Welcome to this week’s Developer Edition of Our Week in Digital! Following on from Ollie’s Autonomous Vehicles edition of Our Week in Digital last week, our recruitment consultant, Yusuf picks up the baton. He has chosen to tailor his roundup of the tech pages with our community of developers in mind.

In this week’s Developer Edition; no-code tools are on the rise, Docker is back with a new focus and Google launch open-source software designed to make it easier for developers to launch into quantum computing. For all this and more read on…

A software developer sits at a computer writing code, find out more development news in our Developer Edition of OWID

VMWare launches Apps development platform for on-prem, cloud.

In the first story of our Developer Edition, VMware has given its key product families an overhaul. It has rolled out Tanzu, its Kubernetes technology across its major software platforms including vSphere and Cloud Foundation.  

This is all part of the company fulfilling its promise. They planned to take steps to make Kubernetes containers the centrepiece of future enterprise and hybrid-cloud application environments for its core vSphere customers.

VMware introduced its Tanzu product at its VMworld event last year. This event is a showcase of new and existing VMware technologies. It is designed to help enterprise customers develop new, or migrate legacy applications across on-premises and cloud locations.

Pivotal to the success of the Tanzu plan is vSphere7. This project adds Kubernetes to vSphere, the company’s flagship virtualisation software. Embedding Kubernetes into vSphere, customers can converge container and VM workloads onto a single platform with a single hypervisor.

What they have to say about it

In a recent blog, VMware General Manager vSphere & SVP Cloud Platform Business Unit, Krish Prasad remarked;

“vSphere now has native support for Kubernetes, so you can run containers and virtual machines on the same platform, with a simple upgrade of the system that you’ve currently standardized on”. He also confirmed that “vSphere 7 is the biggest release of vSphere in over a decade and delivers the innovations and the rearchitecting of vSphere with native Kubernetes”.

vSphere7 is part of a Tanzu-infused Cloud Foundation 4, which in turn is VMware’s core virtualisation package. It runs in on-premises data centres or across all the big-hitting public clouds. These include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google, Oracle, Rackspace and IBM as well as a host of others.

Another key component of the rollout is the multi-faceted embedded security included in the platform. Rick Walsworth of VMware Cloud Foundation Product Marketing team reveals that 

“At the container image layer, Tanzu Kubernetes Grid includes a container registry with built-in vulnerability scanning, image signing and auditing”, while “at the storage layer, Cloud Foundation offers data at rest encryption at the cluster level”.

Additionally, at the compute layer too, vSphere provides comprehensive built-in security for protecting data, infrastructure and access. Policy-driven security provides VM – or pod-level encryption to prevent unauthorised data access both at rest and in motion. Finally, at the network layer, NSX delivers micro-segmentation and granular security to the individual VM or pod workload. It was confirmed that these security policies travel with the workloads, independent of where workloads are in the network topology.

What this means for the cloud-native world

In our blog last week, Tony identified the 4 trends that look set to disrupt the Cloud Native world in 2020. The debate over Kubernetes security was one of them, and it’s popping up again in our Developer Edition! One argument was that security should be gifted back to the developers themselves and that the logical thing to do would be to build tools to let developers control and improve the security of their applications. With this latest rollout, it looks as though VMware are subscribing to this way of thinking.  

Looking more broadly, VMware draws the same conclusion as Tony’s blog; that Kubernetes will be adopted at scale and that it has emerged as the infrastructure layer to accommodate a diversity of applications.  

With new tools and platforms, more developers, agile methodology, and lots of code reuse, VMware estimate that 500 million new logical apps will be created between 2018 and 2023. Lee Caswell, vice president of the hyper-converged infrastructure business unit at VMware says;

“This is the next chapter in VMware’s consolidation efforts – we have done physical servers, storage and networking and now we are moving to consolidate modern applications with traditional applications”.

He goes on to say that;

 “From a single instance, customers can build and manage new applications and consolidate traditional applications either on-premises or for the cloud”.

The VMware Tanzu Application Catalog, VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid and VMware Tanzu Mission Control are all available now. VMware Cloud Foundation 4, VMware vSphere 7, (both on-premises and as SaaS) are all expected to become available later in the spring.

Lines of code used for software development

No-code tools on the rise!

