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  • Python 3 introduced many useful features that are not backward compatible with Python 2.x. It also removed numerous Python 2.x features that were maintained for backward compatibility, making Python 3 easier to learn and use and more consistent with the rest of the language. Our experience using Python 3 in domains such as machine learning and web application development shows that both the language and most of its supporting libraries have matured for adoption. We were able to fork and patch minor issues of existing libraries or avoided using incompatible Python 2.x libraries that had been abandoned. If you are developing in Python we strongly encourage you to use Python 3.


  • In previous Radar editions, we've been hesitant to give Angular a strong recommendation because it was essentially a new, and on the whole unexciting, framework, sharing only its name with AngularJS, an older framework we loved in days past. In the meantime, Angular, now in version 5, has improved steadily while providing backward compatibility along the way. Several of our teams have Angular applications in production and reportedly, they like what they see. For this reason, we're moving Angular into the Trial ring in this Radar, to signify that some of our teams now consider it a solid choice. Most of our teams, however, still prefer React, Vue or Ember over Angular.

  • AssertJ is a Java library that provides a fluent interface for assertions, which makes it easy to convey intent within test code. AssertJ gives readable error messages, soft assertions, and improved collections and exception support. We're seeing some teams default to its use instead of JUnit combined with Hamcrest.

  • Avro is a framework for data serialization. By storing schema along with the message content, it encourages schema evolution. Producers can edit field names, add new fields or delete existing fields and Avro guarantees that the clients continue to consume the messages. Having a schema allows data to be written without overhead which results in compact data encoding and faster data processing. Although the exchange of structure-less messages between producer and consumer is flexible, we've seen teams facing issues with incompatible unprocessed messages in the queue during deployments. We've used Avro in a number of projects and would recommend using it over just sending unstructured messages.

  • CSS is the preferred choice for laying out web pages, even when it did not provide much explicit support for creating layouts. Flexbox helped with simpler, one-dimensional layouts, but developers usually reached for libraries and toolkits for more complex layouts. CSS Grid Layout is a two-dimensional grid-based layout system that provides a mechanism to divide available space for layout into columns and rows using a set of predictable sizing behaviors. Grid does not require any libraries and plays well with Flexbox and other CSS display elements. However, since IE11 is only partially supported, it ignores users who still depend on a Microsoft browser on Windows 7.

  • Most large CSS codebases require complex naming schemes to help avoid naming conflicts in the global namespace. CSS Modules address these problems by creating a local scope for all class names in a single CSS file. This file is imported to a JavaScript module, where CSS classes are referenced as strings. Then, in the build pipeline (Webpack, Browserify, etc.), the class names are replaced with generated unique strings. This is a significant change in responsibilities. Previously, a human had to manage the global namespace, to avoid class naming conflicts; now that responsibility rests with the build tooling. A small downside we've encountered with CSS Modules: functional tests are usually out of the local scope and can therefore not reference classes by the name defined in the CSS file. We recommend using IDs or data attributes instead.

  • Our teams are delighted with the results of using Jest for front-end testing. It provides a ‘zero-configuration’ experience and has out-of-the-box features such as mocking and code coverage. You can apply this testing framework not only to React applications, but also to other JavaScript frameworks. One of Jest's often hyped features is UI snapshot testing. Snapshot testing would be be a good addition to the upper layer of the test pyramid, but remember, unit testing is still the solid foundation.

  • The announcement of first-class Android support has given an extra boost to the rapidly progressing Kotlin language, and we're closely following the progress of Kotlin/Native — the LLVM-backed ability to compile to native executables. Null safety, data classes and the ease of creating DSLs are some of the benefits we've enjoyed, along with the Anko library for Android development. Despite the downsides of slow initial compilation and reliance on IntelliJ for first-class IDE support, we recommend giving this fresh and concise modern language a try.

  • Spring Cloud continues to evolve and add interesting new features. Support for binding to Kafka Streams, for example, in the spring-cloud-streams project makes it relatively easy to build message driven applications with connectors for Kafka and RabbitMQ. The teams we have using it appreciate the simplicity it brings to using sometimes complex infrastructure, such as ZooKeeper, and support for common problems that we need to address when building distributed systems, tracing with the spring-cloud-sleuth for example. The usual caveats apply but we're successfully using it on multiple projects.


  • Historically, Google's Android documentation examples lacked architecture and structure. This changes with the release of Android Architecture Components, a set of opinionated libraries that help developers create Android applications with better architecture. They address longstanding pain points of Android development: handling lifecycles; pagination; SQLite databases; and data persistence over configuration changes. The libraries don't need to be used together — you can pick the ones you need most and integrate them into your existing project.

