Software Trends for 2018

January 10, 2018 Rob Mee

At Pivotal we see software from a number of angles. We help Fortune 100 companies transition to becoming more software oriented, as well as help startups make their products and scale their teams. We also build and maintain software of our own, from Pivotal Cloud Foundry®, Pivotal Greenplum, and Pivotal Tracker®, to a number of incredible open sourced technologies like Spring, Concourse, and many more.

We’ve brought together some of the smartest minds to look ahead at what 2018 holds for software itself, as well as some of the industries it’s affecting. Among these voices are Pivotal employees, Pivotal customers, and a few guest appearances from other leading technologists. Hopefully these insights can help you and your team get ahead on what’s to come, and build software that’s better, faster, safer, and more valuable than ever before.

— Rob Mee, Pivotal CEO


Agile Development

In 2018, we'll continue to see a growing convergence of Lean Startup, User Centered Design, and Agile software development practices and principles. Increasingly, teams will realize that these aren't three separate disciplines, but actually a system of practices and principles that reinforce each other. Each of these disciplines have their own unique history and origin, and they have all evolved within fairly distinct communities of practitioners. However, starting with the "balanced team" movement in 2013, the lines between these disciplines have blurred more and more, and the communities surrounding them have shifted from parallel development to co-evolution. I also believe a name for this system of disciplines will emerge in 2018, further accelerating their expansion.

—Parker Matthew, Head of Engineering, Pivotal Labs


Application Modernization / Replatforming

Looking forward into 2018, Platform-as-a-Service, known as PaaS, continues to stand out as key to the future of enterprise software. With PaaS, enterprises now have the ability to overcome the paralysis and obstacles that are historically commonplace in running technically diverse existing applications. These factors include, but are not limited to, differing languages, being underpinned by different frameworks, and running on differing middleware or hardware stacks. But applications built on a PaaS enjoy simple deployment and scaling mechanisms, which—as a result—reduces cost, allows for faster, less-risky changes to applications, and offers the chance to get a handle on the overall security posture of the estate. This year, we anticipate enterprises to look to modify their applications in such a way that they can move to their chosen PaaS. This will allow them to escape the shackles of legacy and ultimately optimize resources towards the most vital parts of the business: innovation and development.

—Edward Hieatt, Senior Vice President, Services, Pivotal


Augmented Reality

In 2017, it seemed like everyone jumped on the Augmented Reality (AR) bandwagon, Google announced ARCore and Facebook also launched their Camera Effects platform. But the fact remains, it’s still really early and we don’t know what the hardware platform side will be like for AR. But we’re likely to see more utility in 2018 thanks to the platforms that were launched in 2017. ARKit and new Apple Hardware is providing one of the best developer ecosystems with a vertical stack that lets great developer make really interesting apps. Expect to see lots of interesting use cases emerge. Pokémon Go for example still has a very active user base, and Niantic Labs is expected to launch a huge Harry Potter-themed game in 2018 with ARKit. You are likely to see experiments (or early attempts to monetize) to transition ’novelty’ to use cases in certain categories (e.g. going from ‘playing around’ on an Ikea AR app to these being better (lower noise, higher certainty) channels for acquisition). Magic Leap is the exciting company to watch and seems to have the next shot at a hardware AR platform, but there’s still room for lots of growth to happen.

—Boris Chan, Director of Engineering, Pivotal



So, a lot of people hear about a platform like [Cloud Foundry], and they don't really know what it is at first. Then, as they start to learn more and more, they realize that it might eliminate their job functions. For example, patching. If we say, "You don't have 2,000 servers to patch anymore. We have a platform that patches all this stuff for you." They hear that as: "I'm trying to get rid of your job." And we explain to them: anything we're doing, we're not eliminating a job. We're eliminating job functions. And if your job is to click a button 50 times a day, and you can instead automate that, you should figure out how to automate that so you can maintain automation instead clicking the button yourself. We've been able to take people in these historical legacy ops roles and be able to transition them into guys that are now automating their job and automating the operations of these platforms.

—Brendan Aye, Cloud Foundry Platform Architect, T-Mobile

This answer was adapted from conversation Brendan Aye had with Built to Adapt at SpringOne Platform 2017. Watch the full interview here.



Cloud will continue to trend towards abstracting infrastructure. We're moving to a new cloud in which containers decouple applications from the OS, services become our main building blocks, and languages and frameworks mix across different clouds. By broadening the interoperability among different frameworks (i.e. Kubernetes, Cloud Foundry and even legacy frameworks), we can not only decouple operations from the source code, but also authenticate to each other. Open platforms like Istio, which acts as an operations layer, provides a unified view of these services across the environments. The outcome: developers can focus on developing and operators on operating, with higher velocity and simplified hybrid and multi-cloud deployments.

