Developers as Kingmakers: Automate all the things


The New New Toolchain

Handling this complexity is essentially impossible without automation. Automation makes granularity, speed and reliability possible which in turn raises the expectations with the product teams and indeed the business. The cycle continues. AirBnB’s ‘DevOps’ stack features 16 different products.

In the nineties, ‘developer tools’ and ‘systems management’ remained unpopular both as career choices, cocktail conversation and indeed as investment opportunities, the order of things has been upended. Atlassian built itself to north of $100m in revenue with no sales people; Github took no investment until enterprise customers were banging down its door and it landed $100m in investment from A16Z. The growing list of influential developer platforms and automation tools marches on: Slack, Hipchat, Twilio, Stripe, Puppet InfraKit, Chef, IFTTT, Tray, Docker SwarmKit, Hashicorp Consul/Nomad, Mesosphere DC/OS and many many others.

Not Magic (Yet)

The new stack is more complex than the old and more complex to debug. This shines the spotlight in one area that remains a brake upon the entire system: testing.

We humans can struggle with complexity, especially on an ongoing basis which is why it is not possible to write truly reliable software. The fragmentation of application functionality into well-architected micro-services and the new tools for continuous integration and testing help to some extent, but ultimately the software developer is both the most powerful force for business acceleration and also the upper limit until the next level of automation arrives.

There are many promising areas arising. Automated validation of code; automated analysis of code to assess style and quality; microservice documentation and discovery; crowdsourced testing companies like Applause or HackerOne or algorithmic enabled recruiters for tech talent like Source{d}. These bold projects are approaching the level of sophistication at which the ML tech becomes invisible and how they deliver what they do become indistinguishable from magic.

You can read my previous blogs in the “Developers as Kingmakers” series here.

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