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The tech developers really use — and what they want to use next

The tech developers really use — and what they want to use next

Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This Thursday: Stack Overflow's annual developer survey spills all the tea, why enterprise partnership deals are a study in contrasts, and life after death for hard drives.


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The Big Story

Tools of the trade

Software is everywhere we look in 2021, for better and for worse. One of the most pervasive components of modern life can be assembled, managed and run in a surprising variety of ways, and trends within software development circles help tell the story of what comes next for this industry and the world.

Stack Overflow's annual survey of software developers came out this week, after it was conducted between May and June of this year. More than 83,000 developers answered the survey, which each year paints as good a picture as any regarding the software tools and platforms that underpin the current generation of applications and that are starting to influence its future.

The survey broke out cloud infrastructure platforms as a separate category for the first time this year. That's an excellent place to start.

  • Unsurprisingly, AWS was the most-used, most-loved and most-wanted cloud infrastructure platform. Just under 60% of respondents reported using AWS in the last year, and the survey was conducted during one of the stronger financial quarters for AWS in recent history.
  • Microsoft Azure was the second most-used cloud infrastructure service among professional developers, but trailed Google Cloud in the overall rankings, which included students and hobbyists.
  • When it came to the subjective assessments of the cloud platforms, however, Google Cloud was actually slightly more popular than Azure.
  • Now that multicloud strategies are actually becoming real, these rankings are bound to fluctuate. Developers might love Google Cloud's Big Query tool for machine-learning research but use Azure to run most of their applications.
  • But while Azure is often thought of as the AWS alternative — and it's still the second-most lucrative cloud infrastructure business — Google Cloud has made significant progress over the last several years among Stack Overflow survey respondents.

The survey also covered the hopes, dreams and reality of software developers' use of databases, which are nearly as fundamental to enterprise tech as cloud platforms.

  • Open-source databases are still on top: MySQL was cited by half of all respondents as a tool they'd used in the last year, and PostgreSQL was used by 40%.
  • Among the newer arrivals, MongoDB was used by 27.7% of developers, while Redis was used by 20.7%.
  • Redis and MongoDB also ranked in the top three within the most-loved and most-wanted categories, alongside PostgreSQL.
  • And it's no surprise to anyone who has been watching their performance over the last couple of years, but developers do not like working with Oracle and IBM's DB2 database.

There were relatively few categories in which the developer masses lined up in support of a single technology, which makes those categories more interesting.

  • Over 90% of developers reported using Git — almost assuredly through Microsoft's GitHub — and over 70% reported using Visual Studio Code, Microsoft's open-source development environment.
  • Even if Azure slightly trails its cloud platform competition in Stack Overflow's beauty pageant, GitHub and Visual Studio Code give Microsoft incredible mindshare within the software development community, which has had a mixed relationship with Microsoft over the years.
  • Rust was the most-loved programming language for the eighth straight year, loved by 87% of respondents who are dragging the memory-safe language into the mainstream.

Trends driving the future of enterprise tech development could be found lower down in the rankings of some categories.

  • Almost as many respondents said they worked with HashiCorp's Terraform infrastructure-deployment tool in the last year as Red Hat's Ansible tool, which is used for somewhat similar purposes.
  • However, HashiCorp is a fast-growing, late-stage startup worth at least $5 billion, while IBM paid $34 billion for Red Hat, and the percentage of people who said they had used Ansible went down compared to the 2019 survey.
  • Google's TensorFlow AI framework isn't being used by a ton of people right now, but it was the most-wanted framework in its category. Enterprise AI projects might finally be hitting their stride.

Also present in the survey results, however, was a stark reminder that some aspects of software development are extremely slow to change.

  • In what is either the most surprising or the least surprising survey result, an astounding 91.7% of respondents said they identified as male. At least that's an improvement compared to the 92.9% of respondents that answered that way in 2018.
  • To paraphrase Google Cloud's Kelsey Hightower, software built for the entire world by a subset of that world is not the best software the world can produce.

