Tag Archives: developers

Microsoft Build highlights new opportunity for developers, at the edge and in the cloud

Announcing new innovations that help developers build AI and multidevice, multisense experiences, and new $25M AI for Accessibility program

REDMOND, Wash. — May 7, 2018 — Monday at Microsoft Build 2018, Microsoft Corp.’s annual developer conference, Microsoft leaders showcased new technologies to help every developer be an AI developer, on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365 and across any platform. Building for AI is more important to developers than ever, as technology continues to change the way people live and work every day, across the cloud and across edge devices.

“The era of the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge is upon us,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “These advancements create incredible developer opportunity and also come with a responsibility to ensure the technology we build is trusted and benefits all.”

As part of Microsoft’s commitment to trusted, responsible AI products and practices, the company also today announced AI for Accessibility, a new $25 million, five-year program aimed at harnessing the power of AI to amplify human capabilities for more than 1 billion people around the world with disabilities. The program comprises grants, technology investments and expertise, and will also incorporate AI for Accessibility innovations into Microsoft Cloud services. It builds on the success of the similar AI for Earth initiative.

Advancements in the intelligent edge and intelligent cloud

Smart devices are proliferating in homes and businesses across the globe, with more than 20 billion expected by 2020. These devices are so smart, in fact, they are powering advanced ways to see, listen, reason and predict, without constant connectivity to the cloud. That is the intelligent edge, and it is opening opportunities for consumers, businesses and entire industries, from the operating room to the factory floor. Today Microsoft is announcing new capabilities for developers to extend to the edge:

  • Microsoft is open sourcing the Azure IoT Edge Runtime, allowing customers to modify, debug and have more transparency and control for edge applications.
  • Custom Vision will now run on Azure IoT Edge, enabling devices such as drones and industrial equipment to take critical action quickly without requiring cloud connectivity. This is the first Azure Cognitive Service to support edge deployment, with more coming to Azure IoT Edge over the next several months.
  • DJI, the world’s biggest drone company, is partnering with Microsoft to create a new SDK for Windows 10 PCs, and it has also selected Azure as its preferred cloud provider to further its commercial drone and SaaS solutions. The SDK will bring full flight control and real-time data transfer capabilities to nearly 700M Windows 10 connected devices globally. As part of the commercial partnership, DJI and Microsoft will co-develop solutions leveraging Azure IoT Edge and Microsoft’s AI services to enable new scenarios across agriculture, construction, public safety and more.
  • Microsoft announced a joint effort with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. to create a vision AI developer kit running Azure IoT Edge. This solution makes available the key hardware and software required to develop camera-based IoT solutions. Developers can create solutions that use Azure Machine Learning services and take advantage of the hardware acceleration available via the Qualcomm® Vision Intelligence Platform and Qualcomm® AI Engine. The camera can also power advanced Azure services, such as machine learning, stream analytics and cognitive services, that can be downloaded from the cloud to run locally on the edge.

Data and AI development for a new era

Using data, machine learning and cognitive intelligence, developers can build and manage AI-rich solutions that transform the ways people work, collaborate and live:

