Saturday, January 13, 2018

The state of programming languages and frameworks

As a professional software delivery person, I like to keep on top of technology trends and "where the market might be going". Over the last decade and a half, quite a few languages and frameworks have come and gone and very few have had any real staying power. In order to be marketable and knowledgable in things that "people want to know", I generally find the Tiobe index and Google Trends to excellent resources in gauging popularity. In my analysis this year, I've established that relatively speaking, they are in agreement, so I'm going to use google trends (as the charts are easier to embed) to elaborate.

Programming Languages

Before digging into frameworks, there is the notion of "which language" is most popular? In this regard, java has been dominant and looks to remain so for a long time. While there is a downward trend, every major language has had it's mindshare diminished, I can only imagine because of the explosion of alternate languages in recent years. Assessment: learn java, become an expert because while the market is crowded, there will always be work and/or people who want to know something about it. To be clear, I disregarded C, though it does roughly correlate to C++ in popularity...it is used more in embedded markets and that's not one I'm deep into [yet].

Alternate languages

While I would recommend any newcomers pick one of the "big 5". It really helps to have a "specialized" language you are at least passingly familiar with and can be productive in. In that regard, I also tend to take the "short term" view as these tend to come an go with great regularity. In that regard, I'd say that Python (technically in the big 5 if you go by many sources) is a solid first choice, but ruby is still a viable alternative. Outside those two, almost any other modern language would be a good idea to pick up and have as there are always specialty areas that will have a need [even for legacy languages like ADA or Fortran].

Legacy Languages

One area that is often neglected are so called "legacy languages". These are languages that have fallen out of style and/or been superseded by more modern alternatives. One reason I recommend adding a member of this group to your portfolio is that many experts in these fields are retiring but the systems running on them will continue to live on. Additionally, when doing a migration from a legacy platform, being able to quickly be able to read and understand what the old platform did is a valuable skill. One area to look at is the "area under the curve" as this represents the "amount of code potentially written". In this regard, perl is a clear winner.

Frameworks

Programming languages, however are only one dimension. Beyond this, the frameworks available to deliver higher level functionality are a key factor. From that perspective, I grabbed a few notable frameworks and did a comparison (realizing node.js isn't really a framework). In this regard, ruby on rails, while declining in popularity (and surpassed by spring boot), has a HUGE installed based and would clearly be a good choice. The winner's a little unclear here, but coupled with java's popularity as a language, I think one would not go wrong with spring-boot, perhaps having ruby on rails as a backup (and it IS the dominant framework in ruby).

Conclusion

From my perspective, I have a good familiarity with java and spring-boot, plus a deep understanding of ruby on rails...so I'm still fairly well positioned and I think I could easily recommend these as "go to" choices. Beyond those, I think I may spend some time playing around with perl again as it strikes me as a market that is set to be underserved at some point in the next 5-10 years...and will be a prime candidate for "need to know to make legacy migrations go smoothly".