now. (Hint: Bigger. A lot bigger.) But the cloud’s implications and use cases are even broader. In a recent edition of TWiMS, we included several of our favorite tech predictions for 2016. At the top of Eric Knorr’s enterprise tech forecast for InfoWorld: “Cloud native shapes the future.” Knorr said that cloud-native, containerized apps built on microservices architectures have inherent advantages over “monolithic” applicationsadvantages that most organizations have barely begun to tap. With more tools to do so and growing experience and maturity in software development practices such as DevOps (more on that below, too), the cloud isn’t a 2015 software storyit’s just a software story. In fact, Knorr kicked off his predictions column by citing InfoWorld contributor David Linthicum’s suggestion in an October piece: Maybe it’s time we stop calling it “cloud computing” and just call it what it is: “computing.”

Further reading: 

Containers & Microservices Prep for their Star Turn

cloud containerWhat happened: While cloud and mobile continued to dominate the software headlines in 2015, two related phenomena also drew lots of attention: Containers and microservices. One story in particular seemed to capture the industry fervor over containers (and, by extension, the microservices architecture they house): The creation of the Open Containers Initiative, backed by some of the biggest names in tech. OCI calls for the creation of open standards around containers to help unlock their full potential; the group noted that Docker had become the de facto standard as a result of its popularity, but noted “there is widespread interest in a more formal, open, industry specification, which is not bound to higher level constructs such as a particular client or orchestration stack nor tightly associated with any particular commercial vendor or project portable across a wide variety of operating systems, hardware, CPU architectures, public clouds, etc.”

On the microservices front, Sequoia Capital partner Matt Miller penned an October op-ed piece for CIO Journal titled “Innovate or Die: The Rise of Microservices.” Here was one of our key takeaways at the time: “The most compelling evidence for the rise and staying power of microservices—and related tech like containers—is tucked into Miller’s final paragraph: Adoption is driven by the folks who actually write the code, not by industry hype or executive edict.”

Why it matters in 2016: If 2015 was the year of testing and due diligence for containers and microservices, 2016 should be a high-growth period for implementation in production environments, aided by growing ecosystems around Docker and CoreOS, including more tools for managing the complexity that comes with containerization. Just recently, for example, Network World’s Brandon Butler reported on how financial giants Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have big plans for containers in the next stages of their respective cloud-driven technology transformations. The momentum seems to build week to week, with CIO Journal’s Rachael King dubbing Google’s Kubernetes, one option for managing clusters of containers, “an open-source hit” in late November. Will 2016 be the Year of the Container? We wouldn’t bet against it.

Further reading: 

DevOps Hits Stride En Route to Maturity

What happened: DevOps can be easier said than done. Mature DevOps organizations realize that its practices require investing in the right tools, processes, and culture—and those efforts continued to pay off in 2015. That was underscored by Puppet Labs’ fourth annual State of DevOps Report, published in partnership with Gene Kim’s IT Revolution. While there’s still some skepticism about DevOps—understandable given the sustained hype around it—the findings speak for themselves. Here’s what we said about Puppet’s report when it was released this summer:

“It continues to find strong correlations between DevOps practices and IT performance, with high-performing technology teams deploying 30 times faster with 200 times shorter lead times than their lower-performing peers. This is improving stability and reliability, not undermining it: High-performing IT teams experience 60 times fewer failures; when failure does occur—and it always does—these organizations recover 168 times faster. This year’s report also digs into the impacts of lean management and continuous delivery (hint: they’re great), diversity in tech (it improves organizational intelligence), and employee burnout (DevOps can help there, too).”

Why it matters in 2016: Puppet’s report also suggests that we’re still early in terms of DevOps’ impact on enterprise software, with many organizations just beginning to re-examine their legacy development, testing, deployment, and infrastructure approaches in the modern era. In other words: There’s plenty more to come in 2016 and beyond. Expect lots more discussion—and more momentum—of DevOps in the enterprise. Just last week, TWiMS included a piece from The Enterprisers Project on setting a DevOps mindset for 2016. And over at Tech Republic, Conner Forrest asked, “Will 2016 be the year to make or break DevOps?” We’d vote: “Make.” It’s clear that DevOps is not some one-off fad: rather, it’s a high-level indicator of just how massively both software development and operations has changed in recent years.

Further reading:

Apple’s Enterprise Ambitions

What happened: Mobility continued to reshape the modern software landscape, and Apple remains one of mobile’s most important players. But the biggest news wasn’t necessarily a new iPhone (there was one) or a supersized iPad (there was one of those, too), or even iOS 9 or Swift going open source. Those things were all noteworthy, but it was this earnings-call nugget from CEO Tim Cook that stuck with us: Apple raked in $25 billion in enterprise sales in 2015, a 40% jump from the previous year. The consumer darling has been steadily building out its partnerships with corporate heavyweights like IBM and Cisco, and it has long benefitted from the sweeping impacts of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) era. But Cook’s comments indicated Apple’s enterprise plans are far greater than most anticipated.

