Tech Soft 3D Blog

Beyond 3D Podcast: What's Important to Developers, Trends with Cloud Tech

Posted by Tyler Barnes on Mar 31, 2020 12:33:37 PM

Today we talk with Ken Alger, a developer advocate at MongoDB, and he was also named one of the top 25 developer advocates for 2019! We discuss how the role of the software developer has changed, what's important to them and also trends in cloud computing.

Listen to this episode:

 

Follow Ken on Twitter: twitter.com/kenwalger

To reach us at Tech Soft 3D, visit www.techsoft3d.com/company/

To read the full podcast transcript, see below. 

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Angela Simoes:

Welcome everybody to another episode of Beyond 3D. My name is Angela Simoes and I am here with Gavin Bridgeman, CTO of Tech Soft 3D. Hi Gavin.

Gavin Bridgeman:

Hello Angela. Nice to be here.

Angela Simoes:

And our guest today is Ken Alger, who is a developer advocate with MongoDB, but also has been named one of the industry's most influential developer advocates. So we're really excited to have you here with us today Ken, thanks for joining.

Ken Alger:

You bet. Excited to be here.

Angela Simoes:

So let's just kick it off and have you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into software development and your position today.

Ken Alger:

Sure. So I took kind of a strange route to where I am. So I started off working with computers when I was a kid, and did a lot of development back then on Commodore 64s doing gaming stuff. And then it moved up into the original IBM PC style of things. And I did my own spreadsheets and word processing software way back when. That took me kind of through high school and college. And I didn't major in computer science in college, but I was still kind of doing a lot of that. And just kind of as kids do, got tuckered out of writing code all day long. So I kind of took a detour, went through a lot of different careers along the way. And about five years ago decided I really should be doing technology. It's a little bit more stable for myself and my family, and it's where I'm really interested. So I took a job at a tech ed company where I taught Python, and Android, and some data science development things. And then got a job at MongoDB as a developer advocate about a year and a half ago.

Angela Simoes:

So interesting that you started off early on, and then took a break and came back to it. So how was that coming back to it? I mean, things had changed so much, right?

Ken Alger:

Yeah, things had changed. I mean all my roles that I had had along the way had a piece of technology to it. So whether it was working in an office and writing scripts to kind of automate boring, menial tasks that you have to do. So I wasn't completely out of it, but it just wasn't my full time sort of job. And getting back into it, yeah, there was a big learning curve, like my first webpages that I did way back when didn't have CSS. And so that was a learning curve, and there wasn't really JavaScript way back when. So that was another thing to kind of throw into the mix. So there was certainly a lot to learn, but it certainly is manageable.

Angela Simoes:

And so in the past few years that you've been with MongoDB for about a year and a half, you said, but you've been really back at it for the past five years. What have been the biggest changes in software development specifically that you've seen?

Ken Alger:

Mostly speed of what development cycles are like. What developers want in terms of being able to go out and innovate and that sort of thing. Right? Like 10 years ago, 15 years ago, software developers were not the most expensive part of the software development cycle. Now they're pretty expensive, right? So everybody's kind of pushing the envelope further and wanting to really kind of speed things up. So that's kind of where MongoDB really impressed me when I first discovered them about five years ago, was just the different way that they do things in terms of the database. It creates a much better, faster way to work with your data.

Angela Simoes:

And Gavin, what's your thoughts on how software development has changed?

Gavin Bridgeman:

Well, I think Ken hit it on the head there. I think a lot of development today is really plugging things together. You've got MongoDB, [inaudible 00:04:52] a whole host of tool set that people have today really mean that what you're doing a lot of is plugging things together rather than developing complicated pieces of code. And I think that's one of the fundamental changes. And there's benefits to that. I think software developments is a much more accessible profession to lot more people than it used to be.

Ken Alger:

One of the big things that developers want nowadays is to be able to go up and concentrate on what their business need is, right? So if you're building Twitter, you don't really want to have to figure out how to text message somebody, right? So you're going to use a service like Twillio. So it's kind of the pick and choose and figure out how to integrate everything together. And that's where as a database company, we really try and make you not have to worry about that data layer, make it super fast and easily accessible through our clouds offerings and products. So that you can just concentrate on what you're good at and what you want to make money at.

Angela Simoes:

And so now because there is this element of putting things together moreso these days. Talk about how software developers and software architects actually work together, and how that has evolved.

Ken Alger:

Yeah, so a lot of the software architects come from the developer background, and they've just kind of progressed up. And not that everybody has to have that career path of getting to a software architect. But they have kind of the business mindset of what it's going to take. And then also they know that development background. So they know, "Hey, implementing this feature should take roughly this amount of time." And they know how to communicate between the developers to the stakeholders for the project.

Angela Simoes:

Gavin, thoughts on that?

Gavin Bridgeman:

Yeah, I think it's in a similar vein. I also think one thing that has changed a lot is the user experience is such a bigger part of software design these days. It's not about check mark features. So I think these software architects have a much stronger usability background as well.