— Tom Krazit

A MESSAGE FROM SINGAPORE EDB

Singapore is fast becoming a global hotbed of tech innovation. It's easy to see why. Nearly 80 of the world's top 100 tech firms have set up outposts there, including Google, Facebook, Stripe, Salesforce and homegrown unicorns like the super-app Grab.

Learn more

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Join Protocol's Biz Carson for a conversation with Atomic's Swathy Prithivi, Accel's Rich Wong and Asana's Oliver Jay during our upcoming event: Going Global: How Tech Companies Expand Internationally August 10 at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET Learn More

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This Week On Protocol

Partner up: Enterprise tech companies have always held their noses and partnered with competitors and rivals, but the dynamics are changing as the market evolves and surges. Protocol's Joe Williams took a good look inside the new enterprise cold war, where frenemies and "co-opetition" drive new alliances.

Back to work? The delta variant of COVID-19 is showing no quarter to the best-laid plans of HR executives around the country, who are once again scrambling to figure out what to do with their offices and staff after more than a year of work-from-home policies. Protocol's Allison Levitsky reported on the postponed reopenings and flexible work schedules that have a very distinct March 2020 vibe.

Five Questions For...

Bernadette Nixon, CEO of Algolia

What was your first tech job?

I completed a four-year business degree and then went into sales immediately after graduation, but when my boyfriend (now husband) asked me to go to Switzerland with him (where I could ski every weekend), I was in! However, it was impossible to find a job in IT sales when I wasn't proficient in French, so I looked for alternatives. I cold-called (in person) a department head at the United Nations, and landed a job. I ended up being the chair of the standards committee, and running a chunk of the IT department — desktop systems and help desk. Every day was an amazing adventure; I learned French, learned how to manage a diversified team, became proficient at adopting and rolling out new technology. It was like a rotational position you'd get much later in your career.

If Protocol gave you $1 billion to start a new enterprise tech company from scratch today, what would you do?

It would have to be a Fully Immersive Holographic Brainstorming App. I've worked remotely since 2010, and worked in video-obsessed companies since 2015, so the last 12 months felt normal to me in terms of working remotely; but it did shine a big light on the fact that it's still hard to effectively brainstorm like we would if we were all in the same room.

This is where the holographic brainstorming app comes in. Think about it: We have the AR/VR capabilities, we have the sticky-note brainstorming software and we can move a cursor with our eyes. Imagine an immersive experience where you could move your full body hologram with your eye movements, and walk up to the wall to place your sticky note overlapping someone else's, and have an impromptu conversation just like you would in real life.

What's your favorite pastime that doesn't involve a screen?

Painting with acrylics and boating, because when you're doing both of these things you're totally focused, and not thinking about a million other things. There's nothing like single-handedly docking your boat in a tight spot on a windy day — the sense of achievement is awesome! Plus biking, kayaking and reading (although this is with a screen these days).

How can enterprise tech improve its current status around diversity, equity and inclusion?

Groupthink is often the problem when there are segments of society that aren't adequately represented in the workforce. So you need to employ people that are independent thinkers in key management positions. But how do you do that in a groupthink type of environment? I guess this is where quotas play a role. I hate saying this, because it shouldn't have to be this way. So it starts at the top — but what's the top: the CEO, the board or public company regulators? Yes.

What will be the greatest challenge for enterprise tech over the coming decade?

The delta between the art of the possible and the practical reality has historically been vast. Think about the advent of personalization in 1999 and the reality we see on most websites today (granted, personalization on ecommerce websites is vastly better than other types of websites). The industry has narrowed the gap, in my opinion, but the dichotomy of promising the world and enabling mere mortals to easily adopt your latest and greatest new thing needs to be thought of as one.

Around the Enterprise

A MESSAGE FROM SINGAPORE EDB

Business leaders say they choose Singapore for its modern tech infrastructure, strong government support, robust pipeline of talent and pro-business regulations (the World Bank ranks it No. 2 in the world for ease of doing business). Plus, its location in the heart of Southeast Asia serves as a launchpad into the bustling Asian-Pacific market.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you Monday!

Correction: An earlier version of this newsletter incorrectly described developer preferences for Ansible in the 2020 survey results. Usage was actually down in 2021 compared to 2019.

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