  • We've seen a flurry of activity in mobile augmented reality much of it fueled by ARKit and ARCore, the native AR libraries used by Apple and Google, respectively. These libraries are bringing mobile AR technologies to the mainstream. However, the challenge will be for companies to find use cases that go beyond gimmicky and provide genuine solutions that actually enhance the user experience.

  • A multi-app strategy is really controversial, particularly at a time when fewer and fewer users are downloading new apps. Instead of introducing a new app and struggling with the download numbers, multiteams have to deliver functionality via a single app that is already widely installed, which creates an architectural challenge. Atlas and BeeHive are modularization solutions for Android and iOS apps, respectively. Atlas and BeeHive enable multiteams working on physically isolated modules to reassemble or dynamically load these modules from a facade app. Both are Alibaba open source projects, since Alibaba encountered the same problem of dwindling downloads and single-app architectural challenges.

  • Caffe is an open source library for deep learning created by the Berkeley Vision and Learning Center. It mostly focusses on convolutional networks for computer vision applications. Caffe is a solid and popular choice for computer vision-related tasks and you can download many successful models made by Caffe users from the Caffe Model Zoo for out-of-the-box use. Like Keras, Caffe is a Python-based API. In Keras, however, models and components are objects created directly in Python code, whereas Caffe models are described by Protobuf configuration files. Either approach has its pros and cons, and converting between the two is also possible.

  • Our first rule of thumb in selecting a rules engine is normally: you don't need a rules engine. We've seen too many people tying themselves to a hard-to-test black-box rules engine for spurious reasons, when custom code would have been a better solution. That said, we've had success using Clara rules for scenarios where a rules engine does make sense. We like that it uses simple Clojure code to express and evaluate the rules, which means they are amenable to refactoring, testing and source control. Rather than chasing the illusion that business people should directly manipulate the rules, it drives collaboration between the business experts and developers.

  • CSS in JS is a technique of writing CSS styling in the JavaScript programming language. This encourages a common pattern of writing the styling with the JavaScript component it applies to, co-locating presentational and logical concerns. The new players — including JSS, emotion and styled-components — rely on the tooling to translate the CSS-in-JS code to separate CSS stylesheets, to make them suitable for browser consumption. This is the second-generation approach to writing CSS in JavaScript and unlike the previous approaches doesn’t rely on in-line styles. That means it provides the benefit of supporting all CSS features, sharing of CSS using the npm ecosystem and utilization of components across multiple platforms. Our teams have found styled-components working well with component-based frameworks, such as React, and unit testing of CSS with jest-styled-components. This space is new and rapidly changing; the approach requires some effort for manual debugging of the generated class names in the browser, and it may not apply to some projects where the front-end architecture does not support reusing components and requires global styling.

  • Digdag is a tool for building, running, scheduling and monitoring complex data pipelines in the cloud. You can define these pipelines in YAML, using either the rich set of out-of-the-box operators or building your own through the API. Digdag has most of the common features in a data pipeline solution such as dependency management, modular workflow to promote reuse, secured secret management and multilingual support. The feature we're most excited about is polycloud support, which lets you move and join data across AWS RedShift, S3, and Google BigQuery. As more and more cloud providers offer competing data-processing solutions, we think Digdag (and similar tools) will be useful in leveraging the best option for the task.

  • Druid is a JDBC connection pool with rich monitoring features. It has a built-in SQL parser, which provides semantic monitoring of the SQL statements executing in the database. Injections or suspicious SQL statements will be blocked and logged directly from the JDBC layer. What’s more, queries can be merged based on their semantics. This is an Alibaba open source project, and reflects the lessons Alibaba learnt from operating their own database systems.

  • ECharts is a lightweight charting library with rich support for different types of charts and interactions. Since ECharts is entirely based on the Canvas API, it has incredible performance even when dealing with over 100k data points, and it's also been optimized for mobile usage. Together with its sibling project, ECharts-X, it can support 3D plotting. ECharts is a Baidu open source project.

  • The ability to compile the Go programming language to bare metal targets has raised interest among developers in using the language for embedded systems. Gobot is a framework for robotics, physical computing, and the Internet of Things, written in the Go programming language and supporting a variety of platforms. We've used the framework for experimental robotic projects where real-time response hasn't been a requirement, and we’ve created open source software drivers with Gobot. Gobot HTTP APIs enable simple hardware integration with mobile devices to create richer applications.

  • Instana is yet another entrant into the crowded application performance management space. The fact that it's built from the ground up for cloud native architectures differentiates Instana from many of its competitors. Features include dynamic discovery, distributed tracing and service health plus the ability to "time shift" your view of your infrastructure to the moment an incident occurred. It remains to be seen whether this product can gain traction over the combination of open source projects—such as Consul, Prometheus and the implementations of OpenTracing—that do the same thing; however it's worth taking a look if you need an out-of-the-box solution.