—Eric Brewer, VP of Infrastructure, Google



With the advent and popularity of Kubernetes, 2018 will be a year that sees massive acceleration in the enterprise journey to the cloud. But even more interesting is whether an intelligent system like Kubernetes will bring some level of cloud-readiness "for free." I believe it will and I’m excited what will be built when this technology is available to the masses.

—Cornelia Davis, Senior Director of Technology, Pivotal



In 2018, we're going to continue to feel the effects of DevOps and cloud merging with Data. For organizations with their own data lake in the cloud, agile practices will be the key to unlocking the potential of their data science and data engineering teams. Data services will become even more automated—both in deployment and orchestration—making life easier for database admins, who will also love the empowering data services that let devs help themselves. Last but not least, look for microservice architectures to continue to push enterprises into re-evaluating their data architectures.

—Elisabeth Hendrickson, Vice President, Data R&D, Pivotal


Data will rule all. Over the last several years, Cloud 1.0 has been about computing in big clouds, while Cloud 2.0 is all about data. This includes data movement and the tools and services that support it, like analytics and machine learning systems. Today all companies are data companies, whether they know it or not. In 2018, so long as teams know how to use it, data will become their greatest asset.

—Jason Warner, SVP, Technology at GitHub


Enterprise Software

More enterprises will act like money-making software shops. We saw glimpses of this in 2017 when companies like Boeing and Liberty Mutual spun out revenue-generating software products. As massive enterprises get better at creating software-driven products, don't be surprised to see them monetize them. In 2018, watch more companies figure out how to sell internally-built software or anonymized data sets to others in their industry or beyond. What else changes when enterprise IT goes from a cost center to a profit center?

—Richard Seroter, Senior Director, Product, Pivotal



I'm excited by Serverless. And I think if you're not excited by Serverless, you're not paying attention. Because that's the journey, right? That's where we're headed… For us, multi-cloud is an imperative. We have to be everywhere in the world. We have to be able to run anywhere at all. ‘Anything, anywhere, where appropriate,’ that's kind of the saying we use. [T]rying to deal with all the different knobs and levers just to handle networking or security or anything at a particular cloud is operationally too difficult. It's an imperative, it's a requirement, but it's extremely difficult to handle it on your own without some sort of abstraction. I don't think that we would be able to go multi-cloud quickly without something like cloud foundry helping us.

—Rick Clark, SVP, Cloud Infrastructure, Mastercard

This answer was adapted from an on-stage conversation Rick Clark had at SpringOne Platform 2017. Watch the full talk here.



Our market is getting extremely competitive due to regulations and expectations. A lot of the hospitals domestically have gone digital, so they have electronic records. So, at this point, a competitive advantage is to actually differentiate by delivering faster... [W]e already knew that we were going to be multi-cloud. We have an on-premise solution and set of solutions, and we have to do that from a regulatory standpoint. We knew we were gonna be on AWS, and there's even regions that we will have to deploy to that AWS doesn't exist, and it's not advantageous for us to set up a data center. We won't be able to do it in timely manner. So we're looking at Azure for things like that, and the platform was a way for us to create some level of consistency. So that regardless if we were on-prem, if we're on AWS, [or] if we decide to go Azure or GCP, we can do it in a continuous manner, and a consistent manner. And, limiting that variance is one way that we believe that we can help check the box from a regulatory standpoint...

—Rob Rose, Lead Architect, Cerner Corporation

This answer was adapted from an interview Rob Rose had with Built to Adapt at SpringOne Platform 2017. Watch the full interview here.



Adopting a public cloud platform is no longer an option, it's a necessity and where companies – agnostic of industry and size – are headed.  It helps us develop innovative solutions for our customers quickly and efficiently and supports our agile and collaborative approach to product development. At Liberty Mutual, our use of Pivotal Cloud Foundry allows us to continue investing in new products like Workgrid; an internal Digital Assistant that makes work simpler and more efficient by bringing personalized daily tasks, information, and reminders together for employees to easily stay on-task. Another great example is our new Accident and Health portal, which enables brokers to enter a referral in three minutes, down from 10 minutes – resulting in double the strike rate compared to the industry average.”  

—James McGlennon, EVP & CIO, Liberty Mutual Insurance


Machine Learning

With the release of CoreML and the addition of face unlocking as standard on the iPhone X, Apple was responsible for some of the most visible signs last year of machine learning and artificial intelligence entering the hands of consumers. We'll see even more mainstream applications of AI this year, including some that would have been unfeasible or even unthinkable very recently. In industry there will be a strong need for data scientists and machine learning engineers to demonstrate business value after a few years of being left to their own devices. Specialised consulting firms such as Andrew Ng's will step up to help these teams on their data transformation journey. Countering these trends is the growing need for accountability and governance in the areas of data collection and machine learning. The EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May with the potential to massively disrupt data collection, transformation, and usage practices worldwide. With GDPR comes the need for interpretability of machine learning models and results, so expect lots of effort in this direction, and a continued focus on high profile and inscrutable algorithms in the headlines.

