2016: The year of simplicity

Technology and software is becoming integrated into every aspect of our personal and business lives and every year this integration gets deeper and deeper. Given this pervasiveness of technology, it is sometimes hard to identify the trends that come to prominence. They become immersed into our everyday lives seamlessly and unnoticed, but refine and assist it to an immeasurable effect. Notably, there are a few that we can expect to see in the next year, which will have an immediate effect on companies around the world.

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. As it is easier to build a simple system that is secure and reliable and then extend it, more and more people are seeking to simplify their applications, infrastructures and technological systems. In 2016 we can expect to see the quest for building simpler systems take off, as businesses will be able to get their hands on a number of new components delivered as cloud services.

Simplifying service creation: Microservices

In traditional service oriented architectures services are often rather coarse-grained. For example, a customer management service may hold all the functionality related to operations on customer data, but many of the functions of this service may not overlap in terms of scalability and availability. A customer login function, which is accessed frequently, has radically different scaling requirements than a customer address book service which is only needed when shipping products. To simplify these types of systems, more frequently, applications are being broken down into their component parts.

Deconstructing services and software systems into the smallest building blocks is particularly popular 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, largely triggered by new offerings that no longer require 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, making it easier to achieve the security and reliability to protect their business and their customers.

We’re already seeing complete businesses being built that don’t use a single server. A good example is Teletext.io, a Dutch start-up that has come up with an innovative Content Management System that allows the text of webpages 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 business all over the world and also gives them a scalable solution with an almost infinite peak capacity. Building applications and businesses without any servers is a trend that’s 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 3rd 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 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.

Take The Guardian newspaper in the UK as an example – through its API served on AWS, there’s now a platform for constructing applications that have 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, allowing their core business to grow in positive and 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.

Simplifying security: Cloud security becomes the best way to protect your business and customers

In 2016 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, as enterprises are migrating their critical business processes to the cloud to get immediate benefits from the latest innovations in operational security. By offloading the management and improvement of the infrastructure security to a cloud provider it is simplifying security for organisations of all sizes.

One of the first places we’ve seen this trend is in the financial services space. Capital One, for example, 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. As more organisations in security conscious industries such as financial services, utilities, transport and the public sector move to the cloud I believe 2016 will be the year that 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.

The year ahead

Now that 2016 has arrived, there is no limit on what we can expect of technology, and on how emerging trends will advance. 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.

Dr. Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com

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