Significant Software Development Developments of 2012

I have written before (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) on my biased perspective of the most significant developments in software development for that year. This post is the 2012 version with all my biases and skewed perspectives freely admitted.

10. Groovy 2.0

Groovy 2.0 have been an important version for Groovy. Groovy 2's arguably most notable new features are its static type checking and static compilation capabilities.

9. Perl Turns 25

Perl celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012. Love it or loathe it, Perl has definitely become the predominant scripting language, especially in the non-Windows environments. Perl is not my favorite (I'd rather use Groovy, Python, or Ruby), but I find myself needing to use it at times, usually because I'm modifying or using an existing script or set of scripts already written in Perl. Happy Birthday, Perl!

8. Git and GitHub

Git is the trendy choice now in version control and GitHub is equally trendy for hosting code. The post Why Would Anyone use Git in their Enterprise? states, "Git has a cult-like following in the development community." The book Pro Git (2009) is freely available for reading online and can be downloaded as a PDF, mobi, or ePub electronic book.

7. NoSQL and Polygot Persistence

The NoSQL concept seems to be maturing and moving from unabated hype and hyperbole to understanding when it works well and when it doesn't. In 7 hard truths about the NoSQL revolution, Peter Wayner writes: NoSQL systems are far from a perfect fit and often rub the wrong way. The smartest developers knew this from the beginning. ... the smart NoSQL developers simply noted that NoSQL stood for "Not Only SQL." If the masses misinterpreted the acronym, that was their problem.

Martin Fowler's nosql page states: "The rise of NoSQL databases marks the end of the era of relational database dominance. But NoSQL databases will not become the new dominators. Relational will still be popular, and used in the majority of situations. They, however, will no longer be the automatic choice." With this, Fowler introduced the concept of polygot persistence (which he mentions was previously coined by Scott Leberknight in 2008) and explicitly compared this to the concept of polygot programming. If we as a software development community believe that the advantages of using multiple languages in the same application (polygot programming) are worth the costs, then it follows that we might also determine that the advantages of using multiple data stores within the same application (polygot persistence) are also worth the costs of doing so.

6. Mobile Development

Mobile development continues to rapidly rise in 2012. The December 2012 write-up on the Tiobe Index states that Objective-C is likely to be the language of the year again in 2012 due to its rapid rise (third in December 2012 behind only C and Java and ahead of C++ and C#). The writers of that summary conclude about language ratings on this index, "In fact it seems that if you are not in the mobile phone market you are losing ground."

Suzanne Kattau's post Mobile development in the year 2012 succinctly summarizes the changes in popular mobile device platforms and operating systems in 2012.

5. Scala (and Typesafe Stack 2.0 with Play and Akka)

I have highlighted Scala multiple times in these year-end review posts, but this is my highest rating of Scala because Scala has seen a tremendous year in 2012. On 23 August 2012, Cameron McKenzie asked, "Is Scala the new Spring framework?" An answer to that question might be implied by the 1 October 2012 announcement that Spring founder Rod Johnson had joined Typesafe's Board of Directors (Johnson left SpringSource in July). Scala provides the intersection of again-trendy functional programming with widely popular and proven object-oriented programming and is part of the increasingly popular movement to languages other than Java on the JVM. It's not difficult to see why it had a big year in 2012.

The Typesafe Blog features a post called Why Learn Scala in 2013? that begins with the statement, "2012 was a big year for the Scala programming language - with monumental releases, adoption by major enterprises and social sites alike and a Scala Days conference that knocked the socks off years past." The post then goes on to list reasons to learn Scala in 2013 with liberal references to other recent positive posts regarding Scala.

Ted Neward has predicted that in 2013 "Typesafe (and their Scala/Akka/Play! stack) will begin to make some serious inroads into the enterprise space, and start to give Groovy/Grails a serious run for their money." I am not calling Play and Akka out in this post as separate significant developments in 2012, but instead lump them together with Scala as part of justifying Scala taking the #5 spot for 2012. There is no question, however, that 2012 was a big year for Akka and Play. The year 2012 saw the release of Typesafe Stack 2.0 along with Play 2.0 and Akka 2.0.

4. Big Data

Big Data was big in 2012. AOL Government has named Big Data its Best of 2012 for the technology category. Geoff Nunberg argues that "'Big Data' Should Be The Word Of The Year." Interest in the statistical computing language R has (not surprisingly) risen along with the surging interest in Big Date.

3. HTML5

2012 was another big year for HTML5. Although HTML5 continued to be evangelized as a standards-friendly favorite of developers, some hard truths (such as performance versus native code) about the current state of HTML5 also became more readily obvious.

That being stated, I think HTML5 still has a very positive future ahead of it. Although it has certainly been over-hyped with emphasis on what it might one day become rather than what it is today, it would also be foolhardy to ignore it or underestimate its usefulness. Two articles that remind us of this are FT exec: HTML5 is not dead and HTML5 myth busting. The article 'HTML5 is ready' say creators of mobile HTML5 Facebook clone talks about attempts to prove HTML5 is ready today from a performance standpoint.

2. Security

Awareness of security holes, risks, and vulnerabilities has been increasing for the past several years largely due to high-profile incidents of lost sensitive data and new legal requirements. However, 2012 seemed to be a bigger year than most in terms of increasing awareness of security requirements and expectations in software architecture and design.

