The Breathtaking Future of Software Development -- It's Already Here!

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" -- William Gibson

I recently drove a Tesla for the first time. As a kid that grew up in a car dealership (my father and grandfather both owned one) I grew up with a love of cars, speed, and pushing limits. Driving that Tesla changed everything; as a developer I'm starting to feel a experience a similar set of feelings. Developers love change -- and technology provides a constant stream of bright shiny objects for us to chase. Fortunately we're being blessed by many of these objects to chase lately -- to the point that the current velocity of change _around everything we do_ is starting to take my breath away! I equate it to driving a Tesla at the edge of ludicrous mode; incredibly exciting with the knowledge that one false step means sure peril. The areas that are currently exciting me are:
The Web plumbing is changing. Earlier this year the Internet Archive put out a call to help building the new distributed web. They point to a number of challenges around the current web -- it's fragile, not reliable, not private, and needs a way to keep track of changes over time. Fortunately some early options are appearing about that I'm digging into, particularly Ethereum, IPFS, Blockchain, and HTTP/2. Each of these brings significant change to how we build, deploy, and scale applications.
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Customer-Obsessed Technology Platforms: If You Don't Know, You're Doing IT Wrong

"I don't know about you people, but I don't want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do."
-- Gavin Belson, Silicon Valley
Writing software to make the world a better place -- that's a lofty goal, even for Gavin Belson on the HBO hit comedy, Silicon Valley. Yet why is it that we've spent years doing the exact opposite with software in enterprise IT? We've built applications to simply show data living in our data centers. Have a lot of products to sell? Put them all on a web page! Myriad of services you offer to your customers? Throw them all on that web page too! If they really want our help, they'll figure out what it all means, right?
Unfortunately this is a terrible way to create applications, regardless if it's on the web, mobile, or any other emerging digital channel. The data is good, but we cannot start with our data in mind -- instead we must start with our customers' needs in mind. But why this change and why now? Our customers (and increasingly our employees) are being presented with so many more options from your competitors, both those known today and tomorrow's digital startups. Simply put, the barrier to creating new software solutions is approaching zero. Making this transformation is central to the BT Agenda -- applying technology to win, serve, and retain customers.
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Mobile Development: The 2015 Crystal Ball

Mobile developers change people's lives every single day -- they create innovative experiences, reshape how we spend our time, and give us continual access to Facebook and Twitter (the latter being especially important to the author!). The pace at which these new experiences are delivered continues to amaze, yet continues to speed up. As a recovering enterprise mobile developer myself, I'm always tracking the new tools and technologies that developers are using to maintain this pace and provide new innovation. With that in mind, we've published a report on the mobile development predictions for 2015; the changes that will allow developers to continue to produce amazing innovation at a continually faster rate. We've highlighted 8 in the report, but the ones that are especially exciting to me are:

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Potholes In My Digital Experience! Is The Solution A New Mobile App?

Driving home from the Boston Logan airport in the winter can be an adventure. Fortunately, local governments have set up a means for reporting one of the perils — potholes. I know this because an overhead digital sign told me the number to call if I saw one. I appreciate the opportunity to help out, but the inefficiencies in this system make me cringe! If I see a pothole, I have to remember where it was until I have a chance to write it down. I also have to remember the nearest cross-street or landmark to help crews identify the proper location. And if I come across a second pothole before writing down all the first information? No chance I remember either. Does anyone remember playing the telephone game as kids? This is the modern version.

Many of our clients call with a similar challenge — how do we modernize manual processes for a digital/mobile world? With that in mind, how are many solving this today?

Create a mobile app. Mobile first! Everything is mobile these days, so let's jump on that train! While this is a good start, it’s important to understand the context of the user. There’s a good chance they’re using the GPS app on their phone to find the optimal way home. To use a new app, I have to go to the app list, find the new “Report Pothole” app, wait for it to initialize, and then report the incident. By then I’m no longer at the physical location and thus haven’t solved much of the manual problem. Solving this requires a better first step…

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Enterprise Mobile Development: Embrace APIs Or Dig Your Grave

You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. — Morpheus, The Matrix
Mobile development, like Morpheus in The Matrix, offers two options: Take the blue pill and assume that mobile is just another screen size to front ends that we’ve already created. Take the red (with me) and understand that mobile changes not just the front end, but your entire technology stack! Ready to look down the rabbit hole?
A new supply/demand paradigm is driving enterprise architects and application development professionals to a technology inflection point. The demand is for mobile apps — consumers have an insatiable appetite for more apps, developed and updated at breakneck speeds that deliver mind-blowing experiences. And the mobile app consumers aren’t just external — they’re also employees and business partners. As app-dev pros, where do we turn to supply this growing demand? Application programming interfaces, better known as APIs.
Before we get into details of this challenge in the real world, I’ll promote my four-tier architecture that looks at this API layer within the entire technology stack used to support your mobile efforts. You’ll find it in my report Mobile Needs A Four-Tier Engagement Platform.
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Delivering Mobile Innovation: Watch Out For Roadblocks!