Angela Simoes:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so Ken, I'm curious in your role as a developer advocate and engaging with lots of developers, what has become most important to them? Whether it's furthering their career, or keeping their skills fresh, or what has become really most relevant for them in the last couple of years?

Ken Alger:

I mean, I think keeping skills fresh and current is super vital in this industry. It changes so quickly. That if you don't stay current you're going to be working on a mainframe in five years, sitting in the back doing COBOL development on a tax system for a state. Right? Which is fine. It's a very great job. You can get paid very well, but you're not kind of really staying up on the cutting edge. And I think the vast majority of developers, that's what they're hopes and dreams are, is that they're staying up on that cutting edge of technology. And with that development speed like talked about. And then the flexibility to kind of use your own tools, is really important for a developer. Kind of gone are the days where you're just a Java shop, right?

Ken Alger:

Like inevitably somebody in the basement corner of the room is going to have an IOT project, for example, that they're kind of tinkering with at home. And then they bring it into their shop and they're doing it all in JavaScript while their company might be a Java place. And eventually they share it with their friends and then it kind of gets implemented throughout the company. Maybe unbeknownst to whomever. But now all of a sudden it's a vital part of their team or their divisions stuff, and there they go. So along that path that developer's choosing React and MongoDB. And all sorts of different frameworks that they're cobbling together that may not be kind of on the corporate approved list, but they have that flexibility to implement those things.

Angela Simoes:

And how does that impact I guess the management of the role, right? If you are pulling all these different things together, does that make it I guess harder to manage and keep your finger on the pulse of all these new SDKs and APIs that are coming around? Are there like kind of a core set that I use for a lot of things, but then having to learn about new ones that are coming? How do you find people manage the volume of new things that are coming up?

Ken Alger:

It is incredibly hard. It's like drinking from a fire hose with technology. And to keep your head on your shoulders you just kind of go through. And you kind of try and set some standards internally for, I don't know, you have to wait for at least a version 1.0 in order to use a framework perhaps. Or it needs to have X, Y, and Z feature set before you can implement it in journaling. Inevitably, somebody in there is going to kind of buck the system and they're going to start their own little side project. And they're going to share with their friends and coworkers. And all of a sudden you have this thing that you're like, "Oh, that would be great. We'd love to roll that out. But perhaps the security isn't there within that feature set. So we need to kind of wait and hold off before we can do that."

Angela Simoes:

So let's talk about cloud a little bit. Because this sort of ties into that in terms of there's a lot of cloud tools out there, right? It's something that's been around for a while. It's been a hot topic for a while. So what do you see as some of the biggest, I guess, opportunities and even challenges when it comes to the cloud these days?

Ken Alger:

First of all, I think we're in the very early innings of cloud computing. And I think it's just going to get bigger and bigger. For MongoDB and our managed cloud database Atlas, it runs right now across AWS and Microsoft Azure and GCP. So having that kind of flexibility with the cloud is really important. And cloud technology is just going to get bigger and bigger. And I think that's kind of where computing by and large is going to be going.

Angela Simoes:

Do you think we'll get to a point where everything will be in the cloud?

Ken Alger:

I think there's still going to be applications that can't, for various security reasons. We still have a lot of customers that are very paranoid about somebody else managing their data. As a database company that's where we're focused on. I mean I can understand kind of the scared factor of that. Of "Where's my data? Is it in Oregon? Is it in Virginia? Is it in Bahrain? I don't know exactly. So now I'm concerned about that."

Angela Simoes:

So security is still an issue then for sure. Gavin Tech Soft 3D does a lot with cloud SDKs, enabled cloud development. And so what are your thoughts on where it's going?

Gavin Bridgeman:

Yeah, I would agree a lot with a lot what Ken said. And a little more in the specific, in the engineering world, a lot of these vendors, their IP is in their designs. And so they're extremely uncomfortable about putting their designs on the clouds. Private clouds are pretty prevalent when you look at places like Boeing and Daimler, or some of these large manufacturers. So I think their security concerns are valid and they're so paranoid that I probably don't see things changing there. That said, where I see there's a massive opportunity is in this true IOT, people are kind of starting to connect the physical world to their digital assets.

Gavin Bridgeman:

And so it allows somebody to be able to virtually view their factory and see where everything is. And we are starting to see more and more of that happening. You have cars driving around digitally scanning in areas. So I think this digital representation of the world is becoming more and more pervasive. And I think there's massive opportunities there. So I think there's a huge growth opportunity in the engineering market as the physical world is getting more connected to their digital data. And all this digital data is coming from the kind of engineering world. So I think the cloud, that's where I think there's going to be a massive opportunity is this. The engineering data within engineering, the use cases today, there's a lot of security concerns around that. But as it looks like getting out of the engineering world and into the real world, that's where you start seeing, I see really massive opportunities.

Angela Simoes:

What about AR as well? AR or VR?

