February 2018

Volume 33 Number 2

[Editor's Note]

Groundhog Day

By Michael Desmond | February 2018

Michael DesmondGroundhog Day has to be my favorite holiday. On the 2nd of each February, the citizens of tiny Punxsutawney, Pa., gather at Gobblers Knob to bear witness to a celebrated rodent predicting the weather. If the groundhog emerges and sees its shadow, the legend goes, the country will experience another six weeks of winter. If not, the forecast is for an early spring.

I mean, you can’t make this stuff up.

The day is rooted in ancient celebrations at the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox. On the Gaelic holiday of Imbolc a mystical hag called the Cailleach was said to gather firewood to last her the rest of winter. If she wanted winter to last, she conjured sunny weather for her gathering, while cloudy or poor weather meant the Cailleach was asleep and winter nearly over. All of which I think explains why our magical, weather-controlling groundhog calls for six weeks of winter if the sun shines on Feb. 2.

Whatever the case, predictions are in the air. So I turned to our intrepid columnists for their takes on the future, and here’s what they said.

No surprise, artificial intelligence (AI) is on tap. Frank La Vigne, who writes the Artificially Intelligent column, says that within two years AI will be a “mandatory skill set” for mainstream developers, much the way mobile development emerged over the past decade.

Test Run author James McCaffrey expects enterprise developers to take over writing prediction code the same way they’ve taken on other parts of the pipeline, such as design, implementation and test. And he says that this code, currently a rarity in enterprise production software systems, soon won’t be. “By January 2019, the use of neural network classification and regression prediction code (generated using the Microsoft CNTK library, or inserted via Azure Services) in production systems will be far more common.”

David Platt (of Don’t Get Me Started fame) thinks AI is doomed to meet its match when it “runs smack into Natural Stupidity™,” while Essential .NET author Mark Michaelis helpfully points out that I’ll likely use AI to generate my prognostications for next year’s Groundhog Day column.

On the security front, Spectre and Meltdown will echo far into 2018 and 2019, says Ted Neward, author of The Working Programmer. “These are the first widely publicized ‘side-channel’ attacks to make the evening news. Even if they never actually result in actionable attacks in the wild, the patches are already confirmed as reducing the performance of the chips they protect.”

Julie Lerman, author of the Data Points column, sees changes coming for microservices design, which she says could benefit from proven Domain-Driven Design (DDD) concepts. “DDD provides guidance on defining the boundaries of your processes using bounded contexts and maintaining separate databases per each bounded context, just as we do with microservices,” she says. “It has also solved the constant question about how to share data between those contexts.”

Two columnists address cryptocurrencies and blockchains. Michaelis says cryptocurrencies will continue to increase in value, not necessarily because of any new innovation, but because people can’t resist a get-rich scheme. But La Vigne is bullish on blockchains. “I do think we will see some creative uses for blockchains, especially in the supply chain space to enforce ethical standards and food safety laws.”

As for Platt, he looks to the day when Amazon buys Walmart and converts its stores into delivery drone bases. He’s also waiting to see which major university will be first to replace its science department with StackOverflow.

Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.

Discuss this article in the MSDN Magazine forum