Developers' new role: hold the enterprise's hand with cloud computing

New study predicts cloud-based development will be a team effort involving both business and IT. 'Developer visionaries' will lead the way, though.

Ultimately, decisions around cloud application or platform development and adoption are driven by the business. But the people bringing cloud in and enlightening their enterprises are the "developer visionaries" who understand the implications it brings to businesses, as well as keeping the whole thing from becoming a tangled, hairy and expensive mess.

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Photo: CERN Press Office

That's one of the takeaways from a new report issued by Technology Business Research (TBR), which states that as cloud becomes a greater part of business technology infrastructures, business-side managers are increasingly getting involved in development decisions. In the process, the role of developers is being elevated, from a "coder" persona to that of consultant to business management.

Using cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or IBM SoftLayer may take away much of the pain of maintaining on-premises systems, but selecting, configuring, provisioning and working with these services still takes technical acumen. Spinning up servers on AWS and calling APIs may be second-nature to developers, but black magic to business executives.

"'Developer visionaries' are the movers and shakers in cloud innovation,seeing development from idea through production," the TBR report observes. They "have been largely responsible for choosing and bringing cloud platforms into businesses."

Business managers are becoming more involved in cloud decisions, but they still need to rely heavily on developers who can make it all work. As a result, develoeprs will be assuming new and more visible types of roles. "Developer visionaries can be inside product development groups in larger companies, and on the executive level in smaller companies," the report's authors state. "The developer visionary is either an influencer at the application creation level or at the executive level in smaller companies. Visionaries are the innovators and problem solvers, moving very quickly to create and run applications."

It's all a matter of achieving the right balance in this new team approach. If the business side has too much sway over cloud decisions, they may become over-dependent on a single vendor, thus subjecting the enterprise to lock-in. Developers, who are more knowledgeable about cloud choices, can help maintain a degree of independence from vendors, the report suggests.

Ultimately, the TBR report emphasizes, cloud computing will be a multi-disciplinary effort, involving not only developers, but business leaders, line-of-business managers, and IT leaders. We'll be seeing the shift over the next two years across many organizations, TBR predicts, as the traditional developer-based decision-making process for bringing cloud computing into a business will become a group decision as these teams collaborate more during the process. "Cloud platform vendors will have to speak not only to developers who crave the best technology, APIs and automation, but also to executives who require portability and IT decision makers who will demand more security," according to Jillian Mirandi, senior analyst.