  • Microsoft announced Project Kinect for Azure, a package of sensors, including our next-generation depth camera, with onboard compute designed for AI on the Edge. Building on Kinect’s legacy that has lived on through HoloLens, Project Kinect for Azure empowers new scenarios for developers working with ambient intelligence. Combining Microsoft’s industry-defining Time of Flight sensor with additional sensors all in a small, power-efficient form factor, Project Kinect for Azure will leverage the richness of Azure AI to dramatically improve insights and operations. It can input fully articulated hand tracking and high-fidelity spatial mapping, enabling a new level of precision solutions.
  • A Speech Devices SDK announced today delivers superior audio processing from multichannel sources for more accurate speech recognition, including noise cancellation, far-field voice and more. With this, developers can build a variety of voice-enabled scenarios like drive-thru ordering systems, in-car or in-home assistants, smart speakers, and other digital assistants.
  • Azure Cosmos DB updates include new and differentiated multimaster at global scale capabilities, designed to support both the cloud and the edge, along with the VNET general availability for increased security. With these new updates, Cosmos DB delivers even greater cost-effectiveness and global scale, further cementing it as the fastest-growing database service in the world.
  • A preview of Project Brainwave, an architecture for deep neural net processing, is now available on Azure and on the edge. Project Brainwave makes Azure the fastest cloud to run real-time AI and is now fully integrated with Azure Machine Learning. It also supports Intel FPGA hardware and ResNet50-based neural networks.
  • New Azure Cognitive Services updates include a unified Speech service with improved speech recognition and text-to-speech, which support customized voice models and translation. Along with Custom Vision, these updates make it easier for any developer to add intelligence to their applications.
  • Microsoft is making Azure the best place to develop conversational AI experiences integrated with any agent. New updates to Bot Framework and Cognitive Services will power the next generation of conversational bots enabling richer dialogs, and full personality and voice customization to match the company’s brand identity.
  • A preview of Azure Search with Cognitive Services integration. This new feature combines AI with indexing technologies so it’s possible to quickly find information and insights, whether via text or images.

Multisense and multidevice experiences

Microsoft also demonstrated mixed-reality capabilities to enable richer experiences that understand the context surrounding people, the things they use, their activities and relationships:

  • A new initiative, Project Kinect for Azure — a package of sensors from Microsoft that contains our unmatched time of flight depth camera, with onboard compute, in a small, power-efficient form factor — designed for AI on the Edge. Project Kinect for Azure brings together this leading hardware technology with Azure AI to empower developers with new scenarios for working with ambient intelligence.
  • With Microsoft Remote Assist, customers can collaborate remotely with heads-up, hands-free video calling, image sharing, and mixed-reality annotations. Firstline Workers can share what they see with any expert on Microsoft Teams, while staying hands on to solve problems and complete tasks together, faster.
  • With Microsoft Layout, customers can design spaces in context with mixed reality. Import 3-D models to create room layouts in real-world scale, experience designs as high-quality holograms in physical space or in virtual reality, and share and edit with stakeholders in real time.

Modern tooling and experiences for any platform in any language

Microsoft is empowering developers to build for the new era of the intelligent edge, across Azure, Microsoft 365 and other platforms, using the languages and frameworks of their choice:

  • With Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), developers can drastically simplify how they build and run container-based solutions without deep Kubernetes experience. Generally available in the coming weeks, AKS integrates with developer tools and workspaces, DevOps capabilities, networking, monitoring tools, and more in the Azure portal, so developers can write code, not stitch services together. In addition, Microsoft is now offering Kubernetes support for Azure IoT Edge devices.
  • Visual Studio IntelliCode is a new capability that enhances everyday software development with the power of AI. IntelliCode provides intelligent suggestions to improve code quality and productivity and is available in preview today in Visual Studio.
  • Visual Studio Live Share, now in preview, lets developers easily and securely collaborate in real time with team members who can edit and debug directly from their existing tools like Visual Studio 2017 and VS Code. Developers can use Live Share with any language for any scenario, including serverless, cloud-native and IoT development.
  • Building on our shared commitment to developers and open source, Microsoft announced a new partnership with GitHub that brings the power of Azure DevOps services to GitHub customers. Today, we released the integration of Visual Studio App Center and GitHub, which provides GitHub developers building apps for iOS and Android devices to seamlessly automate DevOps processes right from within the GitHub experience.
  • Available today, the new Microsoft Azure Blockchain Workbench makes it easier to develop blockchain applications by stitching together an Azure-supported blockchain network with cloud services like Azure Active Directory, Key Vault and SQL Database, reducing proof-of-concept development time dramatically.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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In 2018, a better, faster, more accessible cloud emerges

Here’s what’s new in the Microsoft Cloud: Microsoft is making it easier for developers to build great apps that take advantage of the latest analytics capabilities with free developer tools and languages, best-practice guidance, price reductions, and new features.

