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2012 Dev Predictions: Hello DevOps and Cloud, Goodbye Single-Language Programmers

Scanning the 2012 horizon with Martin Schneider, research manager at 451 Research, it's hard not to feel excited about the coming year. Schneider, who covers core business applications, app platforms, and next-gen data systems for the enterprise IT analyst firm, expects to see an acceleration of a number of trends that have been gaining momentum over the past few years. Chief among them: the rise of DevOps.

"We're starting to see a confluence and crunching together of systems," Schneider said. "Which is good, because it takes a lot of the work out of managing application system, and a lot of time out of building them. What we're seeing with the cloud, open source and SaaS (as it relates to the cloud) is a lot less that has to be bought from a component perspective, and a lot more freedom for developers."

 But, he added, because of the cloud, the relationship of developers to the systems they build is evolving.

"When you build clouds and use cloud components," he said, "you don't just develop anymore; you develop and maintain. These things become living systems, and developers need to understand the use case a little better. They need to get comfortable with the idea of maintaining applications, rather than just building features and functionality. The operational aspect needs to be taken into consideration much more than ever before."

Schneider also agrees with other industry prognosticators that we're entering the age of the polyglot programmer.

"We've seen this already, but I think it's a trend that's going to come to a head," he said. "What sometimes gets missed is that developers going to be expected to know more arcane languages, such as Erlang, which has been popping up regularly over the past 24 months. As we get into highly asynchronous, cloud-based, distributed systems, where you need to write one platform that runs on your desktop, your mobile, and your tablet, you need to know these [kinds of languages], because they're more scalable and cloud-friendly. And not many people do. Right now, there are only a few thousand people in the world that you could call Erlang experts."

"It's smart for the developers to understand this trend now, because it means they'll be able to make more money," he added. "But the important thing to keep in mind is, the days of, Oh, I'm a Java guy, are over. I think 2012 is the beginning of the end of that."

Also, in 2012, developers are going to have to begin thinking like database administrators, Schneider said.

"The cloud changes the way we leverage data," he said. "It's distributed, it's highly scalable. The structured relational model doesn't work in the cloud. The licensing is too strict, it's too expensive, it's too inflexible, it's out of date. Developers need to think about data even more. We've seen that as you see people build for things like Twitter, but I think it's going to explode, because everybody is starting to need to scale the way Twitter does. Business want to get value out of these Terabytes of information that they before they kind of ignored. Developers are going to be asked to start building applications that understand, accept, consume and get value out of all these data."

Finally, the user experience: "Gen Y is starting to use business and consumer applications at a level that no other generation ever did. And they expect the experience to be consistent whether they're at work, at home, working on their laptops, their tablets, or their phones. And that creates a challenge for developers."

Schneider believes that developers are beginning to "get the user experience at a different level," he added. And one spark of a trend he expects to generate some heat in the enterprise in 2012 is the application of BtoC tools, such as loyalty programs and gamifcation (think Zynga).

"It's the idea of pulling people in immediately and helping them to unlock the power of the application, so they become the 'power user' inside an organization," he said. "You drive much more value and lifecycle out of your application doing it that way. We're seeing companies like Bunchball and Badgeville trying to bring this into the business world, usually embedded in things like Salesforce.com. But I think we might see a more generic use of that. "You can build the coolest app in the world, but if there isn't an incentive to use it, that's both natural, innate and around the business, people just won't use it."

Posted by John K. Waters on January 17, 2012