Laptop vs. cloud: Two leading software engineers assess where developers will choose to work

Could the laptop soon replace the cloud as the development environment of choice for enterprise coders?

This option was put forward by software engineer and developer advocate Kelsey Hightower at the end of October post which has received almost 700,000 views to date and sparked a lively online debate. Hightower’s commentary noted that faster, more powerful processors could lead to more value for development on local machines.

“You can just see the benchmarks go up and up … faster, more cores, GPUs locally,” said Hightower (pictured, left), in an appearance at theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s live streaming studio. “I said if the hardware continues on this trajectory, remote development environments will be less appealing to developers. I want that fancy database on my desktop where I actually write my code.”

Hightower spoke with CUBE industry analyst John Furrier at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon NA during an exclusive broadcast. He was joined by Rob Whiteley (right), CEO of Coder Technologies Inc., and they discussed the future direction of development environments and increasing innovation in the enterprise software industry. (* Details below.)

Progress and limits

There is plenty of evidence that major players in the laptop industry continue to integrate more advanced products into their offerings. Apple Inc.’s latest Macs have powerful, in-house developed chips based on Arm designs, and Microsoft Corp. has expressed interest in equipping processors with advanced AI capabilities to its PC portfolio. Still, there may be limits to how far this can go for developers, especially in large organizations, according to Whiteley.

“I think it only makes sense for small or individual developers,” he said. “If you’re a bank and you have 10,000 developers or 25,000 developers, you don’t care about the cost of shipping $3,000 MacBooks. You’re not going to be able to support … VMware Workstation and Docker and all the tools that are necessary to have these kinds of robust environments, while I can centralize it in the cloud.”

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A potential deterrent for developers interested in using their laptops for development is security. Many enterprise network connected devices now come with a lot of security tools that can slow down work significantly. This has prompted developers to seek new approaches to testing code.

“I think there has to be a way to develop safely,” Hightower said. “No developer I’ve ever met wants production data on their laptop … give me the data that represents production. I want to be able to create the same schema on my laptop and can’t I get a snapshot of the scrub data that I can now test locally? You have things like test containers because developers move up.”

Sharing and innovation

Despite the challenges presented to developers in test environments, both executives noted that companies are more willing to embrace innovation and support open source projects that will benefit the software community as a whole.

“There’s an innovator mindset that’s left,” Whiteley said. “I can see companies being willing to do that because they can wrap guardrails around it, enable that innovation without having to stifle it, which they were five years ago.”

This also leads to greater collaboration, according to Hightower, as companies realize that a shared model is likely to yield a higher degree of success than the creation of walled gardens.

“If you don’t have a company that can collaborate with the rest of the industry, you’re going to be left behind,” Hightower said. “We know what the plan is. Talented people don’t just choose the best tools, they create them … and they share them with each other. A developer walks on stage and says, ‘Hey, we all have this problem. Here’s how I solved it that.’ It’s available on GitHub three months later, and they get their A round, and they have a booth at KubeCon. Now that’s the pace of how it works.”

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Here’s the full video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of KubeCon + CloudNativeCon NA:

(* Disclosure: Coder Technologies Inc. sponsored this segment of CUBE. Neither Coder Technologies nor any other sponsor has editorial control over content on CUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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