Our second developer edition story is about no-code. Calum Moore founded his YC backed venture, Snapboard off the back of a personal challenge. Moore had set himself a target – to build one product a week for a year. In so doing, it became apparent that to build a product and to promote its use across social media required a whole mass of apps and services. It didn’t take him long to come to this realisation! He had only reached week 2!

His next project was to become Snapboard; a way to manage all those apps and tools from one dashboard.

Snapboard allows users to link and manage a wide variety of apps and platforms in a single, customizable dashboard. Users can create boards that act as internal tools without the need to get the product or engineering team involved for an internal project.

The use cases have proved to be as challenging as they are beneficial. The flexibility of the platform means that it can do pretty much anything, but only if you know what to do with it. Moore says the key is to sprint on building out the template library for Snapboard, offering new users a multitude of options as inspiration. He details a few examples of how it could be used. These include building boards for each customer or combining Stripe data with emails sent through Mail Chimp to try to target behaviour.

Challenges

Moore has also identified UX design as being one of the company’s greatest challenges;

“We’re taking something only developers used to be able to do and making it available for everyone else,” he says. “If you give a developer a platform, they’ll work their way through it. They’ll find some way to make it work. Whereas, with less technical people, they want products to be very obvious and easy to use. So, for us, it’s about delivering that kind of technical experience in a really non-technical way.”

Currently, 50 apps are available on the Snapboard platform, including Shopify, Dropbox, Google Analytics, MailChimp, MongoDB, MySQL, Trello, Zendesk and many more. Moore has said he is not concerned with onboarding any new integrated apps for Snapboard. Most of the popular tools used by startups and tech firms are API supported.

Indeed, the company is targeting tech companies with this product but sees the potential for other industries to tap into Snapboard’s internal tool-making platform.

So far Snapboard has raised $150k from Y Combinator.

Docker regroups as cloud-native developer tool community.

Our third developer edition story comes from Docker. 2019 was a busy year for Docker. In just a few short months, the company witnessed many changes. In May, Steve Singh stepped down as Chief Executive Officer. Fast forward to November, Docker sold the enterprise arm of its business to Mirantis, while at the same time, long term exec, Scott Johnson replaced Singh as CEO.

This transformation saw Docker move on from its enterprise journey and return to its developer roots.

Johnston has said;

“…we separated the enterprise business, which was very much focused on operations, CXOs and a direct sales model…” and “decided to focus the remaining business back on developers, which was really Docker’s purpose back in 2013 and 2014”.

And now…

This week, that new entity begins its journey.

Moving forward, Docker has decided to focus on three areas in particular.  

The first is to deal with the growing volume of containers, which have moved on from the early days. Today, applications consist of dozens or even hundreds of containers. These create layer upon layer of complexity that tools such as Docker App, Docker Compose and third-party partner integrations can help solve.

The second component is managing the toolchain itself, as companies move through a continuous delivery cycle and work with Git repositories like GitHub and BitBucket. The market has fragmented and created tool silos around different pieces of the chain as developers move the application from source to the cloud. In this instance, Docker Desktop and Docker Hub are offered along with partnerships with the Git repositories to help developers manage their tool chain.

Lastly, Docker is looking to help companies better manage open source, including licensing, updates and patches.

This new – wave Docker under its new leadership sees the company try to reinvent itself and become the go-to cloud-native developer tool vendor.  

Despite this shift in focus back toward developers and development teams, Johnson has not ruled out a return to enterprise again at some stage – although this would be with a SaaS steer. For now, however, the company will retain its developer focus and go from there.  

A female programmer sits at her monitor with a laptop, read developer news in our developer edition

Google is making it easier to develop quantum machine learning apps.

A regular in Our Week in Digital, our fourth Developer Edition story comes from Google. They are releasing free open-source software that will make it easier to build quantum machine learning applications.

Google will add TensorFlow Quantum to its popular TensorFlow toolkit which has helped propel machine learning since its 2015 launch.

By simplifying deep neural networks, TensorFlow is one of several tools that make machine learning more accessible. It also uses reusable code so that new machine-learning apps don’t have to be written from scratch. TensorFlow Quantum is set to do the same for quantum machine learning.

