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The 2018 app-dev trends and news that will shape 2019

Aside from big acquisitions, IBM and Microsoft turned heads with new releases and features in 2018. Catch up with the top news of the year to learn what it means for you in 2019.

As the development landscape changes, enterprise IT shops must adapt to new technologies and practices. Organizations must weed out anything that presents a barrier to quality software releases, no matter if it worked in the past.

That's why IT professionals should track app-dev trends and news from the industry. Each new service or feature, or company acquisition, could alter the application development and delivery landscape. Consolidation among low-code and testing vendors, for example, could profoundly affect those tools' capabilities in the coming years.

Several prominent software vendors made headlines with high-profile product additions this year. Which of these industry news stories will affect app-dev trends in 2019?

5. GitHub Actions advances workflow automation

As organizations shift some operations, security and testing responsibilities to the left, where is the breaking point for overloaded developers? Moreover, tools often don't integrate cleanly with one another, which causes additional headaches. Developers that seek the light at the end of the pipeline might want to think outside of it altogether.

2018 was an eventful year for GitHub. Developers found GitHub Actions, still in beta, an intriguing tool for event-driven computing. GitHub is often the de facto choice for code management and version control, and Actions presents a cloud-based option to automate development workflows within the same platform.

4. Domino gets with the times

In the first update in five years, IBM steered its Domino platform, formerly a mail and collaboration tool, in an app-dev direction. Domino version 10 rolls out low-code mobile development features, a boon for executives and remote workers alike.

HCL Technologies reinvigorated IBM's Domino platform after it assumed technical direction a year ago. Features of note to Node.js developers include the DominoDB NPM package, Domino AppDev Pack, gRPC protocol and Domino Query Language. And AI features are in the platform's future, according to Andrew Manby, director of product management for IBM Domino.

Software shopping spree

In addition to feature releases, a number of big-name software companies expanded their portfolios through the age-old method of acquisition. Some of these moves, skeptics worry, could mean drastic changes in the open source development community.

In June, Microsoft spent $7.5 billion to acquire GitHub. Microsoft, an active open source contributor, made the shift to Git internally for version control about a year prior to the acquisition. But how the deal will affect GitHub's 20 million-plus users in the long term remains a point of interest in IT.

Not to be outdone, IBM dropped $34 billion to buy Red Hat in October, which instantly positions Big Blue as a leader in the open source community. That lofty position worries some open source developers, and even sent some Red Hat employees on the lookout for new job opportunities. While customers don't seem to carry the same level of concern, the eventual culture battle will reverberate throughout the industry in the next few years.

Additionally, SmartBear's acquisition of Zephyr highlighted the ongoing consolidation in the software testing market. Zephyr adds native test management to SmartBear's tool portfolio, which might result in some overlap of features, but ultimately enable organizations to better automate QA processes. Tricentis' acquisition of QASymphony represented another big move between testing vendors, as the former company now adds QASymphony's test management capabilities to its continuous testing platform. With these additions, both SmartBear and Tricentis aim to tap into IT organizations' growing investments in DevOps toolchains over the coming years.

3. Low code is on the rise

With enterprise developers in high demand and short supply, low-code platforms are one of several app-dev trends that aim to keep the wheels of software delivery in motion, even if a developer isn't present. Low-code platforms, which Gartner estimated to grow by 55% in the next two years, enable less-technical workers to code mobile apps and functionality.

But not all low-code platforms are alike. AppSheet, Betty Blocks and Microsoft lead a group of 12 low-code vendors that tout ease of use, integration and even some AI features. These vendors cater to customers that want to implement business process automation and workflow automation, but the end goal is to make app development more efficient -- not outright replace it.

2. Julia 1.0 strives for best of both worlds

What's more important in a programming language: ease of use or performance? Many languages fall in one camp or the other, which can result in twice as much development work on a project, and that wastes time and resources.

The open source Julia 1.0 programming language aims to solve that conundrum. Julia 1.0 includes a multiple dispatch feature so the system can dynamically choose which programming procedure to follow for increased performance. Proponents push the Julia language as a strong fit for mathematical, scientific and AI applications. However, despite adoption among several enterprise development teams, it still lacks widespread use.

1. IBM opens the door to more AI development

Developers continue to slowly traverse AI's learning curve, with different technology frameworks from vendors such as Amazon and Facebook. To keep up with one of the industry's preeminent app-dev trends, one legacy technology provider with a well-known AI platform doubled down on its personnel and intellectual investment in the technology.

IBM's AI push centered on two projects designed to enable and entice AI developers. The Model Asset eXchange and Fabric for Deep Learning enable more detailed use of machine learning frameworks such as TensorFlow, PyTorch and Caffe2, and also opens the door to the open source community to contribute their own models.

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