Cloud Developments for Developers: An Analyst View

By Janel Garvin

August 3, 2010

The cloud paradigm has the capability to offer new capabilities for every developer, but especially for those developers involved with implementing applications with the intensive demand of complex enterprise applications or high performance computing for science or research projects, as the most recent Evans Data Corp’s Cloud Development Survey verifies (Cloud Development Survey, Volume 1, 2010).

Conducted in May / June of this year the survey of over 400 software developers examined attitudes towards development of applications in the cloud as well as deployments to the cloud.  The results give insight into a wealth of information about what developers are doing, what they plan to do, what their concerns are for the cloud, and how they plan to select vendors to use in the cloud.

For example, when asked what the most important factors are in determining which cloud provider to use, the top three results were Reliability / uptime, Security, and Proven expertise.  These were the top three, regardless of whether the developers were talking about a private cloud or a public cloud, though security was the most important factor in a private cloud whereas reliability and uptime was more important for the public cloud. 

Note that proven expertise was an important factor in both public and private cloud vendor selection. This attitude combined with the need for both security and reliability is a large potential barrier to new vendors in the cloud, but for well-established large companies, it’s a big advantage.

While lack of vendor lock-in wasn’t a significant factor in cloud provider selection (only 8% cited this as the primary factor in selecting a cloud provider), it is an issue, especially in larger companies where the stakes may be higher or where more complexity in the operations force a need for more flexibility.  While half of all developers said they would prefer greater interoperability with less functionality to greater functionality with more vendor lock-in, in large companies over sixty percent shunned vendor lock-in, preferring greater interoperability even at the cost of less functionality.

Cloud implementations run the gamut from HPC to mobile and the breadth of cloud development is dynamic and changing everyday, as the benefits it can offer are realized by large and small.  HPC in the cloud is particularly well-suited and appealing.  Fifty-nine percent of developers in North America who are currently using cloud as a development environment are also currently using multiple threads in their applications.  (North American Development Survey, Volume 1, 2010 © Evans Data Corp, 2010).   Intel provides the processor of choice for this and the iCore 7 is the most commonly targeted processor for those currently developing in the cloud. The Xeon chipset is also popular, being targeted by 45% of developers currently working in the cloud, thus laying a nice foundation for HPC cloud computing.

Several vendors have gone out of the way to encourage HPC multi-core development in the cloud.  Last year, Intel introduced a cloud test service for developers – Intel® Parallel Universe Portal in which developers can test their multi-core apps in the cloud on Intel hardware.  This solves a major problem for developers who want to create many core apps but haven’t got the hardware available to do the testing required.

Likewise, IBM has introduced the IBM Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud.  That service  is designed to provide developers with a secure, cloud-based enterprise-class development and test environment, thus offering them the ability to create and test very large enterprise-scale applications without the acquiring, configuring, or maintaining the hardware needed.

And that’s an important point.  When asked to identify the top benefit of deploying applications in a public cloud the most cited were: freedom from maintaining hardware (19.9%), cost savings (19.4%), and scalability (16.4%).  If we look just at those developers in large companies (having more than 1000 employees), the results are the same, though there is less emphasis on scalability.

At the other end of the spectrum, development for mobile devices stands to gain new capabilities from the cloud model.  If a mobile app is no longer constrained by the limitations of the mobile device itself and can run cloud apps as a client then the applications themselves can be a lot more robust.  This is true of enterprise apps as well as consumer apps, and this idea is gaining hold amongst developers. Almost sixty percent (57.3%) of the developers in our cloud survey spent at least some of their time working with apps that run on mobile devices, though only 11% spent more than half their time on this.

From the developer’s perspective, the cloud offers a new way to collaborate and manage development projects that may span the globe.  Especially for developers writing large enterprise or HPC apps almost every aspect of the Application Lifecycle Management process can benefit, though overall project management was the most frequently cited ALM activity that benefits from the cloud in our latest survey.

Note that this multiple response question allowed the developers to select as many responses as they wished, and thus the total will not come to 100%.  The response column shows the percent of total responses, while the case column shows the percent of actual developers (cases) who responded

The cloud is as exciting a frontier for developers as it is for enterprises and consumers.  In the realm of HPC computing, it offers the possibility of creating applications that would otherwise be prohibitive in their infrastructure costs to many developers and hints at the promise of innovations that will result from more developers being able to access HPC hardware and services.

Janel Garvin is the CEO of Evans Data Corp. She is currently involved with Evans Data’s international initiatives and is also directing Evans Data studies on multi-core processing and parallel programming, as well as all development tools and application servers, and cloud computing.  She also directs private competitive intelligence studies for clients and advises on tactical marketing to developers.
 

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