Better decisions through better analytics

Knowing how users interact with your apps is a critical first step in managing product strategy and development pipeline. Using robust analytics, you can get the immediate feedback you need to determine how to engage users and make better decisions to improve your apps. With Visual Studio App Center, you can access App Center Analytics completely free. Now you can use this tool with Azure Application Insights to improve your business. Get started today.

New tools speed app development using time series data

Integrating IoT with other real-time applications can be a complex challenge. With Time Series Insights (TSI), developers can build applications that give valuable insights to customers, take fine-grain control over time series data, and easily plug TSI into a broader workflow or technology stack. To help developers get started and shorten development cycles, Microsoft has released new Azure Time Series Insights developer tools. With these tools, developers can more easily embed TSI’s platform into apps to power charts and graphs, compare data from different points in time, and dynamically explore data trends and correlations.

Faster feedback drives better apps

Good intuition is important, but without user input and insights you are playing a potentially costly guessing game. Gathering feedback fast from beta users who are invested in your product’s success lets you learn and adapt quickly before getting too deep into code that’s expensive to correct later. Using this step-by-step guide from one of our Visual Studio App Center customers, you will learn how to swiftly gather quantitative and qualitative user feedback to build apps your customers love, anticipate and correct problems, and ultimately win customers’ loyalty.

Empowering data scientists with R updates

R, an open-source statistical programming language, empowers data scientists to drive insightful analytics, statistics, and visualizations for mapping social and marketing trends, developing scientific and financial models, and anticipating consumer behavior. Recently we’ve released Microsoft R Open 3.4.3, the latest version of Microsoft’s enhanced distribution of R. This free download includes the latest R language engine, compatibility, and additional capabilities for performance, reproducibility, and platform support.

New open-source analytics capabilities at a lower cost

Microsoft recently announced significant price reductions, along with new abilities for Azure HDInsight, the open-source analytics cloud service that developers can implement in a wide range of mission-critical applications, including machine learning, IoT, and more. This includes capabilities like Apache Kafka on Azure HDInsight and Azure Log Analytics integration, previews for Enterprise Security Package for Azure HDInsight, and integration with Power BI direct query.

We are constantly creating new tools and features that reduce time-to-market and allow developers to do their best work. To stay up to date on Microsoft’s work in the cloud, visit https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com.

IT monitoring, org discipline polish Nasdaq DevOps incident response

Modern IT monitoring can bring together developers and IT ops pros for DevOps incident response, but tools can’t substitute for a disciplined team approach to problems.

Dev and ops teams at Nasdaq Corporate Solutions LLC adopted a common language for troubleshooting with AppDynamics’ App iQ platform. But effective DevOps incident response also demanded focus on the fundamentals of team building and a systematic process for following up on incidents to ensure they don’t recur.

“We had some notion of incident management, but there was no real disciplined way for following up,” said Heather Abbott, senior vice president of corporate solutions technology, who joined the New York-based subsidiary of Nasdaq Inc. in 2014. “AppDynamics has [affected] how teams work together to resolve incidents … but we’ve had other housekeeping to do.”

Shared IT monitoring tools renew focus on incident resolution

Heather Abbott, NasdaqHeather Abbott

Nasdaq Corporate Solutions manages SaaS offerings for customers as they shift from private to public operations. Its products include public relations, investor relations, and board and leadership software managed with a combination of Amazon Web Services and on-premises data center infrastructure, though the on-premises infrastructure will soon be phased out.

In the past, Nasdaq’s dev and ops teams used separate IT monitoring tools, and teams dedicated to different parts of the infrastructure also had individualized dashboard views. The company’s shift to cross-functional teams, focused on products and user experience as part of a DevOps transformation, required a unified view into system performance. Now, all stakeholders share the AppDynamics App iQ interface when they respond to an incident.

With a single source of information about infrastructure performance, there’s less finger-pointing among team members during DevOps incident response, which speeds up problem resolution.

“You can’t argue with the data, and people have a better ongoing understanding of the system,” Abbott said. “So, you’re not going in and hunting and pecking every time there’s a complaint or we’re trying to improve something.”

