Cloud

Containers, cloud, and how developers predict the future of enterprise tech

The things developers embrace today tend to see mainstream enterprise adoption tomorrow.

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Image: iStockphoto/Vladimir_Timofeev

Whether or not you believe Redmonk analyst James Governor's contention that "unleashing engineering talent" is the only real "sustainable business advantage" today, your developers certainly do. They're the ones making your enterprise relevant by building stuff that matters, even as you negotiate that ELA with a tired legacy vendor that can hardly spell cloud, containers, or other words that make developers' lives easier.

Tim O'Reilly has suggested for years that the way to see the future of tech is to pay attention to the alpha geeks, but we don't even have to be that forward-looking to glean insights into the tech trends that are reshaping the enterprise. All we need to do is watch developers.

So, what are these developers telling us?

Convenience is key

After two decades of slogging it out against entrenched vendors, open source has won. Sure, lots of code is developed and/or sold under proprietary licenses, but the trends of cloud, big data, and mobile are all being driven by open source. Perhaps more than any other reason, this is being driven by developer convenience. Enterprises need to move faster, and open source lowers the barrier to getting stuff done.

Ditto the public cloud. Back in 2012, when public cloud adoption was still a big question mark for most enterprises, Redmonk's Stephen O'Grady warned against underestimating "the power of convenience" to drive its adoption. He was right, and today public cloud adoption is growing at a torrid pace compared to the more languid adoption of private clouds (AKA "datacenters dressing in cloud drag") or datacenters.

In this way, developer convenience is completely reshaping how we consume hardware and software. But that's not all.

Packaging the container way

Developers have also decided that containers are an optimal way to package applications. Why? Because as Andrew Clay Shafer declares, "It's the fastest path to developer dopamine." Governor explains:

Docker makes it simple to spin up a container which contains everything needed to run an app—the code itself, the runtimes, systems tools, etc. Develop on your laptop, then in theory deploy to any server. Unlike virtual machines, containers include the application and all of its dependencies, but share the kernel with other containers, an efficient model which maps cleanly to current development thinking in areas such as continuous integration and microservices.

Some suggest that Docker, specifically, and containers, generally, are just a toy; that serious companies don't run serious production workloads within containers. "It's just test and dev!" they cry.

What a ridiculous statement.

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels addressed this sentiment at the AWS Summit in London recently, arguing: "Sometimes, people say dev and test are not serious workloads, but you know what? I think dev and test are the most serious workloads there are for your business, because it is where agility lives, and determines how fast your company can move."

Importantly, those same test and dev workloads today lead to production workloads in the future. Developers help enterprises grow comfortable with new technologies. This happened with open source and cloud, and it's happening with containers.

It's also happening with databases.

The databases developers love

Big data has pushed enterprises to think about their data infrastructure differently. Traditional data warehouses have ceded ground to Hadoop and an associated ecosystem of open source data tooling.

But, if you look at the databases that are really gaining traction within the enterprise, the big movers are NoSQL upstarts like MongoDB, Cassandra, and Redis—each of which ranks in the top-10 databases for popularity. Other open source databases like MySQL and Postgres remain popular, but the big shift is to NoSQL as well as to cloud databases like Amazon Aurora that run as services.

There are literally hundreds of databases to choose from, so why are these standing out? It's the same reason for the rise of open source, cloud, and containers‚developer productivity. The databases that make developers' lives easier are those that are winning.

In sum, if you want to see the future of technology, just look at what developers are congregating around today. It used to be enough to take the CIO out for golf. Not anymore. Today, the way to get code adopted is to put it on GitHub and find ways to encourage developers to embrace it.

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About Matt Asay

Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.

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