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15 technologies changing how developers work

Peter Wayner | Aug. 12, 2014
The very nature of programming is evolving faster than you might think, thanks to these powerful tools.

The solution, of course, is to build a Facebook or Salesforce app. They'll let you in and let you integrate with their platform to a point. But in the end, your app is an extra that could be limited or tossed aside with a wave of a hand. What choice do you have? You're either a lackey to the big portals or you're listening to crickets.

Developer tool No. 13: Devops tools

Once upon a time, we installed software on a server -- singular. Now we rent servers en masse, requiring dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of machines, many of which need to be provisioned on demand, full of fresh software -- a job that can no longer be done effectively by hand.

Enter the "devops" trend and underlying tools such as Chef and Puppet designed to maintain these servers for you. Push new software to the cloud and these tools handle the job of keeping all the computers running the same code. They automate what we used to do by hand for one machine.

Some services such as Google App Engine already handle this internally. All you need to do is give it your app, and the provisioning is automatic. You don't even know what's going on in the background; you merely get a bill for the amount of CPU cycles consumed.

Developer tool No. 14: GitHub, SourceForge, and social code sharing

Code-sharing sites may be the greatest contribution to the open source world. Before services like SourceForge came along, software was something you built on your own and shared on your own. If someone wanted a copy of the code, they came to you and you sent them a tar-ball if you felt like it.

Now code sharing is a social network. Sites like SourceForge and GitHub post all the code for everyone to see and update. They merge the process of maintaining, sharing, and commenting on the code in one easy-to-access place. You can read the code and suggest changes, all through one interface. Is it any wonder that many projects see tens or even hundreds of thousands of downloads each week? That would never be possible with the old model.

This model is now so dominant that most proprietary projects follow it. Sites like GitHub and BitBucket support themselves by selling nonpublic repositories that offer all the power of sharing, but within a limited permission group.

Developer tool No. 15: Performance monitoring

In the beginning, tracking the power of your code was simple. You printed out the time when the code began, then printed out the time when it ended. If you wanted to be fancy, you added a few extra calculations to do the subtraction for you.


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