A handful of important trends will transform the software developer experience in 2023, as enterprises consider more self-hosting, observe more SaaS consolidations and see an upswing of interest in creative AI.
The year 2022 was tumultuous for development, colored by the rise of the code completion bot, followed by a class-action lawsuit against GitHub Copilot for alleged infringement of copyrighted code. Also, as AI enters the creativity realm, it threatens to upend the future of app dev. And OpenAI's Chat GPT, released in November, takes code completion beyond line suggestions -- in addition to writing complete web pages and simple applications, it can generate new programming languages.
For developers, the 2022 job market started strong, but by December, they saw storm clouds as layoffs hit the tech sector. Experts felt vibes of the early 2000s recession and the pandemic's early days. As layoffs accelerate, development teams will now worry about their own development lifecycles, said Rob Zazueta, a freelance technical consultant in Concord, Calif.
The economic slowdown will influence app dev as we head into 2023, Zazueta said. Higher interest rates mean less cheap money to go around. Companies will adopt more conservative spending habits and choose fewer risky ventures, he said.
Rob ZazuetaFreelance technical consultant
"I'm looking at the new year in tech with a somewhat bleak perspective," Zazueta said. "But with a strong sense of something better at the other end of it."
Decentralization and self-hosting
The SaaS industry plugs into development pipelines. It manages build and deploy cycles, scans code for vulnerabilities, manages developer communications and more. But developers are now nervous about tight integration with SaaS providers when considering the shaky economic climate, Zazueta said.
"They could be rocked if any of those SaaS organizations went out of business or decided to stop offering the same levels of service," he said. "This presents a risk that is causing more folks to look to self-hosted alternatives in the workplace."
Self-hosting is where developers put applications on their own servers rather than use a service, such as the cloud. For example, decentralized Twitter alternative Mastodon allows users to create and self-host their own communities with open source software.
"There are a couple of small Mastodon hosting companies where you can get hosting the same way you can get WordPress hosting," said Justin Cormack, CTO at Docker Inc. "But most of it is self-hosted."
Cormack added that it's hard to put a number on how many enterprises have veered toward decentralization, but there is a lot of talk.
FinOps to tackle cloud costs
Despite the interest in self-hosting, one analyst said she thinks the cloud is here to stay.
"There's just too much innovation happening in the cloud," said Charlotte Dunlap, an analyst at GlobalData PLC, a British market research firm. "The way we measure success in the great digital shift is how much a company is able to deploy a larger number of apps under advanced architectures: things like microservices and serverless."
People have learned how to be efficient and effective on cloud deployments and in various development environments, Dunlap said. As such, 2023 will see a rise in FinOps to control cloud costs. FinOps -- a portmanteau of finance and DevOps -- is a framework that helps teams maintain financial accountability for cloud services.
But FinOps is more than just cost control. "It's also about optimizing your cloud infrastructure so that you get the best bang for your buck in an efficient and effective manner," Dunlap said.
SaaS consolidation is expected to continue apace in 2023, predicts Vernon Keenan, an analyst at SalesforceDevops.net, an independent news and analysis company based in Berkely, Calif. In recent years, big tech players have gobbled up SaaS companies. Some examples are Salesforce, which bought Slack in 2020 for $27.7 billion; Square, which acquired Afterpay for $29 billion in 2021; and Microsoft, which paid $19.7 billion for Nuance Communication in the same year.
"If a company makes a bunch of acquisitions that [all] have separate development teams, there is a move to consolidate those efforts through online systems, such as GitLab, Opsera and a few others," he said.
Zazueta echoed the trend of continued SaaS consolidation, and said it is part of what drives teams to identify more durable alternatives. However, risk-averse teams may be less likely to adopt new SaaS services quickly due to general concerns about a service's stability, perhaps more than in the past, he said.
Some consolidations make developers especially nervous, Zazueta said. For example, Microsoft acquired GitHub in 2018 and then last June released Copilot, a code completion tool. Copilot soon came under fire for alleged open-source license copyright violations, which led to a class action lawsuit filed in November.
"Chunks of code that developers recognize as their own get inserted by the Copilot API into new products … without consent," Zazueta said. "That annoys a lot of devs right now and erodes trust in those big players."
AI as creatives
In addition to a torrent of code completion bots that hit the market, 2022 saw the rise of creative AI. One such example is OpenAI's ChatGPT, which launched in November. ChatGPT converts natural language to simple webpages and applications.
"There's a popular example going around where a developer created a new markup language, taught it to the chat bot, and the chat bot then created an original composition in that language," Zazueta said. "That's ... kinda terrifying for a creative."
Creatives always assumed automation would take the tedious tasks and leave the creative tasks to humans, Zazueta said. But now, computers can generate convincing art, which may affect development over the next couple of years.
"Replace art with code … and [there are] more than a few devs looking bleakly at the prospects of all this," he said.
But while GPT can create convincing artwork and simple apps, it will be some time before AI can build complex applications automatically, said Wei Li, vice president and general manager of AI and analytics at Santa Clara chipmaker Intel Corp.
"An application will require the right program logic, functional correctness and execution performance," Li said. "AI-generated applications for secure banking will be many years -- 10-plus years -- from now."