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Innovation to Shake Up the Software Industry: RedMonk's Analyst Conference

How Developers are Driving Change in the Software Industry

Developers are Changing the Software Landscape
That was big takeaway that I got from Monktoberfest. We are talking about sotware innovation that is coming from developers - typically individual developers or developers who are self-selecting themselves to work on projects in small, medium or large groups.  These projects are becoming the platforms, frameworks, enabling technologies and foundations that the rest of the world's software will increasingly be based on.

It is these individual developers and self-selecting groups of developers that are the innovators.  And these innovations are enabling entirely new classes of software to be produced easier, better, faster and less expensively.

This is a companion article to "Software Innovation from the Ground Up"

What Is Monktoberfest?
t's the yearly conference held by boutique analyst firm RedMonk.  This year's Monktoberfest was outstanding.  It was the right combination of venue, audience, presentors, hosts, food and yes, beer.

Speakers were excellent - Cloudera's Mike Olson, ZenDesk's Zack Urlocker, Matt LeMay from Bit.Ly, Steve Citron-Pousty from deCarta, Donnie Berkholz from Gentoo Linux, Omniti 's Theo Schlossnagle, Greg Avola from Untappd.  The audience incredibly interactive.

Even the venue - NOT a hotel helped break the "traditional conference" mindset.  I think enough interesting ideas got tossed around between question/answer sessions with presenters and at lunch to start a bunch of new companies.

Never Heard of RedMonk, You Say?
Well, you're not alone.  They're not an analyst firm for everyone.  But they are unique.  The personality of the firm is driven by principal analysts Steve O'Grady and James Governor.  Their blogs are highly recommended reading.

RedMonk

The one thing they are not - is average.  Love them or hate them, they are what researchers call "extreme outcomes" on the normal distribution curve of life (a standard deviation or two away from being "ordinary and boring").

What RedMonk latched onto almost ten years ago is that life is increasingly a bottom-up proposition.  More specifically, they applied that concept to the world of software development.

In particular, the software world is being increasingly driven by groundswells of developer activity (or should I say developer creativity, passion and innovation).

How Much Things Have Changed in 5 Years
Developer communities have made it easier for anyone to innovate new software and have created a much broader audience of consumers and platforms than ever.  They've not only made it easier and faster to develop new products, but also cheaper.

Five years ago, to enable a development team of a half-dozen people, I'd have to rent some office space, install a substantial collection of servers and desktops, buy and configure a pile of expensive and complicated software.  I'd spend a month or two working and spend $200,000 before anyone even wrote printf ("hello world");

Today, with SaaS solutions for developer support, I can leverage solutions such as Jenkins, Jiri, GitHub, etc. and can be up and running almost instantly - for pocket change in terms of upfront cost.   And these solutions are natively supportive of distributed development teams.  So even the need for co-location is minimized - enabling groups to select the right people for the job, not just the closest people for the job. Some SaaS vendors like ZenDesk will even let start-ups use their software free of charge.

Example: Changing the Game for Mobile Apps
Witness a product discussed heavily at Monktoberfest:

  • A reasonably knowledgeable person (not an expert) can write HTML5 and Javascript to develop a "web application" for a smart phone, however that application won't appear in the "App Store" and can't take advantage of things like cameras, GPS or accelerometers.
  • A product called PhoneGap that transforms a generic "web app" into a native iPhone application (and/or a native Android application) that can be deployed in the "application store"  - AND take advantage of cameras, GPS, etc.  Essentially with the push of a single button.

And this is an OpenSource product. Two years ago when I looked into building an iPhone app, the first thing I did was buy a 700 page book on Objective C for IOS development.  It's been sitting on the shelf for two years.

What the developers of PhoneGap have done is to completely change the playing field for innovation in the Mobile Apps arena.  They've enabled a whole new generation of products by lowering the barriers to entry tremendously.

More people "with ideas" can build and launch new products.  As I mentioned to a colleague the last night of the conference "even an idiot like me could build an iPhone app now".  It no longer requires an incredible amount of expertise, time and access to money to build an mobile application.  And it's all so much faster and cheaper to do.

Off the cuff, I'm guessing that it's:

  • Increased the number of potential mobile applications developers by 10-fold,
  • Decreased the time required to develop the mobile applications by at least half, and
  • Decreased the capital requirements by 75%.

This is guaranteed to result in a proliferation in mobile applications.

Is That It?
No, you missed a lot more at the conference.

"Software Innovation from the Ground Up" has more details and insights  - including some vignettes about "OCaml Guy" and "Reston Virginia Guy" (both conference attendees, whose names have been changed to protect the innocent).

Also - Winners and Losers.

And my perspective on "who really is the King of Software?".

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/SoftwareHollis. His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

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All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.