Gavin Bridgeman:

Like I think with augmented reality, like you hear a Tim Cook talk. Or some of these leaders in our industry, and they talk about AR being this transformative technology. And I think when we look out into the future, I truly believe there will be a digital dimension. So, for example, like these IOT devices emitting information via temperature in a room. Be it being able to put on glasses and have an X-ray view of your building. And they will see all the piping that's behind the wall. So this idea of the digital dimension, I think it's going to happen. And this digital twin already exists today, and augmented reality is a way to view that. And right now they don't have that killer app as they call it. But that killer piece of hardware where people can put on a set of glasses and get this digital dimension, I think is really going to come on. And AR is going to enable that.

Gavin Bridgeman:

Now AR today is really about allowing you to kind of place 3D objects so you can place Pokemon on a table and look around it. Well that's kind of fun, it's not really that useful. When you start getting to a place where an engineer can go into a building and put on glasses and see where all the pipe work is behind the walls. That's starting to bring some real value. When somebody can put on glasses, walk down the street and start knowing the voting history of a particular house or what's their energy consumption. All these kinds of things are going to be where I think AR is going to really explode and be extremely useful in this kind of digital dimension.

Angela Simoes:

And so you mentioned companies like Boeing and Daimler, right, who have the budgets to implement and play around, even experiment with some of these technologies. But when you think about small to midsize companies that see all these things happening, but don't have the big budgets, we'll have Ken answer this first. How do you work with some of those smaller companies? Or what would be your advice to some of the smaller and mid sized companies that want to get into the cloud, start using AR, VR or some of these other tech trends? They don't have the funds to hire an entire in house development team kind of thing. So how do you work with customers in that level that still want to stay competitive and take advantage of trends?

Ken Alger:

Yeah, that's a great question. So to start with, I think one of the great benefits of cloud offerings like AWS, and GCP, and Azure, is they have a lot of those kind of pick and choose, build it yourself sorts of features available. So you don't necessarily need to be an expert in AR, or machine learning, or a whole host of other things, right? So you can choose GCP, Google Cloud Platform and put your data up there. And use the Google tools that they have right out of the box on your data. And you can kind of become competitive in that fashion. And then if AWS has Lambda example, and you really want to use it there. You can have kind of a multi-cloud offering that we provide here with MongoDB that allows you to utilize services from all the big three.

Angela Simoes:

And Gavin Tech Soft also has a customers at different levels. So how have you seen some of the smaller to mid size companies getting through and taking advantage of some of these technologies?

Gavin Bridgeman:

Well I think that's where we kind of come in, right? That these people who are providing tools. Previously these companies would have the resource to be able to build their own MongoDB and have it only for their internal use. And I think how a lot of these guys are now competing, is they're able to get some open source tools, or MongoDB, or [inaudible 00:18:39] technology. And it really puts them on a much higher level, a much higher starting point than they would been previously. So I think that's how they're competing is using tools. Tools work well with outsource development, because you're working with foundational tools that are documented. And so if you do have turnover, which is a challenge when you're outsourcing. You at least have documented tools that people can use. So I think from my perspective it's never been easier for the small guy to compete with the big guy.

Angela Simoes:

That's encouraging for sure. Well we are coming up on our time, so I'm just going to throw out one last question to both of you. And that would be, when you think about the software development world, or software and the digital world in general, what's the most exciting thing for you, Ken?

Ken Alger:

Yeah, I think cloud, like I said, we're in such early stages of the cloud. And where it's going to be going in the future is really going to be exciting, right? Especially with multi-cloud and the idea of being able to store your data where you want to. And use the tools that are needed on your data specifically. In the past you've really kind of had that vendor lock. By enabling multicloud offerings, you kind of avoid that lock-in. I think the cloud is really where things are moving, and I'm excited to see it.

Angela Simoes:

Gavin.

Ken Alger:

Yeah. For me, I've always gotten my little world of the engineering world. So it's kind of plays on top of the cloud, but just this idea of, we have maps today. And you have 3D maps with the kind of Google Earth feeling. A ton of that being augmented with IOT data. That really brings that in that next level where you really have a live representation of the physical world in digital space and all the opportunities that AR can arise. I think it's going to be pretty exciting.

Angela Simoes:

I'd agree. Well, that brings us to a close, gentlemen. Thank you very for your time. Thanks Ken for being with us, and thank you Gavin as always for being here.

Ken Alger:

Absolutely.

Gavin Bridgeman:

Thank you Angela.

Angela Simoes:

And thank you everybody out there for listening to another episode of Beyond 3D. If you haven't hit Subscribe, please do. And share it with your friends and colleagues to listen in. And if you are so inclined, please write us a review on iTunes. That'll help more software folks and engineers find us as they're looking for good conversations to listen to. So with that, we'll wrap it up and say thanks for joining and have a wonderful day.

Angela Simoes:

Thank you for joining us on the Beyond 3D podcast, hosted by Tech Soft 3D. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review, or subscribe on SoundCloud. To listen to past episodes or learn more about Tech Soft 3D, visit www.techsoft3d.com/blog send us comments and suggestions at info@techsoft3d.com. Thanks again for listening, and we hope you'll join us again on the next episode of Beyond 3D.

 

Topics: Cloud, Big Data, 3D, AI, AR/VR

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