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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.

And elaborates:

In 2014, there will be great urgency in this battle for developers: IDC predicts that by 2017, 80 percent or more of new cloud solutions (and developers) will be hosted on (and aligned with) the top six of these competing platforms.

Finally, IDC concludes:

New apps — and the data generated by, and associated with, those apps — will fuel the growth of the third platform for the next decade and beyond. IDC predicts that over the next four years, we'll see a tenfold growth in the number of "apps" in the cloud, driven by a tripling of the number of "developers"/contributors to cloud app ecosystems.

Appealing to Developers Less About Perks, More About Systemic Change

The reality of this developer-forward IT world hit home to me in recent discussions with two companies. These are large enterprises in traditional industries. Notwithstanding this, both companies have restructured IT and their approach to applications in order to accelerate the pace of application delivery — because, despite being well-established companies, they see innovative new entrants designing new solutions to address their core market and recognize they need to fight fire with fire. Merely expecting customers to continue to do business with them due to habit or "brand" is a recipe for irrelevance and long-term failure.

The two enterprises have three things in common:

  • A change in application architectures. The cliché of the moment is microservices, but the reality is that companies are moving away from monolingual large footprint software stacks. Loosely coupled application topologies are the hallmark of Web-scale companies. The new applications these traditional IT organizations build look more like Netflix or Pinterest and less like three-tier monoliths.
  • A new breed of employee. I was struck by how different these employees looked; they wouldn't be out of place in a SoMa startup. If you want to build next-generation applications, upgrading your existing skill set is a long slog.
  • A move away from traditional software suppliers. Those vendors, despite lip service to the modern methods of software design and operation, continue to churn out incremental upgrades to decade-old (or, more accurately, two-decades-old) software products to keep the maintenance revenue stream flowing. Innovation in IT has shifted decisively to open source; these companies want to take advantage of that, whether existing vendors provide it or not.

Now, depending on your perspective, you may find this discussion nothing more than hyperbole. Certainly, you would have found few adherents to this perspective at the recent VMworld; there, incremental change was the attendee watchword.

However, it's getting harder and harder to maintain this attitude. The defensiveness with which VMworld dismissed public cloud computing indicates that attendees see tremendous enthusiasm for it in their colleagues and customers. Infrastructure groups worry about what the future looks like — and what they should do if disruptive innovation is the future and not gradual improvement.

 

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