Note: This post, ,”#gluecon 2013 Day 2 Recap” originally ran on the ProfitBricks blog.

Day 2 of Gluecon 2013 got deeper and wider than Day 1, with the number of topics multiplying across all the different sessions.  Google’s Tim Brayspoke about the evils of passwords and how the combination of OAuth2 and OpenID can alleviate user pain and security issues by solving this problem once and for all.  My friend Blake Yeager from HP discussed OpenStack, the benefits it brings and their specific implementation of it.  In a breakout session, database start up MemSQL inserted 430 million rows in a SQL database, which for me, as someone who is no stranger to the pitfalls of live demos, was extremely impressive.  Couchbase gave a similar demo that added multiple nodes to an existing database cluster on the fly.

O’Grady: The New Kingmakers

The highlight of the morning keynotes, though, was Stephen O’Grady’s talk entitled “The New Kingmakers”.  During the session, the Redmonk analyst walked through the history of software development to show how we got to our current state where developers have an unprecedented influence and autonomy.  As Stephen explained, even when the earliest software communities in the 1950′s were incubated by the likes of IBM, it was in the name of justifying the sale of hardware through better functioning software.  I have first hand experience with this, as I saw the last days of the HP 3000 mainframe and its free Image relational database when I started my tech career at HP in the early 1990′s.

When software did become sellable separately, it was primarily to enterprise customers and their CIOs.  ”Software was not built to be used, it was built to be bought by someone at the top,” Stephen said.  Developers had very little control over the components that made up their solutions back then, in the era roughly between 1975 and 1998.  Corporate executives and IT managers decided what was in a coders tool box based on cost, compliance, cost, manageability, cost, and a host of attributes that often had little to do with improved functionality, ease of use, or the ability to build anything cool (emphasis based on my personal experience added).

Bill Gates and George Lucas

But something changed, first in ’75 and again in ’98, that gave us the landscape of developer choice and empowerment we enjoy today: Someone noticed opportunity.  The first person to notice opportunity was Bill Gates, who had the foresight to put non-exclusivity in the IBM contract for DOS, enabling Microsoft to sell it to other companies.  Stephen very slyly compared this to George Lucas securing merchandising rights for his new movie in 1977 when 20th Century Fox wasn’t so sure that anything with “War” in its title would be a hit at the box office.  In both cases, a very smart person took advantage of status quo thinking to open a market not previously fathomed.

Welcome to the 90s

The 1990′s saw similar opportunity discovery as the open source movement and web development took root.  Stephen presented a timeline of milestones:

  • 1991: Linux
  • 1994: Netscape Navigator
  • 1995: Apache
  • 1995: MySQL
  • 1995: PHP
  • 1998: Google

That last one is significant Stephen said, because Google made money with software rather than from software.  With choices that had zero cost and the ability to alter them if they wished, developers suddenly could break away from CIO mandates and build the cool stuff they wanted.  Google lit the way for a massive wave of start ups to follow in their footsteps, exploding the choices even further.

Today’s Landscape + More in the Book

All of that culminates into the present day developer culture.  Stephen effectively argues that developers have never been more empowered than they are today, wit a wider distribution of programming languages, and a slew of educational options for more people to join the party.  He goes deeper into this phenomena in his book, The New Kingmakers, which any developer under 30 years old should definitely read.  History repeats itself and Stephen has done a great job capturing how we arrived at where we are.

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