Tech education firm O’Reilly has released its annual study of how students used its platform in the past year, and its findings deserve attention from tech decision makers. The report, which combines both usage and search data from O’Reilly’s online learning platform, paints an excellent picture of what’s trending in the tech world. By looking at what those in the trenches of development and engineering are spending time on, leaders can get an idea of what to expect in the year to come.

O’Reilly said it found five trends in its data that tech leaders should be aware of as 2020 unfolds.

1: Python is the most popular programming language

A full 10% of all use of O’Reilly’s online training is spent on Python, making it far and away the most popular programming language—and item—in O’Reilly’s library.

SEE: Python programming language: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The reason for Python’s popularity isn’t because of its perfection as a programming language, but rather because of its importance in machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and data analysis.

As long as AI, ML, and analytics keep trending up, Python will probably do so as well. Tech leaders in those fields should be sure they have skilled Python coders on hand.

If you’re interested in learning Python, you might also check out the Google IT Automation with Python Professional Certificate on Coursera.

2: Software architecture, infrastructure, and operations are undergoing rapid change

O’Reilly found that the way people are learning about, and searching for, architecture, infrastructure, and operations content has shifted in a big way, and the reason is simple: The cloud.

SEE: Cheat sheet: The most important cloud advances of the decade (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“Cloud native design is a new way of thinking about software and architecture,” O’Reilly said in the report. People are now searching for cloud architecture elements like microservices and containers—Kubernetes in particular saw a huge increase in the past two years.

DevOps is on the decline, and O’Reilly finds that it may be because DevOps isn’t scaling as well as it should in many cases. Along with scaling issues, DevOps may not be producing the full-stack developers that it relies on.

SEE: Hiring Kit: Full Stack Developer (TechRepublic Premium)

3: Is interest in AI declining?

AI and ML grew at half the rate they did in 2018, which may seem like a loss of interest, but O’Reilly said that’s actually not the case at all. There have been drops in fields related to ML and AI in 2019, specifically data management and data engineering, but where are those learners going?

“The strength of ML/AI might be less evident in data-specific topics than in other topic areas, such as programming languages, where growing Python usage is—to a large degree—being driven by that language’s usefulness for and applicability to ML.”

SEE: Special report: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4: The cloud’s importance remains clear

Growth in cloud learning continued, albeit at a slower rate. That’s not to say the cloud is getting boring: “This slowdown suggests that cloud as a category has achieved such a large share that (mathematically) any additional growth must occur at a slower rate,” the report said.

In 2019, O’Reilly did see changes in the interest in microservices and Kubernetes.

Current trends in cloud that O’Reilly said this data shows are a loss of distinction between the public and private cloud and the growing importance of microservices as an essential component of cloud-native design.

5: Security, security, security

“If the sustained growth in security usage on O’Reilly is a reliable indicator, it’s possible that security may, finally, be getting the attention it deserves in an increasingly digital world,” the report said.

SEE: Hiring Kit: Security architect (TechRepublic Premium)

Security usage grew significantly in 2019, according to O’Reilly. A lot of people have taken the entry-level Security+ certification test, suggesting non-security specialists are cross training or adding security to their knowledge base.

It’s worth hoping that the growth in security usage is a sign of the growing importance of cybersecurity, but O’Reilly isn’t necessarily taking the sustained increase as a guarantee of change. Instead, it said, this could be an indicator of cyclical security spending after a series of large-profile hacks and breaches.

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