News from the World of Software Development – June 2018

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Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly news digest where we analyze a few of the most interesting recent stories from the software engineering world. If you are interested in last month’s digest, by all means click on the following link. Hopefully, the month’s version provides some food for thought to assist you and your team with your development work!

IBM making Blockchain Development easier for Software Engineers

Blockchain and similar peer-to-peer ledgers continue to make an impact within the technology industry. In fact, software engineers experienced with blockchain development remain highly in demand all over the world, something we previously noted. Unfortunately, the lack of the proper tools for these kinds of applications – let alone finding enough skilled developers – makes programming projects in the space a difficult process.

Here comes IBM to the rescue. Big Blue recently announced the IBM Blockchain Platform Starter Plan, providing developers and businesses the means to bootstrap their efforts in this area of software engineering. News about the new IBM product appeared this week in SD Times.

IBM is a strong supporter of blockchain. In fact, the company introduced IBM Blockchain Starter Services, Blockchain Acceleration Services and Blockchain Innovation Services earlier this year. Big Blue’s VP of blockchain technology, Jerry Cuomo commented on the new platform starter plan.

“What do you get when you offer easy access to an enterprise blockchain test environment for three months? More than 2,000 developers and tens of thousands of transaction blocks, all sprinting toward production readiness,” said Cuomo.

The new platform leverages the open source Hyperledger Fabric framework built by IBM with Digital Asset. Organizations using the platform receive $500 in credit for their own blockchain network. Their developers enjoy a test environment, a suite of educational tools, code samples hosted on GitHub, in addition to network provisioning.

“And while Starter Plan was originally intended as an entry point for developers to test and deploy their first blockchain applications, users also now include larger enterprises creating full applications powered by dozens of smart contracts, eliminating many of the repetitive legacy processes that have traditionally slowed or prevented business success,” added Cuomo.

MongoDB 4.0 embraces the Cloud

One of the most popular NoSQL databases, MongoDB recently introduced its latest version, 4.0, with a host of new features aimed at Cloud deployment. We previously talked about MongoDB when we wrote about the MEAN stack, which uses the database. Coverage of version 4.0 of the database appeared this week in ZDNet.

MongoDB leverages a document model, which allows it to support key-value, graph, and text-based database structures. 4.0’s most relevant new features improve its transaction processing capabilities – notably support for ACID transactions – as well as making it easier to build Cloud-based applications. ACID support is facilitated by a new replication model using stronger consistency combined with fast failover.

The 4.0 feature supporting the Cloud is known as MongoDB Stitch. Stitch is a Cloud-based serverless environment hosted on MongoDB’s Atlas Cloud environment. Significantly, it supports stateful applications. There are currently 23,000 apps hosted on Atlas, with nearly 500 more being added each day.

Version 4.0 also includes support for mobile devices with an embedded version of MongoDB. If your team is using the MEAN stack or curious about it, take the time to learn more about this popular NoSQL database. 

Thanks for checking out the edition of the Betica Blog. Keep coming back for additional insights on the software development world!   

Microsoft buys GitHub

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By far the dominant story from this week in the software development world involves Microsoft’s buyout of the source control giants, GitHub. In fact, we just talked about GitHub’s positive impact on the application engineering process in May’s news digest. Of course, this news spawned a lot of discussion and controversy within the developer community.

Let’s take a closer look at Microsoft’s purchase of GitHub with an eye on the reasons behind the acquisition as well as what it means for your app engineering shop. Is a new era in software development now upon us? Will it change how your team manages its source code?

The Details behind the Microsoft/GitHub Purchase

Microsoft buying GitHub isn’t just another example of Redmond crushing a competitor. Burning venture capital at a high rate over the past few years made GitHub a ripe target for acquisition. The giants in the industry, namely Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, all considered a purchase of the code-sharing organization.

According to an article in CNBC, GitHub preferred Microsoft due to the relationship between their founder, Chris Wanstrath, and Redmond CEO, Satya Nadella. Paying $7.5 billion meant MS paid nearly 25 times GitHub’s revenue, to use a stock analyst metric. Microsoft gains the benefit of a popular Cloud-based service for its Azure offering; part of its strategy to compete with Amazon AWS in the industry.