DevOps incident response requires team vigilance

Since Abbott joined Nasdaq, incidents are down more than 35%. She cited the IT monitoring tool in part, but also pointed to changes the company made to the DevOps incident response process. The company moved from an ad hoc process of incident response divided among different departments to a companywide, systematic cycle of regular incident review meetings. Her team conducts weekly incident review meetings and tracks action items from previous incident reviews to prevent incidents from recurring. Higher levels of the organization have a monthly incident review call to review quality issues, and some of these incidents are further reviewed by Nasdaq’s board of directors.

We always need to focus on blocking and tackling … but as we move toward more complex microservices-based architectures, we’ll be building things into the platform like Chaos Monkey.
Heather Abbottsenior vice president of corporate solutions technology, Nasdaq

And there’s still room to improve the DevOps incident response process, Abbott said.

“We always need to focus on blocking and tackling,” she said. “We don’t have the scale within my line of business of Amazon or Netflix, but as we move toward more complex microservices-based architectures, we’ll be building things into the platform like Chaos Monkey.”

Like many companies, Nasdaq plans to tie DevOps teams with business leaders, so the whole organization can work together to improve customer experiences. In the past, Nasdaq has generated application log reports with homegrown tools. But this year, it will roll out AppDynamics’ Business iQ software, first with its investor-relations SaaS products, to make that data more accessible to business leaders, Abbott said.

AppDynamics App iQ will also expand to monitor releases through test, development and production deployment phases. Abbott said Nasdaq has worked with AppDynamics to create intelligent release dashboards to provide better automation and performance trends. “That will make it easy to see how system performance is trending over time, as we introduce change,” he said.

While Nasdaq mainly uses AppDynamics App iQ, the exchange also uses Datadog, because it offers event correlation and automated root cause analysis. AppDynamics has previewed automated root cause analysis based on machine learning techniques. Abbott said she looks forward to the addition of that feature, perhaps this year.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget’s Cloud and DevOps Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Want to make software developer hiring easier? Be flexible

Forget what you think you know about software developers — at least when it comes to hiring. They’re not financially motivated, they’re largely self-taught, and one in four of them learned how to code before they could drive a car.

And here’s one more surprise: Their potential employers aren’t looking for prospective developers’ degrees; rather, they’re looking at their latest GitHub project.

Those insights, from a just-released survey of over 39,000 development professionals by technical hiring platform HackerRank, offer a unique view at both sides of the often-fraught software developer hiring process. Coders remain in very short supply around the world, and it’s tempting to think salary and tech tools lure developers, while employers prioritize a top-notch college degree. Apparently, it’s not nearly that simple.

Survey respondents ranked compensation as only the third most important factor when choosing a new job, after work-life balance (56.5%) and professional growth and learning (55.1%). But only 27.4% said a company’s technology stack was vital — a finding so unexpected, according to HackerRank’s co-founder and CEO Vivek Ravisankar, that the company did a follow-up survey and found developers really want employers to support them to work on side tech projects or coding-related hobbies. They also were clear about their work-life balance goals: 89.4% of developers want flexible working hours, and just over 80% want to work from home.

That flextime helps self-taught developers — 73.7% of survey respondents identified themselves as such — to continue their learning journey, which is vital for software developer hiring. According to the HackerRank survey, they’d rather go online to Stack Overflow (88.4%) or YouTube (63.8%) than learn from books. Nearly 40% want to learn Go, followed by Python, Scala, Kotlin and Ruby.

Keep learning to stay relevant

Most developers’ drive to learn is simply a built-in preference, but other factors may be at play. A survey by worldwide placement firm Harvey Nash showed close to 40% of developers feel they’re under pressure from automation, low code/no code tools and AI. The antidote to this, according to Alex Robbins, software development hiring recruiter at Harvey Nash, is learning.

One in four developers learned how to code before they could drive a car.