  • Keras is a high-level interface in Python for building neural networks. Created by a Google engineer, Keras is open source and runs on top of either TensorFlow or Theano. It provides an amazingly simple interface for creating powerful deep-learning algorithms to train on CPUs or GPUs. Keras is well designed with modularity, simplicity, and extensibility in mind. Unlike a library such as Caffe, Keras supports more general network architectures such as recurrent nets, making it overall more useful for text analysis, NLP and general machine learning. If computer vision, or any other specialized branch of machine learning, is your primary concern, Caffe may be a more appropriate choice. However, if you’re looking to learn a simple yet powerful framework, Keras should be your first choice.

  • Our mobile teams have been excited about LeakCanary, a tool for detecting annoying memory leaks in Android and Java. It's simple to hook up and provides notifications with a clear trace-back to the cause of the leak. Adding this to your toolkit can save tedious hours troubleshooting out-of-memory errors on multiple devices.

  • PostCSS is a Node.js-based JavaScript framework for operating on an abstract syntax tree-based representation of CSS documents with a rich ecosystem of plugins. Often incorrectly thought of as a preprocessor (such as SASS or Less), we find that the real power of PostCSS comes from the number of things that can be done with the rich set of plugins which includes linting (the stylelint plugin), cross-compilation (the sugarss plugin), name-mangling to avoid selector collision (the modules plugin), boilerplate CSS code generation (the autoprefixer plugin), minification and many others. The different maturity levels of the plugins notwithstanding, PostCSS itself remains a simple and powerful framework for treating CSS like a full-fledged language for front-end development.

  • PyTorch is a complete rewrite of the Torch machine learning framework from Lua to Python. Although quite new and immature compared to Tensorflow, programmers find PyTorch much easier to work with. Because of its object-orientation and native Python implementation, models can be expressed more clearly and succinctly and debugged during execution. Although many of these frameworks have emerged recently, PyTorch has the backing of Facebook and broad range of partner organisations, including NVIDIA, which should ensure continuing support for CUDA architectures. ThoughtWorks teams find PyTorch useful for experimenting and developing models but still rely on TensorFlow’s performance for production-scale training and classification.

  • single-spa is a JavaScript metaframework that allows us to build micro frontends using different frameworks that can coexist in a single application. In general, we don't recommend using more than one framework for an application, but there are times when we can't avoid doing so. For instance, single-spa can be quite useful when you're working with a legacy application and you want to experiment by developing a new feature, with either a new version of the existing framework or a completely different one. Given the short life span of many JavaScript frameworks, we see a need for a solution that would allow for future framework changes and localized experimentation, without affecting the entire application. single-spa seems to be a good start in that direction.

  • Programming for smart contracts requires a more expressive language than a scripting system for transactions. Solidity is the most popular among the new programming languages designed for smart contracts. Solidity is a contract-oriented, statically typed language whose syntax is similar to JavaScript. It provides abstractions for writing self-enforcing business logic in smart contracts. The toolchain around Solidity is growing fast. Nowadays, Solidity is the primary choice on the Ethereum platform. Given the immutable nature of deployed smart contracts, it should go without saying that rigorous testing and audit of dependencies is vital.

  • TensorFlow Mobile makes it possible for developers to incorporate a wide range of comprehension and classification techniques into their iOS or Android applications. This is particularly useful given the range of sensor data available on mobile phones. Pretrained TensorFlow models can be loaded into a mobile application and applied to inputs such as live video frames, text or speech. Mobile phones present a surprisingly opportune platform for implementing these computational models. TensorFlow models are exported and loaded as protobuf files, which can present some problems for implementers. Protobuf's binary format can make it hard to examine models and requires that you link the correct protobuf library version to your mobile app. But local model execution offers an attractive alternative to TensorFlow Serving without the communication overhead of remote execution.

  • Truffle is a development framework that brings a modern web development experience to the Ethereum platform. It takes over the job of smart contract compiling, library linking and deployment, as well as dealing with artifacts in different blockchain networks. One of the reasons we love Truffle is that it encourages people to write tests for their smart contracts. You need to take tests really seriously as smart contract programming is often related to money. With its built-in testing framework and integration with TestRPC, Truffle makes it possible to write the contract in a TDD way. We expect to see more technologies similar to Truffle to promote continuous integration in the blockchain area.

  • Weex is a framework for building cross-platform mobile apps by using the Vue.js component syntax. For those who prefer the simplicity of Vue.js, Weex is a viable option for native mobile apps, but it also works very well for more complicated apps. We see many successes for fairly complicated mobile apps built on this framework, including TMall and Taobao, two of the most popular mobile apps in China. Weex was developed by Alibaba, and is now an Apache incubator project.


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