—Ian Huston, Associate Director Pivotal Labs Dublin and Data Scientist, Pivotal



Welcome to the new patching paradigm shift. Pivotal Cloud Foundry has created a new paradigm for rapid repair and update of the platform, which will become the new industry standard in 2018. Many PCF clients now have used the power of BOSH together with Pivotal Network to automatically roll out CVE patches to thousands of nodes with no human intervention. As enterprises grapple with the ever-increasing pace of major security vulnerabilities requiring critical and pre-testing patches to their systems, I expect a majority of enterprises to migrate to a BOSH model of platform/OS update and management in 2018.

—James Watters, SVP, Strategy, Pivotal



Cloud, containers, and DevOps will continue to accelerate the rate of change in enterprise IT, and security teams should look to embrace these trends as well. Adversarial machine learning will catch the world asleep at the wheel. Enterprises will start exploring the use of Intel SGX, which will have an impact on how we approach long-lived credentials. Security vendors are due for a wake-up call, and we will start to see more attacks on the software supply chain and CI/CD systems. The industry will recognize the need for and demand the embrace of security benchmarks for the modern full stack compute platform.

—Justin Smith, Chief Security Officer for Product, Pivotal


Sustainable Transformation

Companies strive for long term success and change but tend to relentlessly focus on the short term wins.  Ensuring transformation is sustainable over time will be a common talk track in 2018. Management have made the commitment to new technologies, training their teams, modernizing their processes and most importantly behaving differently. 2018 will see a stronger focus on local teams owning the new way of working, product mindset decision making at all levels, and loosening the traditional control parameters. This will require tough decision making and those brave enough to lean in will lead the pack.

—Siobhan McFeeney, Transformation Lead, Pivotal



[W]e're not just consuming Open Source, but we're an active contributor to the Linux Foundation and Apache. We've contributed many projects back on how we distribute content... Leveraging a community that is much larger than your own to make products better is a really important part of what we've been doing around Comcast... So having that additional support in the community and people contributing back, giving us feedback, and having that open feedback loop with customers about our products is pretty powerful for us. And it helps us with our overall message around customer-first and improving the customer experience and improving our products, and some of that includes making things open and getting that feedback… [O]ur IPCDN is Open Sourced, and that's been contributed back, but our X1 platform, which is our video experience, that's been syndicated, and there are a number of cable companies that are using that to deliver and extend that experience to their own customers, [like] Shaw, Fox Cable, [and others].

—Greg Otto, Executive Director of Cloud Product Engineering, Comcast

This answer was adapted from an interview Greg Otto had with Built to Adapt at SpringOne Platform 2017. Watch the full interview here.



[O]ur 787 Dreamliner will generate about a terabyte of data in a single flight… Multiply that across our entire fleet. And if you can keep your head from exploding, multiply that across our entire installed base. That is a lot of data. But there's value in that data. You add on top of that the need for cyber security, the move towards factory automation, additive manufacturing, adoption of cloud, mobility, right? The point I'm making is that technology is literally evolutionizing and changing the way that we do business. And if we leverage it correctly, it's not just the technology by itself. If we leverage this correctly, the technology, when combined with our domain expertise and our core strengths, what we are good at, that's the sweet spot. That's how we survive another 100 years. The move to cloud alone has been a huge dividend payer for us. We've got a hundred times faster infrastructure service delivery. We're seeing six times increase in asset utilization. We've got database service hosting time that used to be measured in months, and we're now measuring that in hours. So we're talking real, tangible results.

—Niki Allen, Director of the Office of the CIO and Chief of Staff, Boeing

This answer was adapted from a presentation Niki Allen gave at SpringOne Platform 2017. Watch the full presentation here.



Productivity software will experience a long expected renaissance. In particular, we’ll see an explosion of innovation in the tools that power your email, notes, tasks, and calendar. Why will this happen? First, a billion professionals worldwide spend more than a third of their time just reading and writing email.  And when you include notes, tasks, and calendar—it becomes all we do. Second, competition for talent has never been so fierce. Instead of simply growing their teams, leaders everywhere are turning to software to fuel growth and provide a competitive edge. Third, this is the year of individual productivity and attainment. We all want the best, deserve happiness, and aspire to be brilliant at what we do. The productivity tools that breakout will help us achieve all three.

—Rahul Vohra, Founder & CEO, Superhuman


About the Author

Rob Mee

Rob Mee is CEO of Pivotal and serves on its Board of Directors. He frequently advises the world's most admired brands, government agencies, and fast-rising startups about the value of agile software development using an open cloud platform.

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