“Skills learned five years ago are often no longer relevant today,” he said. “[Our survey] revealed that 95% of tech experts are spending time developing their skills, and four in 10 are actually paying for training out of their own pocket.”

That should pay off, Ravisankar said, because employers want to see a prospective employee’s experience and what they’ve done. When executives hire software developers, the vast majority (84.1%) look at a developer’s portfolio, which in most cases means GitHub. Just over 71% consider previous experience, but only 35.4% take education into account.

When looking at GitHub, employers evaluate problem-solving skills, rather than programming language fluency. Over 94% of companies of all sizes indicated problem-solving skills were their top priority in software developer hiring, while less than 60% emphasized programming languages or debugging.

The focus on problem-solving has been a long time in coming, but fits with the software development market today, said Robert Stroud, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “There’s a worldwide shortage of developers still, but we need the developers we have to focus on learning the business,” he said. Coders, too, must avoid distraction with the shiny new toy of a hot language, he said.

Ultimately, it helps to know what motivates coders, but software developer hiring is still a battle, said Ernest Mueller, longtime developer and now director of engineering operations at AlienVault, headquartered in San Mateo, Calif.

“There’s more supply now than there’s been of developers, but demand is not going away,” he said. The work needs to be interesting, and employers must be prepared to pay for them — particularly if they have experience. Amounts vary, but a software engineer’s median base pay was $85,651 in December 2017, an increase of 1.6% year over year, according to data from job and recruiting site Glassdoor.

AWS Cloud9 IDE threatens Microsoft developer base

As cloud platform providers battle for supremacy, they’ve trained their sights on developers to expand adoption of their services.

A top issue now for leading cloud platforms is to make them as developer-friendly as possible to attract new developers, as both Microsoft and Amazon Web Services have done. For instance, at its re:Invent 2017 conference last month, the company launched AWS Cloud9 IDE, a cloud-based integrated development environment that can be accessed through any web browser. That fills in a key missing piece for AWS as it competes with other cloud providers — an integrated environment to write, run and debug code.

“AWS finally has provided a ‘living room’ for developers with its Cloud9 IDE,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in San Francisco. That fills a void for AWS as it competes with other cloud providers — especially Microsoft, which continues to extend its longtime strengths of developer tools and relationships with the developer community into the cloud era.

Indeed, for developers that have grown up in the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE ecosystem, Microsoft Azure is a logical choice as the two have been optimized for one another. However, not all developers use Visual Studio, so cloud providers must deliver an open set of services to attract developers. Now, having integrated the Cloud9 technology it acquired last year as the Cloud9 IDE, AWS has an optimized developer platform of its own.

AWS Cloud9 IDE adoption 

“There is no doubt we will use it,” said Chris Wegmann, managing director of the Accenture AWS Business Group at Accenture. “We’ve used lots of native tooling. There have been gaps in the app dev tooling for a while, but some third parties, like Cloud9, have filled those gaps in the past. Now it is part of the mothership.”

Forrester analyst Michael FacemireMichael Facemire

With the Cloud9 IDE, AWS offers developers an IDE experience focused on their cloud versus having them use their top competitor’s IDE with an AWS-focused toolkit, said Rhett Dillingham, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas.

“[They] are now providing an IDE with strong AWS service integration, for example, for building serverless apps with Lambda, as they build out its feature set with real-time paired-programming and direct terminal access for AWS CLI [command-line interface] use,” he said.

That integration is key to lure developers away from their familiar development environments.

“When I saw the news about the Cloud9 IDE I said that’s great, there’s another competitor in this market,” said Justin Rupp, systems and cloud architect at GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding organization in Washington, D.C. Rupp uses Microsoft’s popular Visual Studio Code tool, also known as VS Code, a lightweight code editor for Windows, Linux and macOS.

The challenge for AWS is to attract developers that already like the tool they’re using, and that’ll be a tall order, said Michael Facemire, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. “I’m a developer myself and I’m not giving up VS Code,” he said.

