Top IT Cloud Skills for the U.S Federal Government
In this post, we outline the roles that the U.S. government requires to help fill the cloud skills gap and explain what two cloud roles will be in demand in the federal government.
Software development has never been more important for the success of your business. But the rapid change in technology can be overwhelming for IT teams.
Here are 4 software trends IT teams need to be following in 2023.
Serverless Development is a cloud native computing method that allows developers to build and run applications without having to manage servers. Sometimes referred to as serverless architecture, Function as a Service (FaaS), or serverless, a serverless provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda, Google Cloud Functions and Microsoft Azure Functions provides backend services on an as-used basis.
The term “serverless” is a bit misleading as this system does involve servers. However, instead of running your microservices yourself, they are run on servers owned and managed by a third party. A core component of cloud native computing, microservices are responsible for doing only one function but doing it well. So instead of creating a large application that contains 100 services, or functions, developers create 100 tiny applications each made up of only one function.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda, Google Cloud Functions and Microsoft Azure Functions are just a few of the popular third-party providers of serverless development.
FaaS allows developers to simply write their code and upload it to their cloud provider’s FaaS server. The cloud provider takes care of the rest. Whether the provider uses a container, a lightweight virtual machine (VM) to run the function, or some other method, you’ll never know. And you don’t need to know. Because the provider will do all it can to keep that function up and running. And if for some reason the function were to go down, the FaaS would automatically spin up another instance of it.
In addition to managing the infrastructure needed to host the application, the provider manages any on-demand scaling that could be required, depending on the size of the workload demanded from your code. Every time an event occurs that causes the function to run, you pay only for the run time. So rather than paying 24/7 for someone in-house to manage the functions on the backend of your website, you just pay for the function to run and don’t have to worry about managing the infrastructure housing your code. The provider may house your code in a container, a lightweight virtual machine (VM), or in some other facility on their servers. You won’t know what type of facility the provider uses to store your code, and it doesn’t matter because that’s all handled by the FaaS.
To see how this work, let’s look at an example of this using a fictitious tickets company, Fictitious, which sells tickets to events online. Fictitious is selling tickets to a Broadway touring company that’s coming to a large city for eight days. When tickets become available months in advance of the production, tickets sell very fast at first. So there’s a lot of transactions that are occurring on the backend. The people who are big Broadway fans are champing at the bit to get their tickets as soon as they go on sale. Other people will wait and buy their tickets later. So the transactions slow down after that first burst of ticket sales. Ticket sales may slow down to a crawl over time. You don’t have to worry about scaling up when tickets first go on sale or scaling down once the transaction rush has subsided. Your FaaS automatically scales up and down the infrastructure that is needed to handle the transactions and ensure high availability, meaning the system continuously operates without fail. With serverless, you only pay for the service when the transactions are occurring and you don’t have to manage a thing.
To develop cloud native applications, developers use microservices rather than a monolithic application architecture. A means to implement microservices, containers are packages of software that include all the necessary elements to run an application in any environment whether that’s on software or hardware on-premises or in the cloud. Containers comprise only the required binaries, libraries and images: a file that includes executable code so it can run an isolated process. Rather than putting hundreds of functions, or services, in one large application, each one of those services is put inside a container, so each service operates independently from the others. That way, if one of those hundreds of services fails, the other services are not affected and continue to work. In contrast, when all those services are inside one application, if one service breaks, it could affect other services in the application and could even cause the entire application to stop working. There’s a simple but more extensive explanation of containers and monolithic applications here.
A container can run on a physical or a virtual machine (VM). Because they are lightweight, containers start up quickly, within milliseconds, rather than the few minutes it takes for a VM to start. By using a container orchestrator like Kubernetes, you can group many containers together to deploy and manage a larger application. To the end user, it looks as if there is only one application, but on the backend, all these small applications work together using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) gateways to know when to carry out their functions.
