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The coming war for developers

Bernard Golden | Oct. 15, 2014
In March, I discussed IDC's 2014 forecast. This unusually dramatic set of predictions based on what IDC refers to as the third platform, a confluence of cloud computing, mobile devices and applications, social media and big data.

In March, I discussed IDC's 2014 forecast. This unusually dramatic set of predictions based on what IDC refers to as the third platform, a confluence of cloud computing, mobile devices and applications, social media and big data.

Atypically for analyst forecasts, which are usually couched in obscure terminology and irrefutable vagueness, IDC's discussion of the third platform is vivid and stark. It portrays an IT world of upheaval, with incumbents threatened and a new generation of vendors coming to the fore. The forecast could be summarized as a clarion call for change — with a gloomy prognosis for those who fail to jump to the third platform.

Nothing I've seen in the ensuing months has made me question my judgment that this forecast represents the most accurate portrayal of the unprecedented change happening in IT that I've seen anywhere.

One specific prediction I didn't address in my March column is IDC's statement that we'll shortly witness a war for developers as the market consolidates on a few cloud providers and technologies. IDC states that, in the struggle to establish dominance, cloud providers will do everything they can to attract the largest developer pool they can, as that will inevitably presage the victors in the cloud provider wars.

Most of the industry hasn't yet cottoned on to the reality of how important developers are (although Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst has apparently seen the light). This year's VMWorld, for example, seemed entirely focused on infrastructure, with developers seemingly treated as an afterthought. The important discussion occurs in the kitchen, so to speak, with diners little more than passive recipients of whatever the cooks decide to serve.

Developers Set IT Agenda

I can't begin to describe how wrong this is. Stephen O'Grady, one of the principals at the small but influential analyst firm RedMonk, depicts what's really happening in The New Kingmakers. His thesis: Developers are becoming more influential — and, in fact, set the agenda for IT via early decisions during the application design and architecture phase. This is because developers are directly associated with applications, which is where all of the business value of IT lives. Everything else is a necessary evil required to deliver application functionality.

The IDC report puts it this way:

"Developers, developers, developers, developers!" (thank you, Steve Ballmer) will be the most strategic mantra for third platform competitors in 2014 — for the next two decades, the biggest winners in the industry will be those that can capture the hearts and minds of this next generation of innovators over the next two years. Miss the developers, miss the market.

IDC continues:

In 2014 and 2015, we'll see a battle for developers play out in the cloud, much like the one between Android, iOS and Windows for mobile apps and developers. Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Google, IBM, Oracle, SAP, Pivotal (formed by EMC and VMware), HP and others know that new cloud apps will fuel the industry's growth, and these platform players want developers to host their innovative new apps and solutions on their PaaS/marketplace.

 

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