That’s been the knock against AWS, that they provide lots of cool functionality, but no tooling. This starts to address that big knock.
Michael Facemireanalyst, Forrester Research

For now, Cloud9 IDE is a “beachhead” for AWS to present something for developers today, and build it up over time, Facemire said. For example, to tweak a Lambda function, a developer could just pull up the cloud editor that Amazon provides right there live, he said.

“That’s been the knock against AWS, that they provide lots of cool functionality, but no tooling,” Facemire said. “This starts to address that big knock.”

Who is more developer-friendly?

AWS’ reputation is that it’s not the most developer-friendly cloud platform from a tooling perspective, which hardcore, professional developers don’t require. But as AWS has grown and expanded, it’s become friendlier to the rest of the developer community because of its sheer volume and consumability. And the AWS Cloud9 IDE appeals to developers that fit in between the low-code set and the hardcore pros, said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at Dallas-based Trend Micro.

“The Cloud9 tool set is firmly in the middle, where you’ve got some great visualization, you’ve got some great collaboration features, and it’s really going to open it up for more people to be able to build on the AWS cloud platform,” he said.

Despite providing a new IDE to its developer base, AWS must do more to win their complete loyalty.

AWS Cloud9 IDE supports JavaScript, Python, PHP and more, but does not have first-class Java support, which is surprising given how many developers use Java. Secondly, Amazon chose to not use the open source Language Server Protocol (LSP), said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, which has provided the Eclipse Che web-based development environment since 2014. Eclipse Che supports Java and has provided containerized developer workspaces for almost two years.

AWS will eventually implement Java support, but it will have to do it themselves from scratch, he said. Instead, if they had participated in the LSP ecosystem, they could have had Java support today based on the Eclipse LSP4J project, the same codebase with which Microsoft provides Java support for VS Code, he said.

This proprietary approach to developer tools is out of touch with industry best practices, Milinkovich said. “Cloud9 may provide a productivity boost for AWS developers, but it will not be the open source solution that the industry is looking for,” he said.

Constellation Research’s Mueller agreed, and noted that in some ways AWS is trying to out-Microsoft Microsoft.

“It’s very early days for AWS Cloud9 IDE, and AWS has to work on the value proposition,” he said. “But, like you have to use Visual Studio for Azure to be fully productive, the same story will repeat for Cloud9 in a few years.”

Ionic Pro embodies mobile app dev tools’ DevOps embrace

Driven by a need for speedy app development amid broad digital transformation directives, developers of all skill levels must collaborate to feed an insatiable user base of enterprises and their customers. And software development toolmakers are answering the call with low-code, easy-to-use mobile app dev tools to build enterprise applications.

There are actually two converging forces at work right now, said Joe McKendrick, an analyst at Unisphere Research. Developers increasingly must understand and align with lines of business and take on a more active role in business process management and optimization, user experience and customer experience (UX/CX) design, and DevOps.

Indeed, one in five executives indicate that most applications are developed outside of their IT departments, and 76%said that’s true for at least a portion of their apps, according to a recent survey from Unisphere Research and app dev toolkit maker Kintone. San Francisco based Kintone makes low-code development tools that enable line of business managers to build software that automate workflows, develop shared document repositories, construct reporting dashboards and process data without writing a single line of code.

At the same time, a new generation of business professionals with more tech-savvy employees of all ages, understand how computing can improve their work lives. These nonprofessional developers have begun to pick up low-code tools and have started to help create applications.

“Professional developers and non-developers increasingly see eye to eye on the things that need to be done,” McKendrick said.

Rub a little DevOps on it

As these lines blur, it forces tools and technology providers to address these different ends of the developer spectrum, and still provide tools for teams. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the mobile market.

For instance, Ionic has tuned its open source Ionic Framework to build cross-platform mobile and progressive web applications to woo enterprises with support for teams of developers along with more aspects of the application development lifecycle, including testing.