Containers must be built to run on the OS of the server that will be hosting the container. So if a container is going to be run on Linux, it must be built to be compatible with Linux. Containers run on a container engine, such as Docker or Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Compute (Fig. 3). On the host’s system, containers share a kernel—a piece of code in the OS that schedules programs to run. The container engine exposes parts of the host operating system into a partitioned area where the containers are, making them quick to start-up.
Speed. Containers are lightweight. They are typically as small as 10MB whereas a VM occupies at least a few GBs of storage space. One gigabyte is equal to 1,000 megabytes. A container typically starts up in milliseconds. VMs could take four or five minutes to start.
Portable. Containers can run anywhere—in VMs, on servers, on premises or on container engines such as Docker- across environments.
Multiple languages. Developers can use the language they’re most comfortable with. One container could contain an app built in C# and another could contain an app built with Python.
Low overhead. Since containers are lightweight, less server space is needed. Because of their small footprint, you can have far more containers than VMs on any given host.
No-code software development allows almost anyone at your organization to build applications without knowing how to code.
Most No-code platforms have graphical interfaces that allow non-technical users to drag-and-drop different functions to build their desired application.
For example, Weebly is a no-code application that enables you to create your own website. Users simply needs to use their mouse to drag-and-drop different elements like text, images, and titles around their page.
Fig. 4 Weebly no-code application (Source)
You can also integrate different no-code platforms together.
For example, a business might use Weebly to build their website, and Mailchimp’s sign-up form to capture leads and grow their customer list.
Weebly and Mailchimp are separate no-code applications. But they have integrations that allow a non-technical user to add their Mailchimp signup form onto their Weebly website in just a few clicks.
Leveraging an automation platform like Zapier offers another level of no-code integration between applications. Zapier is a tool that requires no development experience. It allows you to link different apps together to create smarter workflows.
For example, you can use Zapier to distribute a social media post on twitter to other social media applications like Facebook and LinkedIn. You don’t need to hire a developer to create these custom integrations.
Low-code software development is similar to no-code except that you have the option to do a little coding.
Speed. These tools are easy to use. Anyone can build an application in less time and with fewer resources than if custom code were required.
Costs. These platforms can reduce costs by allowing organizations to build applications without having to hire expensive developers or outsource development work.
Innovation. Since development is accessible to users without technical expertise, anyone in your organization can come up with new ideas and faster ways to serve customers.
Product/Idea Validation. No-code and low-code alternatives are cost effective and fast ways to bring a product to market quickly.
A single page application (SPA) is a web app that loads only a single document and updates the body content of that document, instead of the default method of a web browser loading entire new pages.
Traditionally, when you visit a website and click on a link, a server will send the entire requested web page back to your browser. Even though a good portion of the page—the header, footer and navigation bar—doesn’t change. Users must wait for their browser to refresh the entire page each time they click.
With SPA, these static components are loaded in the background the first time you visit a site. When you search for shoes in the navigation bar, only the search results for shoes will be delivered from the server, as the rest of the page--the header, footer and navigation bar—stays the same, so you don’t have to wait for a new page to refresh.
Fig. 6 Traditional versus single page application (Source)
Gmail is one of the most well know examples of a SPA. When you click on a message, the browser stays on the same web page.
Building an SPA is similar to building a Lego set. It’s easier and faster if you use the pieces provided by Lego rather than try to make the actual blocks yourself.
Think of Angular and React as Lego pieces you can use to build your SPA.
There are many popular frameworks you can use to build SPAs. However, Angular and React are two of the most popular.
Angular is a component-based framework for building scalable web apps.
Speed. The main benefit of an SPA is faster transitions as the user navigates the site. Once the page has been loaded, the user doesn’t have to wait for a refresh of the entire web page. So if you have a slow internet connection, you don’t have to wait a long time for that page to load because only a portion of it needs to load. Whereas if you have a slow internet connection and you have to wait for an entire page to load, you would be waiting much longer.
Better User Experience. Since users aren’t waiting for entire pages to load, SPAs provide an impressive and seamless experience.
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