Tensor Flow Quantum will let users write quantum apps without getting bogged down in the details of the hardware they are running on. A switch allows you to work across an actual quantum computer and a simulation of one on a classical machine. This means you can debug your quantum app in a simulation before trying to run it on a full-blown quantum setup.  

Masoud Mohseni leads the TensorFlow Quantum project. He expects coders will use it to discover fundamental new algorithms that can be reused by others again and again.

Quantum Machine Learning

Quantum Machine Learning is aimed at researchers. It is this narrow target market that keeps it niche and specialised. The toolkit will make it easier to work with quantum data. Whether that’s modelling the natural world or devices like cryptographic quantum-key distributors. Since natural phenomena follow quantum rules, Mohseni believes that if machine-learning models are to be accurate reflections of the world, they need to be quantum too.

This is not the first toolkit for quantum machine learning. Pennylane, for example, is a similar platform offered by Quantum computing startup, Xanadu.  

This is a big deal because Google is doing it. Developers build communities around big-name tools like TensorFlow while sharing code and ideas fosters innovation and collaboration. These developments have escalated the concept, helping to elevate the position of machine learning tech today. The Google team hope that the same happens as a result of Tensor Flow Quantum.

In terms of real-world applications, quantum software is starting to seep into the mainstream. Based in British Columbia, quantum computing company, D-Wave Systems also released a new version of its Leap software for quantum app development last month. Leap is being used by several big-name companies to develop in-house quantum software. Volkswagon, for example, have built a pinpoint accurate public-transport simulator to plan bus routes, while Telecom Italia built a quantum application for optimizing 5G networks.

Unity acquires deep learning startup, Artomatix.

Our fifth Digital Edition story comes from the world of deep learning. When it comes to gaming we deal in high numbers. Globally, the gaming industry as a whole is worth $130bn. The costs of creating these games are also high and worthy of such a valuation. More than 60% of the associated costs of game development are spent on the process of designing in-game artwork.  

Dublin startup, Artomatix tackles this cost. Artomatix builds developer tools that allow game studios to more easily create deep learning-enhanced textures that scale more convincingly. The aim is to greatly lessen the amount of cash and man-hours that are spent on designing immersive gaming environments through an artificial intelligence-powered application.

Artomatix launched back in 2015. Since that time, it has raised just over $12m in grants and funding from venture capitalist firms, including Enterprise Ireland, Suir Valley Ventures, Manifold Partners and Boost Heroes.

Developers can use the Artomatix ArtEngine platform to bring real-world materials to their game worlds. They can adapt the visual patterns to their virtual 3D worlds more quickly than existing toolsets while eliminating seams and irregularities.

The ArtEngine platform uses AI to highlight flaws in replications and prevents saves developers from having to endlessly tweak environments.

Artomix’s acquisition

This week it has been announced that Artomix has been acquired by video game software development company, Unity for an undisclosed price.

Unity figures suggest that more than half of new games are built using its engine. It is, therefore, an obvious suitor for Artematix technology. If Artomatix’s technology can help game designers create the art used to populate digital environments, Unity can begin to push more workflow through AI-assisted tools and save developers’ time.

Using the platform, developers can design, buy, or import digital assets like forests, sound effects, and aliens. They can then go on and build the logic guiding how all these elements interact with players.

It is not just gaming companies or developers that use Unity’s platform. BMW, Tencent and construction giant Skanska have all used the Unity platform to create its products.

Unity is increasingly used for 3D design and simulations across other industries like film, automotive, and architecture. It is now used to create 60% of all augmented and virtual reality experiences.

This is indicative of Unity’s wider vision. It has ambitions to be “the 3D operating system of the world,” says Sylvio Drouin, VP of the Unity Labs R&D team.

That’s all from our Developer Edition!

We hope you enjoyed our Developer Edition this week. Are you a software developer looking for your next opportunity? Whatever your area of expertise we have a role to challenge and excite you. To apply and read more about all our software development opportunities, follow this link to our technology jobs.

We look forward to hearing from you!

About the author: I aspire to help clients connect the dots by offering an extensive and honest experience. I am passionate about digital and in prior roles have assisted C level executives to overcome the challenges posed by a fast-moving, disruptive business environment – I believe that people and not solely technology is imperative in instilling forward-thinking, sustainable business development.

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