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Technology Radar April '16

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

Themes for this edition

Open Source as a Virtuous By-Product

Some of the most influential software appearing on our radar comes from companies whose first mandate isn’t to create software tools. Several of our radar entries come from Facebook, not considered a traditional software development toolmaker. Unlike in the past, today many companies open source their important software assets—to attract new recruits and credentialize themselves. This creates a virtuous feedback loop: Innovative open source attracts good developers who are in turn more likely to innovate. As a side effect, these companies’ frameworks and libraries are some of the most influential in the industry. This represents a big shift in the software development ecosystem and is further proof of the efficacy of open source software … in the right context (our advice about Web Scale Envy still stands).

Parsing the PaaS Puzzle

Many large organizations see the Cloud and Platform as a Service (PaaS) as an obvious way to standardize infrastructure, ease deployment and operations, and make developers more productive. But it’s still early days, the definition of PaaS remains nebulous, and many PaaS approaches are incomplete or suffer from the immaturity of supporting frameworks and tools. Some PaaS solutions make it harder to do things more easily done with plain Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), such as using a custom Service Locator or complex network topology, and the jury is still out on whether a "Containers as a Service" approach will provide similar value with more flexibility. We see many companies implementing an off-the-shelf PaaS or gradually building their own, with varying degrees of success. We suspect that any PaaS built today will not be an end state but rather part of an evolutionary path. Enterprise migration to Cloud and PaaS, while bringing many benefits, has difficulties and challenges, particularly around overall pipeline design and tooling. Consumers of these technologies should seek the inflection point that indicates "ready for prime time" for their context and should avoid coupling too tightly to the implementation details of their PaaS.

Docker, Docker, Docker!

Containerization, and Docker in particular, has proven hugely beneficial as an application-management technique, rationalizing deployment between environments and simplifying the "it works here but not there" class of problems. We see a significant amount of energy focused on using Docker—and, particularly, the ecosystem surrounding it—beyond dev/test and all the way into production. Docker containers are used as the "unit of scaling" for many PaaS and "data center OS" platforms, giving Docker even more momentum. As it matures as both a development and production environment, people are paying more attention to containerization, its side effects and its implications.

Over-Reactive?

Reactive programming—where components react to changes in data that are propagated to them rather than use imperative wiring—has become extremely popular, with reactive extensions available in almost all programming languages. User interfaces, in particular, are commonly written in a reactive style, and many ecosystems are settling on this paradigm. While we like the pattern, overuse of event-based systems complicates program logic, making it difficult to understand; developers should use this style of programming judiciously. It is certainly popular: We added a significant number of reactive frameworks and supporting tools on this Radar.

Selected Insights

Contributors

April 2016

The Technology Radar is prepared by the ThoughtWorks Technology Advisory Board, comprised of:

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