Top Developer Trends for 2021

The year 2020 will go down in the history books for so many reasons. For Docker, despite the challenges of our November 2019 restructuring, we were fortunate to see 70% growth in activity from our 11.3 million monthly active users sharing 7.9 million apps pulled 13.6 billion times per month. Thank you, Docker team, community, customers, and partners!

But with 2020 behind us it’s natural to ask, “What’s next?” Here in the second week of January, we couldn’t be more excited about 2021. Why? Because the step-function shift from offline to online of every dimension of human activity brought about by the global pandemic is accelerating opportunities and challenges for development teams. What are the key trends relevant to development teams in 2021? Here are our top picks:

The New Normal: Open, Distributed Collaboration

While already a familiar teamwork model for many open source projects and Internet companies, the global pandemic seemingly overnight drove all software development teams to adopt new ways of working together. In fact, our 2020 survey of thousands of Docker developers about their ways of working found that 51% prefer to work mostly remote and only sometimes in an office if/when given a choice. 

While not without its challenges, we are seeing success in teams that not only embrace fully-distributed collaboration – they use it to do what they couldn’t do before. This includes the opportunity to find the absolute best talent, staying closer to customers in their own timezones, following-the-sun collaborations, and more. Remote development work is here to stay in 2021. 

Critical to remote teamwork efficiency is the ability of team members to share and keep consistent their development environments and application stacks. To achieve this we’re seeing developers use docker-compose.yml locally in Docker Desktop to define and pull their team’s shared images of their app stacks from Docker Hub. Centralized team sharing and visibility of image versions, vulnerabilities, test results, and more reduce “works on my machine” ambiguities to speed up delivery.

More Microservices, Less Complexity

Microservices-based applications proved their worth many times over in 2020. Specifically, they compress “idea-to-production” timeframes and enable rapid, dynamic reactions to changes in demand – both incredibly valuable in 2020. And in our developer community, 65% say their organizations are already leveraging microservices.

But one friction to adoption is the complexity introduced by microservices architectures and the underlying infrastructure. To address this, we see many development teams reaching for Docker Compose as a means for defining multi-service apps capable of running on any infrastructure. Specifically, as a result of open sourcing the Compose spec almost a year ago, Compose-defined apps can now be built locally in Docker Desktop and then deployed, unchanged, to run on Kubernetes, AWS ECS, Microsoft Azure ACI, and Swarm. This allows development teams to focus their energies on building their apps vs. wrestling with the complexities of app dependencies on the underlying infrastructure.

Accelerating Democratization of AI/ML

The exponentially-changing daily landscape of the global pandemic puts a premium on data velocity and the ability to rapidly extract insights to drive decisions. Automating via AI/ML the “collect > analyze > decide” cycle is no longer a “nice-to-have” for organizations – it’s becoming a “must-have” tool in every development team’s toolkit.

Docker simplifies the adoption of AI/ML tools for development teams and data scientists, helping them build shareable, reproducible environments. GPU support in both Docker Desktop and our Docker – AWS ECS integration ensures consistency between local and remote deployments. Furthermore, to jumpstart any AI/ML project TensorFlow, the open source ML platform, is freely available as a Docker Official Image, and the Pytorch and Juypter community images are some of the most popular on Docker Hub.

While 35% of survey respondents said their organizations are currently using machine learning, a number of developers listed ML as the technology they most want their organization to adopt. Thus, in 2021 we expect to see increased adoption of AI/ML tools by development teams for use in their applications.

The above are the key major trends triggered by 2020 that the Docker team anticipates accelerating in 2021. As always, our developer community plays a big role in determining where and how Docker can further help their teams build, share, and run modern apps, and thus we encourage you to contribute to our product roadmap early and often. Finally, to learn more about how Docker is helping development teams take advantage of these trends, be sure to attend DockerCon Live 2021.  

There’s a big year ahead of us – let’s have a great one!


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