Software engineering is famed for its fast-paced and innovative nature. This is driven in part by Moore's Law, but also the ever-increasing demand of industries and consumers for more convenience, escapism through games, automation of boring repetitive tasks, and much more.
For these reasons, among others, the future of software engineering is an exciting one to see unfold. But what are the major trends to look out for in 2020 and beyond?
Let's take a peek into what major trends are currently shaping up to dominate the industry for the next few years.
What is the future of software engineering?
Attempting to predict the future of anything is notoriously tricky, but there are some emerging fields that look like good bets for the future of software engineering. If you are considering a career in this already fast-developing and exciting field, now is a good a time as any to get on the bandwagon.
In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the software engineering industry is believed to rocket by 2026. Just since 2016, growth in the industry has grown over three times faster than the average for other industries.
To date, there is a large swathe of career options and specializations for software engineers, and this will only grow over time with new innovations. Not only that, but the software engineering ecosystem is becoming quite vibrant.
In the past, fledgling software engineers would need to join one of a few tech giants for their first rung on the ladder, but things they are a-changing. More and more companies in many industries are seeking the talents of software engineers to develop their own computer-driven processes.
In fact, according to Maryville University, "Increasingly, career opportunities extend to many sectors across many geographic regions. These sectors include retail, health care, research and development, business, banking and finance, government, and defense.
Amid all of this exciting growth, a few key software development trends have surged to the forefront as industry analysts look to the future."
One of the major drivers for this change is the ever-increasing demand for automation using advanced algorithms. As time goes by, production of all kinds will rely more heavily on machines and ingenious software to handle repetitive tasks allowing humans to focus on more creative things.
This will not only affect manufacturing but also the digital world with things like digital marketing, e-commerce, etc. All of this will need the skills of software engineers.
But the drive for ever more complex software needs will need to be helped, in part, by advances in computer hardware too. As the physical stuff of computers gets even better, faster, and more capable, software engineering will also be given greater tools to work with.
However, there will always be problems with computers that will need the skill of software engineers to iron out. The future of this industry looks very solid indeed.
What are the latest trends in software engineering?
And so, without further ado, here are some of the latest trends in the software engineering world. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. The cloud will only get bigger in overtime
Cloud computing has been a major component of digital services for several years now, with providers like Amazon dominating the market share. Its Amazon Web Services (AWS) absolutely ruled 2019 and this is unlikely to change in 2020 and beyond.
AWS, in case you are not aware, is a secure cloud-based services platform that offers computing power, database storage, content delivery, and many other functions to help businesses of any size scale and grow their digital presence.
To get an idea of just how big AWS is, in the latest report published by Canalys for Q2 in 2020, the largest cloud providers (including AWS) made up almost 60% of market share for the industry. Of that, just over half of that was AWS alone!
However, AWS does not have it all their own way. Many other cloud providers are fighting aggressively to close the gap with Amazon. Microsoft, specifically, has been targeting large enterprises with its Azure service for the last few years.
And the strategy has paid off. They were recently awarded a $10 billion deal with the U.S. Pentagon for its cloud project "JEDI". Google is also pushing forward aggressively with its Cloud Native Computation Foundation to help standardize Cloud operations on the web.
Google's long-term hopes with this initiative are to make Cloud migration a lot simpler for companies so they can potentially ditch services like AWS. IBM also recently got in on the act by buying RedHat (a Linux-based for online service for automation, cloud, containers, storage, etc) $36 billion.
2020 should see a lot more activity in this sector with more acquisitions and mergers likely. Many experts also predict that myriad startups will emerge with novel ideas and innovations like Multi-Cloud services, for example.
All this activity should mean that prices drop for consumers and functionality is expanded and refined.
2. Containerization will only become more important going forward
Containerization is a hot trend at the moment and will only go from strength to strength over the coming years. If you are unaware of what this is, containerization refers to standard units of software that package up code and all its dependencies in a self-contained unit, or container.
By doing this, the idea is that the application can run more quickly and reliably from one computing environment to another. At present, it is very popular on both Linux and Windows-based applications but other OSs are getting the same treatment too.
