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Enterprise application trends that will impact 2021

The past year evoked a wave of new software needs, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and increased needs for availability. Here are some 2020 trends that will take shape in 2021.

The nature of enterprise software management has shifted dramatically in the last few years, particularly characterized by a heightened demand for highly modular and intelligent applications. As such, today's developers arguably have a more influential voice than ever when it comes to the vendor landscape, prompting tool and platform providers to specifically appeal to enterprise-level programmers.

For example, major cloud providers Microsoft Azure and VMware set strategies to specifically attract Java developers with tooling. Azure Spring Cloud now offers a refined container management approach thanks to its acquisition of Lens.

Let's take a closer look at some of the big news of 2020 around enterprise application trends, including what it might mean for companies heading into 2021.

New performance monitoring tool alerts developers in real time

Performance and availability issues are a threat to a company's bottom line, with studies showing that organizations can potentially lose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and operating expenses if these issues aren't resolved. This prompted vendors to answer the call for better monitoring and performance management tooling.

Sentry, an application monitoring tools provider, released a new offering in July 2020 that enables developers to find and fix performance issues in real time with just five lines of additional code. The tool notifies developers of an error and what it has affected, such as users, devices and browsers. To give greater insight, it provides all the metadata about the issue and where in the code it came from.

In addition to error tracking, it provides health insights and transaction summaries to find poor performance indicators, such as duration times. It can also detect performance metrics that do not meet the predefined thresholds.

"It's the same old stuff," Chris Gonsalves, senior vice president of research at The 2112 Group said. "Organizations don't necessarily need super fancy AI-driven 'wonder tools' to unearth this stuff. They need basic blocking and tackling, which Sentry handles very well."

Microsoft, VMware make Azure Spring Cloud GA 

Azure Spring Cloud, a managed service for Spring Boot applications, was made generally available in September 2020. With this service, Java developers can focus more on developing Spring Boot and Steeltoe .NET Core apps rather than operate infrastructure.

"In most Java surveys you see, Spring is the most popular framework. For Microsoft, whatever turns the Azure dials is all good: .NET, Java, Linux -- it's all good," said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester Research.

To simplify app deployment, Microsoft and VMware crafted various tools and frameworks for the service, including service registry, client-side load balancing and circuit-breaker mechanisms. It also includes kpack, an open source Kubernetes-native build service that automates the creation and updating of container images on Kubernetes using Cloud Native Buildpacks.

Azure Spring Cloud integrates with other Azure services as well, such as Azure Active Directory, Cosmos DB and Key Vault. Its distributed tracing component is popular with developers, as it helps them quickly identify and troubleshoot issues. The service also includes built-in service discovery and configuration management.

Mirantis buys Lens Kubernetes IDE to reach developers

Mirantis, an open source cloud provider, continues to strengthen its focus on application containers. In August 2020, it acquired Lens, an IDE for Kubernetes, to give its users more features, such as multi-cluster management in real time for developers that build applications for Kubernetes environments.

In most Java surveys you see, Spring is the most popular framework. For Microsoft, whatever turns the Azure dials is all good: .NET, Java, Linux -- it's all good.
Jeffrey HammondAnalyst at Forrester Research

The Kubernetes IDE moves beyond the capabilities typically associated with a traditional integrated development environment, and actually provides tooling for IT operations staff as well as developers. To reflect this, Hammond refers to it as an IOE, or integrated operating environment. Forrester analyst Dave Bartoletti describes it as a multi-cluster K8s dashboard. And Mirantis' CEO, Adrian Ionel, equates Lens to Microsoft's Visual Studio.

An attractive element of the tool is that developers are able to work with multiple Kubernetes clusters on any cloud from a single environment, such as:

  • Minikube
  • Docker Desktop
  • Docker Enterprise
  • Amazon EKS
  • Microsoft AKS
  • Google Kubernetes Engine
  • Rancher
  • Red Hat OpenShift

COVID-19 fuels demand for COBOL

COVID-19 exposed a concerning lack of enterprise-level COBOL programmers in 2020 due to the dated unemployment insurance systems which experienced a surge of use. COBOL, a language that is now over 60 years old, is a foundational language for mainframe-hosted applications. In fact, there are still billions of lines of COBOL code that reside in the critical computer systems of organizations like the Social Security Administration.

Unfortunately, there are very few college curriculums that emphasize COBOL, and most programmers familiar with it are retired. While volunteer coders have stepped up with the shortage, government agencies require skilled architects and engineers that understand the language, its role in mainframe architecture and how to manipulate its scalability.

To deal with the crisis, IBM and The Linux Foundation launched a COBOL Programmers Forum, where COBOL programmers can post their resumes and offer up their expertise. Similarly, the COBOL Technical Forum is another community where seasoned programmers can give free advice on working with COBOL and share open source COBOL training courses.

GraphQL vs. REST choice steers microservices development

Due to the increasing importance of APIs that has stemmed from microservices-based development, many organizations now face a choice between pursuing GraphQL vs. REST API-driven development. While REST has enjoyed its position as a standard protocol, GraphQL is quickly gaining popularity due to its graph database protocol and additional security benefits.

Pantheon Platform, a firm that specializes in hosting services for WordPress and Drupal sites, was one company that needed to make the GraphQL vs. REST choice. The firm wanted to adopt microservices, but needed a distributed, backward-compatible way to coordinate microservices communication. API-first development was a poor option for the company, as it hindered front-end and back-end developers from beginning their development cycles and testing against a schema at the same time.

"[That's] not something we could do with API-first development," Michelle Krejci, service engineer lead at Pantheon said. "We had to wait for someone to build the API after they [designed] it."

In this case, Pantheon turned to Apollo GraphQL Server, a federated version of the tool GraphQL platform that helps manage interservice communications between services, gain greater network efficiency, support fine-grained object relationship queries, monitor endpoints, and decouple back-end development from the front end.

However, there is a steep learning curve for developers more familiar with REST concepts since they need to change new coding techniques for graph schemas. Also, there are drawbacks to GraphQL, including its inability to use HTTP caching in web and mobile browsers or use familiar HTTP status codes.

Next Steps

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