Java seemed to be particularly hard hit by bad security news in 2012. Articles and posts that provide examples of this include 1 Billion computers at risk from Java exploit, Oracle's Java Security Woes Mount As Researchers Spot A Bug In Its Critical Bug Fix, Java Vulnerability Affects 1 Billion Plug-ins, Another Week, Another Java Security Issue Found, Oracle and Apple Struggle to Deal with Java Security Issues, and Java still has a crucial role to play—despite security risks. The article Oracle to stop patching Java 6 in February 2013 suggests that users of Java should upgrade to Java 7 before February 2013 when Oracle will supply the last publicly available security patch to Java SE 6 outside of an Oracle support plan.

1. Cloud Computing

It seemed like everybody wanted a cloud in 2012 even if they didn't really need one. Archana Venkatraman put it this way, "2012 was the year cloud computing hit the mainstream." Steve Cerocke stated, "2012 will go down as the year of cloud computing." Other articles and posts on the biggest cloud stories of 2012 include The 10 Biggest Cloud Stories Of 2012 and Top five cloud computing news stories in 2012.

Cloud Computing is in the sweet spot many trendy technologies and approaches go through when enthusiasm is much greater than negativism. Charles Babcock's Cloud Computing: Best And Worst News Of 2012 is more interesting to me than many cloud-focused publications because it highlights the good and the bad of cloud computing in 2012.

Honorable Mention

I couldn't fit everything that interested me about software development in 2012 into the Top Ten. Here are some others that barely missed my cut.

C

As mentioned earlier, the C programming language appears headed for #1 on the Tiobe Index for 2012. One of programming's most senior languages is also one of its most popular. When one considers that numerous other languages are themselves built on C and when one considers that many languages strive for C-like syntax, the power and influence of C is better appreciated. C's popularity has remained strong for years and 2012 was another very strong year for C.

Another piece of evidence arguing C's case is the late 2012 O'Reilly publication of Ben Klemens's book 21st Century C: C Tips from the New School. The author discusses this book and C today in the O'Reilly post New school C.

Although I have not written C code for several years now, I've always had a fondness for the language. It was the language I used predominately in college (with Pascal and C++ being the other languages I used to a less degree) and I wrote the code for my electrical engineering capstone project in C. I remember (now fondly) spending almost an entire Saturday on one of my first C assignments fighting a bug to only realize that it was not working because I was using the assignment operator (=) rather than the equality operator (==). This lesson served me well as I learned other languages in terms of both what it important to differentiate and in terms of how to better debug programs even when a debugger is not readily available. I think my C experience grounded me well for later professional development with C++ and Java.

Gradle 1.x

Using an expressive programming language rather than XML or archaic make syntax to build software seems like an obviously beneficial thing to do. However, make, Ant, and Maven have continued to dominate in this area, but Groovy-based Gradle shows early signs of providing the alternative we've all been looking for. Gradle still has a long way to go in terms of acceptance and popularity and there are many other build systems with some of Gradle's ideals that have failed, but Gradle did seem to capture significant attention in 2012 and can hopefully build upon that in future years. Gradle 1.0 was formally released in June 2012 and Gradle 1.3 was released in November 2012.

DevOps

Among others, Scott Ambler predicted that "DevOps will become the new IT buzzword" in 2012. If it is not "the" buzzword of 2012, it is not for a lack of trying on the DevOps evangelists' part. The DevOps movement continued to gain momentum in 2012. The DZone DevOps Zone sees one or more posts on the subject added each day. The only reason this did not make it into my Top Ten is that I still don't see "Typical Everyday Coder" talking about it when I am away from the blogosphere talking to in-the-trenches developers.

Amber's concluding paragraph begins with this prediction, "Granted, there’s likely going to be a lot of talk and little action within most organizations due to the actual scope of DevOps, but a few years from now, we’ll look back on 2012 as the year when DevOps really started to take off." Only time will tell. There continue to be posts trying to explain what exactly DevOps is.

Departures of Noteworthy Development Personnel

There were some separations of key developers from their long-time organizations in 2012. As mentioned previously, Spring Framework founder Rod Johnson left VMWare/SpringSource (and ultimately ended up on the Board of Directors for Scala company Typesafe). Josh Bloch, perhaps still best known for his work at Sun on the JDK and for writing Effective Java, left Google in 2012 after working there for eight years.

Resurgence of Widely Popular but Aged Java Frameworks

Two very popular long-in-the-tooth Java-based frameworks saw a resurgence in 2012. Tomek Kaczanowski recently posted JUnit Strikes Back, in which he cites several pieces of evidence indicating a resurgence in JUnit, arguably the most commonly used testing framework in Java (and, in many ways, the inspiration for numerous other nUnit-based unit testing frameworks). Christian Grobmeier's recent post The new log4j 2.0 talks about many benefits of Log4j2 and how it can be used with more recently popular logging frameworks such as SLF4J and even Apache Commons Logging.

Electronic Books (E-books)

Electronic books (ebooks) are becoming widely popular in general, but also specifically within software development books. This is not surprising because e-books provide many general benefits, but also have benefits particular to software development. In particular, it is nice to be able to electronically search for terms (overcoming the poor index problem common to many printed programming books). Other advantages include the ability to have the book on laptops, mobile devices, e-readers, and other portable devices. This not only makes a particular book readily available, but makes it easy to carry many books on many different technical subjects with one on travel. It is also less likely for the electronic book to be "borrowed" unknowingly by others or turn up missing.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of electronic books is cost. It is fairly well known that technical books are generally not big profit makers for publishers. However, with printing and distribution costs being a significant portion of traditional publication costs, e-books make it easier to publishers to price these books at a lower cost than the printed equivalent.

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