Containerization has seen exponential growth over the last few years and will only get bigger going forward. One of the leading lights in the field is Kubernetes who are on a course to dominate 2020 like they did 2019.
For this reason, expect Kubernetes to feature ever more as the backbone of the so-called Cloud-Native movement. Another big player was once Docker Enterprises but they failed to capitalize on their early market lead, ultimately leading to its recent acquisition by Mirantis.
3. Python set to still dominate in the coding realm
Only surpassed by Java and C, according to TIOBE, Python regularly forms one of the top three languages used by software developers. Since 2018, the popularity of Python as a language has also doubled from around 5% to around 10% in 2020.
For this reason, many experts in the field recommend budding, or veteran, programmers, if they haven't already, add Python to their skill set. This trend will only continue throughout 2020 and beyond.
But why? You might ask.
Python has helped lower the bar somewhat for entry in programming and has excellent community support. It is also very popular among data scientists and new-generation developers around the globe.
4. Newer programming languages will likely give Python a run for its money
Newer languages like Rust, Swift, Kotlin, TypeScript may well gain in popularity over the next few years. While the market is still dominated by Java, C, and Python, these newer programming languages have arisen over the last decade and are, generally, better at keeping up with the latest changes in hardware than their predecessors.
These newer languages tend to focus on developer ergonomics and, as such, as generally faster and easier to develop than say Java, C, C++, etc. In fact, in some recent Stackoverflow developer survey, most of the modern languages tend to rank on top.
Some of the top-ranking languages are not a surprise, with the likes and Python, yet others like the relative newcomer Rust tends to lead with a whopping 80+% favorability among active developers. Google is also getting in on the act with its support of Go.
Other software giants, like Microsoft and Amazon, have also recently announced that they are seriously exploring using Rust to develop secure software in the near future.
This trend is set to continue well into 2020 and beyond.
5. Have you heard of Low-Code No-Code?
A potentially interesting trend to watch in the software engineering universe is Low-Code No-Code (LCNC). With a huge lack of supply of developers at the moment, many companies are having trouble implementing their ideas.
This has led to the birth of LCNC in an attempt to lower the barrier for entry into software development. It gained some notoriety in 2019 and will likely only get stronger over the next few years.
The goal of LCNC is to, in theory at least, allow practically anyone to be able to develop software if they have a great idea but no significant coding experience. While many veteran programmers are, rightly so, skeptical about using it for production, it can lay the foundation for others.
Many tech giants like Amazon and Google, can build a solid product using LCNC in much the same way that AWS' Lambda is built on the Google App Engine.
It will be interesting to see just how this trend develops over the next few years.
6. Artificial Intelligence will only get better over the next few years
One big trend to watch, well to continue to watch, is the advancement of AI. While the term is commonly applied to many software features that are basically just sophisticated algorithms, technology is finally catching up with AI developer's hopes and dreams for "real" AI.
Many organizations are now realizing the potential for this technology and it is set to completely transform many industries from retail to healthcare. In fact, some sources like MarketsandMarkets forecast that the global AI market will reach over $190 billion by 2025.
That's an exponential growth from an estimated $21 billion only a few years ago. This massive growth is mainly the result of increasing big data amounts, growth in cloud usage, and increased demand for workflow automation.
Not to mention the literal explosion in the adoption of personal digital assistants.
Businesses have come to understand that AI has many potential benefits for their operations. These include significantly streamline operations, reducing costs, boosting productivity, improving customer service, increasing performance, etc.
With other industries like art and content generation also exploring the power of AI, its development over the next few years is set to be game-changing for everyone.
7. The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to grow and grow
Yet another important software engineering, and hardware engineering, trend to keep an eye on is IoT. It has caught the attention of many over the last few years and will only become more important throughout 2020 and beyond.
The ability to connect sensors, devices, machines, and even vehicles together via the web has and will continue to have a huge impact on our lives. So much so, that sources like Statista predict that the global IoT market should easily reach $1.6 trillion by the middle of the decade.
Many industries have already benefited and will continue to do so, including construction, telecoms, and healthcare all of which have seen compound annual growth rates of between 13.6% and 15%. Not too shabby.
What new tricks will IoT have up its sleeve for 2020? We are excited to find out.