Why it matters in 2016: It may seem a tad, uh, obvious to declare that Apple will matter in 2016. But the company’s enterprise efforts bear further watching. For starters, growing OS X use in the workplace could spell untapped potential for enterprise software developers, as well as another vote for cloud apps that don’t particularly care about OSes or devices. We’re still skeptical that Apple can really unseat Microsoft Windows as the default OS in many offices, but OS X is only part of the picture. The rapid uptake of iOS 9 generated several thought-provoking takes on Apple’s role in corporate IT going forward. Network World’s Jon Gold wondered whether iOS 9—more so than any enterprise-specific Apple program—and its workplace-friendly feature set will be Apple’s best sales pitch inside the corporate environment. Meanwhile, Techpinions’ Tim Bajarin rolled out an even loftier suggestion: iOS, not OS X, could become the dominant enterprise OS as the millennial generation ascends the corporate ladder. Both predictions point to the permanent impact of mobile across the technology landscape.

Further reading:

The Feds Embrace Digital Transformation

ClintonRooseveltRoomWhat happened: In June, Fast Company published an in-depth profile of a super-important stealth startup that had largely stayed out of the tech limelight. But it wasn’t a hot new app backed by VC billions. It was President Obama’s fledgling but rapidly growing “geek squad,” a team of technologists and Silicon Valley veterans with a goal far bigger than optimizing pet food delivery: remaking the digital infrastructure, services, and processes of the entire federal government. It’s an exceedingly tall order with challenges to match, from suffocating red tape (it is the federal government, after all) to budgets (tech companies pay better). But as we wrote back then, “Its mission is both noble and necessary, and the appeal of working on major problems with enormous public impacts appears to be working.” Indeed, the government’s tech transformation has continued to grow and evolve, from the military to Data.gov to the U.S. Digital Service’s teams embedded in a wide array of federal agencies.

Why it matters in 2016: We can all look forward to an ongoing evolution of the federal government’s technology strategy and culture, borrowing pages from Silicon Valley’s playbook—and people from its talent pool. But 2016 will add an enormous new variable to the equation: It’s President Obama’s final year in office, and following November’s presidential election, there’ll be a new boss in town. White House changeovers always include considerable turnover at federal agencies, especially in the upper echelons. As Fast Company noted in its June piece, the two-plus-year-old U.S. Digital Service has until the end of 2016—the end of the Obama administration—to hit its recruitment goal of 500 people. Indeed, Wired’s November profile noted that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s own tech ambitions for the military are super-charged by the fact that he’ll almost certainly be looking for another job at the end of 2016. Technology won’t be one of the hot-button issues on the campaign trail, but it certainly bears monitoring.

Further reading: 

Artificial Intelligence Gets Smarter

What happened: Artificial intelligence isn’t new, of course, but the final quarter of 2015 brought a slew of stories that point to AI’s increasing reality. Facebook and Google, especially, seemed locked in an announcement competition over the past several months, from the former’s MemNets system to the latter’s reveal of “RankBrain,” a machine learning system interpreting a “very large fraction” of its search queries, first reported by Bloomberg. With both companies and a slew of other organizations and individuals, including tech luminaries like Reid Hoffman, investing increasing attention and resources in AI, we could be on the cusp of major breakthroughs.

Why it matters in 2016: AI-related developments promise to vie with containers, microservices, and the rest of the field for “hottest” topic of 2016. What’s particularly fascinating—aside from fears of our new robot overlords—is that we’re not even really scratching the surface of AI’s potential. As HAX partners Cyril Ebersweiler and Duncan Turner said in their year-end robotics report for TechCrunch, AI is still “quite dumb.” (In fact, as we’ve noted before, much of what’s being called “AI” today probably doesn’t satisfy the purists.) It appears AI’s most immediate mainstream impacts will be in how we interact—or in some cases, don’t interact—with software and user interfaces. We might increasingly farm out to machines mundane tasks like responding to email, for example, or get help understanding what we’re reading or looking at, as in the MemNets example. Expect AI to play an increasing role in personal-assistant apps, too, with the likes of Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Facebook’s M all vying to leverage AI in various ways.

Further reading:

BONUS: What Is Code?Bloomberg Businessweek

man coding: this week in modern softwareWhat happened: It wasn’t a trend, exactly, but back in June, Paul Ford’s mammoth 38,000-word interactive essay won the Internet. With a mix of brilliant insight and spot-on humor, Ford managed to explain exactly what software developers do and why it matters so very much. If you didn’t read it then, take the time and read it now. If you already checked it out, do yourself a solid and read it again. You’ll be glad you did.

Why it matters in 2016: Because even as it increasingly dominates their lives, plenty of smart people still don’t fully understand what software is, what it does, and how it’s made. Even software developers can learn a lot about how their work fits into the real world from this piece. As we said at the time: “This is a tour de force that’s likely to be passed around and discussed for a long time to come.” Let’s make sure that happens.

Want to suggest something that we should cover in the next edition of TWiMS? Email us at blog@newrelic.com.

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 special guests hash out the implications of the most interesting TWiMS stories, and then dive deep into a specific topic. Listen to episode 4to find out about the special software needs of non-profitsor subscribe on iTunes to make sure you never miss an episode.

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Topics:
devops ,cloud ,containers ,microservices

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