Technology and software are becoming integrated into every aspect of our personal and business lives, and every year this integration gets deeper and deeper. Given the pervasiveness of technology in our lives, it is hard to cover all the trends that are impacting us, but in this article, I will focus on a few we are seeing have an immediate effect on our customers around the world and what we can expect to see in the coming year.
These trends are focused on simplification and how it is becoming easier for businesses to build highly effective applications that are secure and reliable and deliver great scalability and performance at the lowest possible cost.
Making application building simpler
Despite the promise of technology simplifying our lives, over time, some applications have become rather complex. This is despite the visionary work by systems researcher John Gall, who wrote decades ago that "applications built as a complex system almost never work". Complex systems that do work are invariably constructed as simple systems at first and then extended over time to include more complexity.
It is easier to build a simple system that is secure and reliable, and extend it than start with a complex system where there are too many variations to control. As this is the case, we are seeing a big trend emerge where people are seeking to simplify their applications, infrastructures and technological systems. In 2016, we can expect to see the quest for building simpler systems to take off. The reason for this is customers can get their hands on number of new components delivered as cloud services:Simplifying service creation: microservices
In traditional service-oriented architectures, services are often rather course-grained. For example, a customer management service may hold all functionality related to operations on customer data. However, many of the functions of this service do not overlap in terms of scalability and availability. A customer login function, which is accessed frequently, has a radically different scaling requirement than a customer address book service which is only needed when shipping products. To simplify these types of monolithic systems, we are seeing a trend emerge where applications are being broken down into their component parts.
Deconstructing services and software systems into the smallest building blocks possible is a trend that is becoming hot in software development. The small services are often dubbed microservices and are supported by management components such as those delivered by Docker. This makes applications more flexible and also changes the software development process. Patching the larger systems with software updates is no longer needed but instead delivering a new version of the microservice to replace the previous version is what is required.
Cloud computing providers are delivering container management environments that make it easy to create and manage microservices environments triggering an acceleration of this architectural trend. In 2016, and beyond, we can expect this to become standard practice for all new applications.
Simplifying compute: serverless architectures
One of the biggest revolutions we have seen in the technology world in the last few years is the rise of serverless computing. This has been largely triggered by the launch of AWS Lambda that no longer requires a server (physical or virtual) to run application code. This tremendously simplifies application development as architects only need to think about business logic and no longer need to worry about managing fleets of servers to run their software. This makes it easier to achieve the security and reliability to protect their business and their customers. After all, no server is easier to manage than no server.
We are already seeing complete businesses being built that don't use a single server. A good example is Teletext.io. This is a Dutch start-up that has come up with an innovative content management system technology that allows the text of Web pages to be managed and deployed by the writer of the text, rather than the programmer. Taking a serverless approach allows Teletext to quickly and easily launch a service that is helpful to businesses all over the world and also gives them a scalable solution with an almost infinite peak capacity.
Teletext.io is just one example of the many organisations we are seeing build their applications and businesses without any servers. I think this trend is going to explode in 2016.
Simplifying integration: APIs for everything
The days where systems were built out of software pieces that were under total control of the developer are long gone. Modern development is a matter of connecting many different services together, some from cloud providers, such as managed databases or analytics services, others from the third-party cloud ecosystem such as Stripe for mobile payments or Twillio for telephony services. To be able to connect and consume these services, they need to have an application programming interface or API.
The great thing about APIs is they can be consumed internally as well as externally. We see not only new software getting APIs but also legacy software components like the system-of-records being wrapped with APIs such that new product innovations can access the legacy systems. Unique functionality can also be made available to partners or customers to consume these services, creating new collaboration and revenue models.
A good example is The Guardian newspaper in the UK. The Guardian, through its API served on AWS, has created a platform for constructing applications that have access to the company's award-winning journalism – giving access to over 1.7 million pieces of content dating back to 1999. The cloud is an ideal platform for building APIs on as it allows you to deal with API traffic in a scalable, low-cost manner, while most of your partners are likely to run in the same cloud and experience very low latencies to your functionality and data.
APIs are giving organisations of all sizes the ability to create entire ecosystems of development that is allowing their core business to grow into unexpected directions. This is bringing their data and functionality in front of many more users, and creating partners who are passionate about helping them improve their service. Into 2016 and beyond we expect every customer-facing service in all companies to have its own API and I, for one, am excited to see the innovation that results.
Simplifying security: Cloud security becomes the best way to protect your business and customers
Looking to the future, and specifically into 2016, I truly believe we will see a general acceptance that ‘organisations are more secure in the cloud than in their own data centres'. We are already starting to see this happen where enterprises are migrating their critical business processes to the cloud to get immediate benefits from the latest innovations in operational security and the fine-grain security tools to protect their individual applications. By offloading the management and improvement of the infrastructure security to a cloud provider it is simplifying security for organisations of all sizes.
Surprisingly for some, one of the first places we have seen this trend has come from the financial services space. At the AWS re:Invent customer conference Rob Alexander, Chief Information Officer for banking and credit card giant Capital One, said: "The financial service industry attracts some of the worst cyber criminals. We work closely with AWS to develop a security model, which we believe enables us to operate more securely in the public cloud than we can in our own data centres."
As a result, Capital One is now using AWS to reduce its data centres from eight to three by 2018 and the bank is using or experimenting with nearly every AWS service to develop, test, build, and run its most critical workloads, including its new flagship mobile-banking application. As more organisations in security-conscious industries such as financial services, utilities, transport and public sector move to the cloud, I believe 2016 will be the year the cloud becomes mainstream and is accepted as the place to store your content if you want to keep it safe and strengthen and simplify your security.
It is still day one
I am only scratching the surface of what is possible and what we will see appear in technology in the coming year. With the rise of simplification we will continue to see more trends emerge, Simplifying predictions, simplifying connected devices, simplifying real-time and many, many more ways that technology will continue to become more ingrained in our day to day lives and change how we live and how we interact with the world around us.
To learn more about how companies in South Africa and around the world are innovating in the cloud, make sure you attend one of the upcoming Amazon Web Services AWSome Days being held in Cape Town on 1 March and in Johannesburg on 3 March. The AWSome Day will highlight how and why customers are using AWS to develop, deploy and operate secure applications and IT services as well as AWS Foundational services such as Amazon EC2, Amazon S3 and Amazon RDS.
For more information and details on how to register, go to https://aws.amazon.com/south-africa/awsome-day-roadshow-2016/
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