8. Big Data will only get bigger and bigger
Big Data is a well-known term when it comes to software engineering. And for a good reason.
It is estimated that internet users generate somewhere in the region of 2.5 quintillion bytes, yes you read that right, of data every single day. That is a hell of a lot of data.
This is a literal gold mine for those best placed to be able to collect, analyze, and make sense of it as efficiently and accurately as possible.
For this reason, 2020 should be another great year for big data. By being able to turn this wealth of information into something that can be used to a company's advantage, big data solutions are worth its weight in gold.
This data can be taken from almost anywhere including emails, social media channels, reviews, polls, etc. With the right tools, organizations can get very valuable insights into their current performance and customer relations, as well as, helping to find potential niches to exploit in the near future.
According to hackernoon.com, Big Data is "being used in different industries, big data processing tools can provide advantages like predictive analytics, efficient risk management, deep insights into customer behavior, enhanced lead generation, improved advertising campaigns, customer experience management, and accurate credit scoring."
9. Never underestimate the potential of blockchain
Yet another software engineering trend to watch is the wonder of blockchain technology. While many are probably familiar with its cryptocurrency incarnations like Bitcoin, its real potential promises to be revolutionary for a great many industries.
Its very nature as a means of decentralized digital data "bookkeeping" means it provides unparalleled safety for data storage and sharing without the need for third-parties. While the benefits to things like banking and finance seem obvious, healthcare, logistics, insurance, agriculture, real estate, manufacturing, automotive, stock trading, crowdfunding, etc. can all benefit greatly from it.
As you can see the potential for it is enormous. So much so that many market studies, like the Market Study Report, predict that the blockchain tech market should grow to somewhere in the region of $61 billion by as early as 2024.
It is also estimated, by some, that in the healthcare sector alone 55% of IT apps will likely have some form of blockchain solutions for commercial use. For the food and agriculture sector, it is predicted that blockchain investment should reach $1.4 billion by 2028 compared to a mere $32.2 million only a few years ago.
This level of investment over the next few years is bound to mean that blockchain will be one of the hottest tech trends for some time to come.
10. Mixed Reality might be something to keep an eye on
One interesting software engineering tech trend to watch might just be Mixed Reality (MR). A blend of both Augmented Reality (AR) and good old Virtual Reality (VR), MR, this merging of the two could spell the future for fully immersive entertainment and training simulation.
The unique opportunities that MR can provide should be able to help transform many industries like entertainment, simulation-based learning, art, healthcare, retail, remote working, historical reconstruction, and military training.
While its true potential will be linked to the deployment of 5G and cloud computing, MR should see accelerated development throughout 2020 and beyond.
According to sources like Juniper Research in 2019, the mobile MR market could reach in excess of $43 billion by as early as 2024. That is up from about $8 billion last year.
Sam Barker, author of the Research at Juniper commented: “We expect social media applications to account for 40% of all consumer mixed reality revenues by 2024. Third-party content delivered on these apps has been key to their success, therefore investment in content development frameworks will increase their app’s content library with minimal investment.”
Other market projections expect 75% of MR applications should be delivered via mobile by 2024.
11. Have you heard of continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD)?
And finally, we really need to talk about continuous integration and continuous deployment. CI/CD, for short, this will be one of the most important software engineering trends in 2020 onwards.
A form of best practice, CI/CD enables IT, professionals, and service vendors, to streamline the software development process and improve their end-solution quality. Continuous integration, alone, is great as it allows specialists to speed up application assemblies thanks to its instant error detections and code changes.
But, not only that, CI empowers professionals to put their code into a shared repository with each of their check-ins being verified. This process means bugs and errors, if any, are discovered in quick-time.
Continuous deployment is also an interesting development as it accelerates application update deliveries. This is because any changes to the core code are exposed to automated testing to assemble software builds for production through multiple deployments.
For these reasons, among others, CI/CD enables teams to release apps and other software, very rapidly indeed. This kind of time-saving allows specialist team members to focus on more complicated tasks and not get bogged down with the more bureaucratic elements of the software development life cycle.
Which is nice!
And that's a wrap. These are but some of the exciting trends in software development over the next few years.