Software Development

This Philly conference scans the horizon of what’s next in enterprise technology

The latest in machine learning, programming languages and — throwback — Java, plus other topics you might have missed at 2019's Philly Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise event.

Philly ETE 2019.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Tracey Welson-Rossman, CMO Chariot Solutions and co-chair of ETE, and Audrey Troutt, director of mobile engineering at Comcast and ETE planning committee member.
If you happened to be looking for your software development team on April 23 or 24, you may have noticed it was very quiet in that part of your office.

That’s because more than 550 Philadelphia-area software developers and engineers were attending the Philly Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise (ETE) conference. This conference has been taking place for nearly 15 years, bringing together committers, practitioners, and founders of open source and emerging tech tools and technologies. It is one of the largest conferences for developers in the Mid-Atlantic and an important learning space for the region’s technology workforce.

Philly ETE is always deep technically, but for technologists — and those who work with technologists — it offers a vital window into the latest trends in enterprise technology.

At the very first ETE in 2005, the hot topic, besides what was new in Java, was open source software licensing. While it may seem quaint now, at the time many companies weren’t sure if they wanted free software in their environments, and it was up to developers to make the case for the flexibility and velocity that open source enabled. Understanding what open source software could do from the developers’ perspective was very important in changing the conversation around software development.

This year’s conference kicked off with an inspiring keynote from Jessica Kerr at Atomist about the concept of “symmathesy,” a term coined by writer and filmmaker Nora Bateson. Throughout history, from Renaissance art and music, through the discovery of the elements, to innovators in the software development like the Gang of Four or the Agile Manifesto creators, there was always a community behind each innovation. Groups of thinkers learning together and challenging each other is what has historically helped us leap forward creatively and scientifically. Symmathesy attempts to describe this sort of collective learning.

Here’s what we learned about this year at Philly ETE:


Machine learning and DevOps continue to play a big role

Machine learning continues to drive product innovation for companies across the board, so naturally, it was a popular topic at ETE 2019. There was an engaging discussion on the engineering practices required to support neural networks in production. Another talk focused on using Google’s Firebase ML Kit for easy integration of machine learning models into mobile apps.

For modern application hosting two popular paths are containerization (using tools like Kubernetes and Docker) and serverless (using tools like AWS Lambda or Azure Functions). This year, we were joined by a Facebook production engineer who described how they manage containers, and we hosted a talk on how Kubernetes and OpenShift can be great choices for hosting Java applications.

As speaker Linda Nichols from Microsoft put it: “Serverless applications are the future of lightweight, scalable, and performant application development.”

We had three different serverless sessions: addressing serverless architecture, choosing a cloud provider, and how developers need to think differently to get the most out of this new programming paradigm.

Lessons from the field

Some of the most unique talks every year are from engineers and leaders sharing recent experiences with innovation and learning from their mistakes.

One stand-out presentation was about how AirBnB uses server-driven UI for their mobile and web apps. It makes their product more flexible and speeds up the rate at which they can improve the customer experience. Another excellent talk titled “Getting out of Cloud Jail” described how cost savings should be a joint product and engineering responsibility. It included lessons learned, from migrating to the cloud and paying a heavy price for failing to closely monitor public cloud usage, building a data deletion system, to adjusting cloud-platform usage as scale needs increase and decrease.

Noopur Davis, chief information security officer at Comcast Cable, shared how the company is adopting a DevSecOps (development, security and operations) framework that empowers developers to analyze, learn and improve the security of the systems they own. Davis said the approach is extremely valuable in developing products where security is truly built in, rather than bolted on.

New languages and technologies: What the future holds

There were sessions about AR,VR, and voice interfaces and when it’s the right time to add them to your product offering, as well as a talk by Chariot Solutions’ CIO discussing new developments in IoT microchips that are making connected devices cheaper and more powerful. Chariot even incorporated an AR feature in the conference’s mobile app.

There are always new programming languages emerging and gaining popularity. This year, experts discussed Rust, Go and Zig. Each language promises advancements in application speed, stability or code simplicity, but to different degrees. Attendees heard from the creator of Zig, who described the advantages of their new language over the competition.

Chariot’s training and mentoring director delivered a talk on GraphQL, discussing how this API could be used as a replacement for plain REST and enhance the capacity for self service. He discussed various client and server APIs and tooling, as well as the query language itself.

True to ETE’s roots, there was even a talk on Java. A keynote from Java language architect Brian Goetz explained how the choice between functional and object-oriented programming is really a false choice — we need to borrow good ideas from all languages to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Why you or your team members should be there next year

The Philly ETE conference brings the biggest names in tech from around the country right into the heart of Philadelphia. It’s a chance to learn about the languages, tools, and practices you or your engineering teams will be using soon, if you aren’t already. The diversity of the topics and speakers makes it a great place to get out of your bubble and explore topics you might not otherwise be digging into. Overall, it’s the intimate size and strong sense of community that brings attendees back year to year.

Chariot Solutions is proud to be able to host and curate this conference. And we would be remiss if we didn’t thank our sponsors, the Meet Group, Lutron, Pinnacle 21, Linode, Atomist and Comcast Cable for helping to make this event possible.

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