Developer interest in C# has declined sharply since its peak in 2012 according to data from the TIOBE index. As one former .NET developer wrote back in 2015, this precipitous decline in due to the rise of cloud-native application frameworks and mobile platforms where Microsoft developers are not first-class citizens.
The reach of Microsoft’s developer ecosystem has declined in the past five years due to the rise of non-Microsoft web frameworks and mobile platforms. Android and iOS control 90% of the world wide smartphone market and .net developers aren’t first class citizens on those platforms. – Justin Angel, former .NET developer
Microsoft’s mobile device market share slipped below 1% again earlier this year. Yet there are growing signs that Microsoft’s long ball strategy of adopting open source and doubling down on developer tools may be starting to pay off. Last year Microsoft surprised everyone when it announced a partnership with longtime rival Red Hat to deliver Linux on the Microsoft Azure cloud computing service. Earlier this year Microsoft acquired Xamarin, which helps .NET developers build mobile apps for Android and IOS.
Microsoft seems to be listening to IT leaders, who have been under tremendous pressure to create agility for the enterprise application developers who are driving innovation. The move to open source .NET Foundation and the creation of Windows Server Nano is designed to put a stop to enterprises re-writing .NET applications in order to migrate to Linux.
Microsoft has also moved quickly to adopt Docker and containerization with native support for Docker containers in Windows Server 2016 and recently hiring Google’s lead developer on Kubernetes. The widespread adoption of containers is a boon for Microsoft because it enables developers to easily move applications from one environment to another. As developers increasingly use container-centric tools they become less reliant on the management interfaces of cloud rival Amazon Web Services and can more easily move applications to Azure. At the annual Ignite conference in September 2016 Microsoft showed a new demo of Docker in Visual Studio.
The results seem to suggest that Microsoft’s strategy is working. According to a recent article data from Synergy Research Group puts Azure cloud growth at 100% year-over-year, making Azure the #2 pubic cloud behind Amazon AWS. In 2017 enterprises with large investments in .NET may find these advances very compelling as they continue to seek a viable cloud strategy. Amazon’s lead in the public cloud has been so far been insurmountable. Do my eyes deceive me or does the most recent data from Indeed show a modest increase in C# job postings over the last 12 months? In 2017 we may finally see a real contest.
Indeed.com C# Job Postings
As I was reading the recent article by preeminent cloud expert Bernard Golden predicting the long, slow demise of private cloud, I was reminded of the “Bring out your dead” scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. In that scene, the old man who is still very much alive objects to being placed on the death cart, before being summarily dispatched to by a sudden blow to the head. Bernard makes a great case for why public cloud computing has been and will continue to be so successful. Indeed in my lifetime I do not think that I have seen a company the size of Amazon growing as fast as AWS is growing now. Yet lifetimes are on a relative scale.
On a long enough time scale, death and immortality are indistinguishable for the purposes of human beings. For example, it is perfectly accurate to say that the sun is also dying. Our star, the source of all life on our planet, will ultimately exhaust its supply of hydrogen. In about 5 billion years, the sun will ultimately grow so large as to engulf the Earth, totally destroying the planet in the process. While we know for a fact the sun is dying on a very long timescale, its not a good use of our time to plan for this extinction event. Much can happen in 5 billion years that is unknown. We may not even be here when the time comes. Or we may not even be exactly human anymore.
Let’s not equate private cloud with private infrastructure because these are not the same thing. Technology has become so embedded in the lives of people and companies that we are not even sure when we are using it anymore. There is privately owned infrastructure literally everywhere, and the trend is for more, not less of it. In the early days of the Internet, we used to joke that it was only a matter of time before your toaster had an IP address. The so-called Internet of Things, the proliferation of internet connected devices, is occurring on a scale that is almost unimaginable. The need to manage these legions might easily lead to a kind of data center renaissance. I would be shocked, by the way, if those data centers didn’t look suspiciously like private clouds.
I wish to offer you an alternate prediction, and it is this: The death of privately owned infrastructure, if it happens, will be so far in the future that your great-great-great grandchildren will still be running data centers of some kind. Private cloud is not dying or even sick – it is undead. It will go on living indefinitely seemingly unaware of its deteriorated state. What is dying is not private cloud or private infrastructure, but IT itself. For the last 25 years IT was a kind of factory converting the raw materials of technology into services consumed by the business. The fact is that IT was an inefficient factory that required a lot of manual effort. The era of custom built IT is being replaced by utility models. Public cloud is one such utility model, but there are others emerging even as we speak. What remains of IT is leaving the infrastructure era and entering the application era. To repeat a catchy phrase from a Microsoft executive, “Cloud is a model not a place”.
The evolution of the electricity-generation industry is an often used as an analogy for what is happening in IT with public cloud. I myself have used this analogy on many, many occasions since reading Carr’s prophetic “Does IT Matter?”. Yet the consumption of electricity and of computing are not close cousins. People have a great many preferences around how they consume computing but the same is not true of electricity. Some people value the privacy of their data while others value performance or the ability to scale. Public cloud is well suited to the consumer preferences of the moment, but that is subject to change. For most of us, electricity is just electricity, but even it is not immune. Just look at the impact solar and other alternative energy.
We haven’t even talked about the Grim Reaper of Public Cloud. When the Reaper comes he will come in the form of a catastrophic outage of one or more massive public cloud providers. Whether this outage is created by a security compromise, human error, or a bug or other technological failure, the result will be drastic changes in consumer preferences. We will all collectively learn the meaning of “too big to fail”. When the Reaper finally exposes his face it will be the Federal Government. Congress, greatly annoyed by their depravation of cat videos, will quickly move to regulate public clouds to oblivion. The party will be over when Amazon starts to look a lot more like AT&T.
There may just be life in that old data center yet.