The new year brought with it the chance to reflect on technologies that I see making a splash in the coming year. I’m enthralled by big data and analytics but I’m not a data scientist; likewise, I only see so much value in the wearables themselves, although they’ll certainly feed the big data beast. My list of technologies is strongly influenced by my background in software and devops — without being a list of language or tool features.

  • Blockchains and Ethereum. Marc Andreesen’s piece on Bitcoin is inspiring. The guy who invented the web browser told Stanford students in a lecture that if he was hacking today, what he’d be working on is applications of blockchains (the cryptographic technology that underpins Bitcoin). Ethereum has some potential as a platform, leveraging the decentralized nature of the blockchain and building on it with programmable contracts (limitless possibilities — hence the excitement) expanding the currently narrow cryptocurrency focus of Bitcoin.
  • Cognitive Computing and Watson. When you see Watson compete (and win) against Jeapordy and Chess masters, big data and predictive analytics look so passé. Cognitive computing and AI is where the big boys are putting their money with Apple, Microsoft and Amazon in the game with the technologies behind Siri, Cortana and Echo, respectively. IBM clearly has the best hand in this deal; question now is how they’ll play it. Will they be able to parlay their initial Watson developer and API offering into a fully-public, commercial, pay-as-you-go service or will they build a walled garden like they did with their cloud offering and get overtaken by competitors? Take a look at the details on the probability that computerization will lead to job losses in the next 2 decades  and it’s hard to think about encouraging your kids to be an airline pilot or an accountant. However, creating, maintaining and training the machines on the corpus of knowledge necessary to perform these tasks will be big business.
  • Containerization and Docker. Amazon EC2 supports Docker containers as of November 2014. Microsoft Azure supports Docker too. This technology seems to have just skipped all the ups and downs of the hype cycle and gone straight to productivity. Time will tell if that’s true of not but Docker offers something for everyone: more efficiency (versus virtual machines) for the data center manager, a well-defined sandbox for system admins and a packaging story made for the DevOps cookbooks.
  • Microservices and ASP.NET vNext. Martin Fowler and the folks at Thoughtworks have been driving the concept of Microservices. Although Martin seems a bit conflicted himself about how this aligns with his first law of distributed objects, I’m a believer. If you look at the SOA projects we worked on 10 years ago, this is a natural progression and probably should have been the jumping off point as opposed to heavy-handed governance. What really appeals to me is the product-based “you build it, you run it” nature of microservices. Works great in places like Amazon and Netflix but it’s hard to know if/how that translates to large enterprises. Technologies like Node have always been naturally amenable to a microservice-based approach; it’s good to see the managed memory enterprise platforms getting onboard as well, for example the lightweight, deploy what you want .NET hosting container available as part of ASP.NET vNext.
  • ALM Service Bus and TaskTop. While not as sexy as the other technologies in my list, Tasktop seems to have honed in on a much-needed and lucrative corner of the enterprise software space, integration of enterprise ALM tools like Atlassian Jira, BMC Remedy, HP QC, Microsoft TFS and others. If TaskTop can deliver on this promise, they’ll certainly find takers. I have a project coming up that’s using TaskTop — will be interesting to see how expectations and reality align.
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