The Ionic Framework enables developers to target native mobile apps and progressive web apps from the same code base using familiar languages and tools. Earlier this month, Ionic Pro updated its set of cloud-based services and tools introduced in August. It now supports teams to design, build, test and deliver mobile and progressive web apps across the development lifecycle — from design and testing, to tracking errors and shipping hot code updates. The pro version includes collaborative tools to facilitate team development.

In essence, Ionic Pro overlays a DevOps veneer onto the Ionic Framework, although users who are typically front-end developers likely won’t think of it in that way, said Max Lynch, CEO of Ionic. The tool lets developers collaborate on projects via a shared database, remain aware of all build activity and coding changes, build apps using a drag-and-drop design, test different versions of apps with users, deliver different releases to different user segments, track and analyze coding errors, and ship hotfixes and live updates in real time without going through app stores.

Brian Aguilar, director of product at MarketWatch, which uses the older version of Ionic’s tool set, said his team has tested the recent product version, particularly features such as Ionic View, for remote testing and to allow external users to look at the app without installing it.

“That’s beneficial to us because we have a small QA team,” he said.

MarketWatch has considered the Ionic Pro Live Deploy feature for live updating apps. “I’m also intrigued by the Ionic Creator rapid prototyping tool,” Aguilar said.

Ionic Pro fosters developer collaboration
Ionic Pro screenshot displaying some of its collaborative development capabilities.

Low-code to the rescue

Ionic competes with Microsoft’s Xamarin unit and Progress Software’s Telerik, among others. At the recent Microsoft Connect, Xamarin introduced Visual Studio App Center, the next generation of Xamarin Test Center, which enables developers to build, distribute, monitor and integrate push notifications. Xamarin also introduced .NET Embedding, tooling with which developers can integrate .NET libraries and user interfaces written in C# into existing iOS, Android and macOS apps written in Objective-C, Swift and Java.

Also last month, Progress Software introduced tooling for its NativeScript open source framework to build native cross-platform mobile apps. NativeScript Sidekick provides starter templates, plug-ins, cloud builds, augmented reality support and more for building mobile apps.

“Low-code development platforms such as these, increase the range of people from all professions who now engage in some form of application development,” according to Unisphere’s McKendrick.

[Application development] is now a part of many job descriptions or daily routines, formally and informally. … Many people [are building] apps on company time, and that’s OK.
Joe McKendrickanalyst, Unisphere Research

“[Application development] is now a part of many job descriptions or daily routines, formally and informally,” he said. “Our survey found many people build apps on company time, and that’s OK.”

Mobile apps are the perfect target for low-code platforms, McKendrick said, because they are well-governed templates, and have set the standard and represent a huge breakthrough in low-code development. In addition, they have firm guardrails to ensure versioning, compatibility and security. Moreover, low-code tools have become much easier to use than the old power user tools including PowerBuilder and the older Visual Basic versions like VB6.

“Along with graphics, today’s tools have a lot of intelligence embedded within them that address all the protocols and dependencies behind the scenes,” he said.

This all comes full circle back to Ionic and its Creator tool. “I wouldn’t call it a ‘low-code’ tool, because most low-code tools are there to broaden the reach of creators, to give tolling to nonprofessional developers to create something,” said Michael Facemire, an analyst at Forrester Research. However, Ionic Creator helps to fast forward all the stages of the software development lifecycle to get a professional developer a head start, he said.

For his part, Mike Sigle, senior vice president of product development at New York City-based Napa Group, said the new Ionic View feature allows them to instantly share their latest codebase both internally and externally with just a few mouse clicks.

“We’ve established several channels, including Lab, where we try out fresh ideas that need instant feedback from our clients; Development, a stable branch of our latest code; Staging, where we smoke-test an app against a production API endpoint; and Production, the version users currently have,” he said.

Moreover, “Ionic Pro provides us huge technology benefits, as well as business benefits,” said Peter Chatzky, president and CEO of Napa Group. “We can streamline staff by having a single, smaller team develop for both iOS and Android platforms, thereby developing complex apps faster and at reduced cost. As we bring new ideas to market, Ionic allowed us to create modern apps without favoring a specific mobile platform or limiting our initial user base.”