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Technology Radar Nov '16

Our thoughts on the technology and trends that are shaping the future

Themes for this edition

"Docker as process, PaaS as machine, microservices architecture as programming model"

The microservices style of architecture highlights rising abstractions in the developer world because of containerization and the emphasis on low coupling, offering a high level of operational isolation. Developers can think of a container as a self-contained process and the PaaS as the common deployment target, using the microservices architecture as the common style. Decoupling the architecture allows the same for teams, cutting down on coordination cost among silos. Its attractiveness to both developers and DevOps has made this the de facto standard for new development in many organizations.

Intelligent empowerment

Long-time R&D topics like machine learning and artificial intelligence suddenly have practical applications through frameworks like Nuance Mix and TensorFlow. Developers can download frameworks that range from NLP to machine learning libraries. We happily observe that companies frequently open source sophisticated libraries and tools in this space that would have been stratospherically expensive and therefore restricted a decade ago, making them available to a wide audience of developers. Many factors have evolved and combined to make new tools possible: commodity computing, targeting specific hardware like GPUs and cloud resources. Perhaps your Big Data hoarding is starting to pay off....

The holistic effect of team structure

Team structure has always had a large impact on a wide variety of software development subjects, and has become an area of increased focus given foundations such as self-service PaaS and microservices. Companies now favor product thinking over projects; tech companies are popularizing the “you build it, you run it” style of team autonomy, and we’re seeing the same product thinking applied to enterprise projects. When restructuring teams yields better results, it illustrates once again that software development is still mostly a communication problem. Building cross-functional teams increases the beneficial surface area of communication across traditionally segregated job roles, which in turn removes friction imposed by artificial structures like silos.

AR and VR easing toward mainstream

We see augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) generating business interest, both technologies that were once relegated merely to games and novelty. Whereas chasing virtual cartoons brought AR to public attention via mobile SDKs, hardware such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens is maturing to the point that early adopters can reap benefits without fumbling with immature technology. Although software platforms like OpenVR and Unity have long been mature, new natural language processing (NLP) tools like Nuance Mix and hardware that provides natural interactions will have a huge impact on the adoption of AR and VR. We are already running VR and AR labs in our offices to explore future applications like remote interactions or retail wayfinding. Our experiments demonstrate VR as a surprisingly powerful medium for more empathetic remote collaboration and storytelling due to its ability to bypass abstraction and immerse users directly in an experience. However, we will see significant challenges in the creation and delivery of VR and AR content as the skills and capabilities lag behind the pace of hardware, particularly in the enterprise.

Selected Insights

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