2016 was a volatile year for everything, it seems. While the galaxy of human attention continues to reorganize around the supermassive black hole of the internet, dark webs are also exerting influence that we are only now discovering. Sometimes it seems that polarization permeates every pore, meanness dominates every mode of discourse – and that’s just deciding which news to read.
Which leads me to ask, as I did a year ago – what hope do we really have of anticipating trends and shifts in the future of outsourced software development? Even if we could, would they be interesting?
Focusing on the positive, and confident that no one actually read last year’s post except the folks in our marketing department, I have selected three things I feel like talking about in the world where I work – building software for businesses.
More Cloud – the Albatross of Hardware
Speaking of supermassive black holes, AWS continues to make it seem silly for companies without truly massive computing needs – like, telco or NSA-level – to ever buy a shared computer. To switch metaphors, the war is over, now it’s time to win the peace, by which I mean help resettle the millions of lines of business logic and zettabytes of enterprise data that remain stranded in data centers and colos around the world.
AWS and Azure seem destined to extend their twin-titan duopoly, as they convert ever-larger parts of the IT function into a monthly invoice. AWS is delivering this model for high-level services like Redshift, a cloud-native data warehouse that makes building your own – even atop AWS instances – sort of like raising sheep to make your own clothes.
The raw economics will make “lift and shift” a nice niche over the next couple of years. Look to see this facilitated by financial products like wholesale cloud capacity as an asset – inventory for resale, or for financial engineering purposes.
It will take a longer software refresh cycle to see enterprises finally abandoning the low-level instances-snapshots-and-volumes pastures and moving up the cloud stack in large numbers. Virtualization is still in the 100-flowers age: there isn’t consensus on the patterns that will end up dominating.
More Data – Party like it’s 1999.
More Cloud makes More Data possible. We should be living the golden age of data mining, chomping through seams of detail-rich information and pitching up diamonds of insight by the cartload. After all, anyone with a laptop and a credit card can rent enough horsepower to start searching Mars for more human faces.
But the data millennium has not yet arrived – although the rise of auto-targeted ad networks with real-time bidding may seem like a sign of impending apocalypse. Chase’s discovery that 5,000 sites work as well as 400,000 seems to imply that there is still some room for optimization.
It’s like Java and Linux in 1999 – it’s clear that some kind of revolution is underway, but what will become the new paradigm is still unclear. AWS and Azure have an impressive array of building block choices, but there’s still a good chance that by the time you get them put together another approach will be all the rage. And you’ll be able to complete the implementation while you’re waiting for that query to run.
Less Security – oh, sorry – did I mean privacy?
From black-hat hacking to it’s-perfectly-legal little-list-making by every acronym from NSA to ISP to ACA, every electron you push through your Wifi is ripe for the picking. Not only that, but the next generation of devices isn’t waiting for you to expose yourself – Alexa and Hey Google and Siri are listening every second, your phone is blasting your whereabouts to friends, fans, marketers, and pranksters worldwide, and now your thermostats, garage-door-motor, and baby’s Legos have all become double agents.
This will drive the trend toward less-revealing cyberwear – trading off some of the ultra-convenience on offer for a bit less unwanted companionship. Incognito browsing, Tor-for-the-hardcore, and a no-cookie diet are becoming mainstream and will continue to do so. Since relying on a password now seems like leaving your car unlocked, two-factor authentication and password managers will become nail-salon chatter. Not in 2018, but in another, happier future, your home technology will be set up by a licensed worker obeying some simple, standard, basic techniques to keep you secure and private – like your plumber. Hope it doesn’t start leaking on the weekend.
A word of caution when making predictions: Looking back on last year’s U.S. political pontification, I would remind the folks in our marketing department that predictions from 2016 often do not pan out.