GitHub also pairs nicely with LinkedIn in the Redmond portfolio. It gives Microsoft access to a large number of software engineering and general technology professionals. The expectation is for GitHub to continue to operate in a largely independent fashion with the exception of a migration to Azure.   

Is this the End of the Open Source GitHub?

As we discussed last week, GitHub provides a great example of the positive influence of open source on the software development world. Back in the Steve Ballmer era, Microsoft earned a reputation as an enemy of open source software. “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches,” said the MS CEO back in 2001.

Much of the gnashing and trashing in the developer community about a Microsoft-owned GitHub is a reflection of Redmond at the turn of the century. The Nadella-led company, on the other hand, is more of a champion of open source. The Visual Studio Code and .NET Core initiatives are examples of this new progressive attitude at Microsoft.

One of Nadella’s strategic goals involves fostering a developer-centric focus, or even emphasizing the one that already existed at Microsoft. GitHub fits perfectly with these plans. In fact, Microsoft closing its own competitor to the service – Codeplex – last year hinted at this week’s purchase. The added benefit of boosting Azure’s chances against AWS in the Cloud wars likely clinched their purchase decision.

Ultimately, when compared to Google or Amazon, Microsoft is arguably the better choice for GitHub. This especially rings true considering the company’s developer focus, as well as the embracing of open source under Satya Nadella. Nonetheless, every development shop currently using the source code service needs to consider whether staying makes sense for the long term.

Thanks for reading this edition of the Betica Blog. Stay tuned for additional dispatches from the never boring world of software development.

StopLight makes API Development an Easier Process

Modeling applications have assisted programmers in architecting software for years. So it stands to reason the process of API design and development would also benefit from the use of models during the SDLC. StopLight is one such application, offering shops a full visual API modeling suite, including documentation and other useful features.

The best applications used for software development stay out of the way, while making the entire architecting, coding, and testing processes easier. With that said, let’s take a closer look at StopLight to see if it needs to be part of your team’s API tool arsenal

The Need for a Better API Design Tool

Like many other innovative technology products – Ruby on Rails comes to mind – StopLight was developed by software engineers wanting a better tool to make their work easier. Company founder Marc MacLeod commented on how the need for a better API tool led to StopLight’s genesis. “I’m an engineer, and StopLight is the solution to problems I faced repeatedly. Before StopLight, best practices were very manual — with no easy way to document and test APIs in an accessible, collaborative setting. StopLight changes this paradigm,” said MacLeod.

StopLight first became available in February of 2016. The designer tool is free to use for singular developers, while team subscriptions are also available – starting at a monthly rate of $8 per person. At those prices, downloading the application to test drive its features and functionality is a smart call for any API shop. The app is available on the Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms.

StopLight – Features and Functionality

The StopLight application suite includes three main modules. The API Designer is the heart of the tool, providing a way for developers to collaborate on model design leveraging open standards. A documentation module automatically generates API documentation every time the model changes – a boon for public API shops.

Prism Proxy gives developers a way to validate and mock API requests. Users can either install the proxy on a local server, or use StopLight’s Cloud-hosted version for up to 20,000 requests per month. One useful feature provided by Prism Proxy is the ability to reverse engineer an API – simply run traffic through the proxy and StopLight automatically generates end point and model definitions.

An Easy to Use API Design Tool

StopLight’s easy to use API Designer module lets everyone work together on API designs, no matter their level of technical expertise. Even business stakeholders with little to no programming experience are able to use the tool. This is one feature attractive to DevOps and Agile development teams where collaboration and interaction are vital to the success of a project.

Version 2 of StopLight entered a public beta phase in July, with a new module used for testing APIs, including the debugging of HTTP requests. Better collaboration features are also part of the new release. A new pricing model adds flexibility to shops of all sizes.

StopLight is worthy of further exploration for any API development shop. This product continues to garner a lot of buzz in the industry.

Keep coming back to the Betica Blog for additional insights into the world of QA and software development.