I’m often asked how to enable corporate mobile innovation. While important, equally important are knowing what roadblocks you’ll hit when implementing a mobile strategy that highlights your innovation. From an application development and delivery perspective, the three that I focus on are:

  • Time-to-market requirements. Rarely do I talk to a client and hear “We need a mobile app in the next 12 to 18 months.” Instead, most want them yesterday. Successful mobile projects now take roughly four months to complete; many come in shorter than that. Fitting into this schedule requires your development cycle teams (requirements, design, dev, and test) to all work together on the same schedule. Reducing the traditional friction between these teams is a combination of better cross-discipline tooling (think Adobe Photoshop working directly with Edge Reflow and Edge Inspect) and better communication. The tooling is coming — start working on the communication now.
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Development In The Enterprise: The Mobile Path Is Clear And Getting Easier!

I stated a few months ago that “data is the new currency” and that “the API layer will be the core around which every successful enterprise digital strategy is based.” Fast-forward to today: two moves this week prove that Intel and CA Technologies agree and are betting heavily on this strategy with acquisitions of Mashery and Layer 7. This will not be the end of the acquisition spree in this space; I’m sure we’ll see more API management companies (and a few BaaS companies) get gobbled up soon. If you’re currently implementing or planning a mobile strategy in your enterprise, what does this mean for you?

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Mobile's Next Era: Not Apps, Not Websites — Experiences!

I was fortunate this week to attend a presentation by James Whittaker in which he delivered his view on the next era of computing. This was one of the best presentations I’ve seen, because the content was presented in a compelling manner that created an outstanding overall experience. I point this out because it parallels James’ message: The future of computing isn’t apps or a collection of websites, but experiences delivered across an ecosystem of devices. I absolutely agree with his vision and am excited about the possibilities ahead. The pertinent question is then: How can enterprises adjust today’s behaviors to best prepare for this future? Let’s take a look at some of the key points of Whittaker’s talk and how we can take action on them today:

  • Search was king of the last era. As of September 2012, overall search volume on the web has started to decrease. This means that your customers are now using app-driven mechanisms to find your content as these provide context around their requests ensuring they get more accurate responses. Don’t immediately jettison your SEO strategy but prepare for how tomorrow’s customers will access your data: through well-designed and easily consumable APIs. This API layer will be the core around which every successful enterprise digital strategy is based.
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Enterprise Mobility -- Are You Ready For The Ride?

My colleague Melissa Parrish recently posted how perpetual connectivity will change how we experience the world. I read this and couldn’t help but get excited about the endless mobile possibilities — but I can see how enterprise leaders are filled with an equal amount of trepidation. Consumer mobile devices create countless new opportunities to engage your customers, employees, and business partners at a level never before seen. As Melissa points out, this will change nearly every facet of how your business operates. Here are the areas that Im excited about:

  • Enterprise architectures will change from a three-tier model to a four-tier model that incorporates an aggregation/data transformation tier. This will allow existing enterprise infrastructures to react to the new mobile demands on performance and scalability while allowing the enterprise to migrate existing services (public and private) to a cloud-based service-oriented offering.
  • Successful mobile strategies include four key areas: mobile delivery, cloud, social, and big data. The service tier in the new four-tier model will not only federate internal services for mobile consumption but will naturally extend to include third-party services. This statement will cause security leads to block my blog from being accessed within your company, but don't fret: new security architectures (zero-trust, among others) are being developed with exactly this service-level interaction in mind.
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Mobile Devs -- The 3 visual tooling changes that will make your life better in 2013

2013 is going to be an amazing year for mobile and web developers for a number of reasons, but the top one on my list today is the advance in tooling. This isn't simply a turn of the crank adding a few features/functions to the existing state of the art but instead the realization of a growing paradigm shift in how developers (experience creators, to quote my colleague Mike Gualtieri) create software. Today the majority of web and mobile apps are written by developers manually writing source code in text editors or IDEs, but tomorrow's tooling is becoming much more visual in nature. Here are the three tooling areas that excite me looking forward to 2013.

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