Software Development Trends for 2021

Software innovation will help shape the post-pandemic world.


Apurva Joshi, Vice President of Products at DigitalOcean, says the year 2020 was an inflection point for software developers. Businesses and enterprises accelerated their technology roadmaps to operate in a primarily digital world, and software development trends reflect the critical role developers will play in how their clients can achieve sustainable and adaptable businesses. “Software developers are the ones building solutions to the never-before-seen challenges of this year, and they are the ones who have the power to determine what the post-pandemic world looks like,” he says.

To provide you with information and insights as you plan for 2021, Joshi shares his perspective on the in-demand solutions you can expect in the new year, software development trends to watch, the role emerging technologies will play and how developers are approaching security.

What impact has the pandemic had on software development?

Digital transformation acceleration is real and quite dramatic. Many companies have urgently adopted remote work from home policies and tooling. Millions of companies are scrambling to have an online/digital presence. In the digitally transformed world, access to cloud services and tools that improve developers’ productivity, agility, and time-to-market will be natural winners. The paradigm shift towards building applications using Platform as a Service (PaaS), serverless, and Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings will accelerate, resulting in technical innovations that further reduce complexities by providing additional abstraction layers.

What are the biggest software development trends you see going into 2021?

Startups and SMBs are the unsung heroes of the economy. I anticipate them gaining significant influence in 2021. Our most recent Currents report found that, despite being some of the hardest hit by this year’s challenges, startups and SMBs are up for the fight. Research shows that 62 percent have expanded or upgraded cloud usage during the pandemic, and 74 percent indicated that hiring targets have increased or remained steady this year. Developers working with these kinds of organizations face unique challenges and have specific needs. When vendors realize that, and the right tooling becomes available, the sky’s the limit for innovation.

Another trend we see is cloud-native technologies powered by Kubernetes. They are the new tools of choice, so I would say the adoption of containers and microservices is undoubtedly on the rise. Also, platforms built on a foundation of open source provide users with more flexibility and visibility when it comes to infrastructure. They also benefit from innovations across the open source community. This philosophy was the fundamental principle behind DigitalOcean’s App Platform offering that we launched in early October. The containerization trend provides layers of abstractions towards solving scenarios while addressing scale, security and performance aspects, whether making Kubernetes easy or simplifying DevOps or improving on serverless workflows.

Are developers shifting left with security more than in the past?

Yes, I think developer teams are beginning to realize that to build software that’s truly secure by design, they need to take ownership of their security early on. Patching security vulnerabilities earlier in the software development lifecycle is the bare minimum for modern development teams. I expect (and hope!) teams will increasingly consider building for security from start to finish –from writing their code to choosing a cloud provider. Security is a top concern for most developers when selecting their cloud providers. What used to be an afterthought now starts with precisely understanding their security goals and evaluating them against security measures offered by each cloud provider. Another important consideration is what security features are provided free out-of-the-box for each cloud provider they consider. Things like built-in firewalls, virtual private cloud, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection are essential parts of any primary offering.

Do you see more developers focusing on AI or blockchain?

While blockchain is still in its early days and considered niche for most applications, AI, on the other hand, has become mainstream. As the computing power and larger datasets become much cheaper and accessible to more developers, adopting these technologies is imminent. I believe, over the next few years, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will a critical part of any application as databases are today.

Will “self-taught” programmers begin to take market share from established developers?

Today, our kids are learning how to code in school – now, that’s powerful. Not all of them will have a career as a software developer (a job that we know as a “developer” today), but almost all of them will be using these skills to augment or support their professional careers. Combining this software development trend with the innovations in low-code or no-code technologies essentially will blur the lines between “self-taught” programmers and established developers. While this might feel like a shift in the share of a pie, it will be a net expansion.

Jay McCall

Jay McCall is an editor and journalist with 20 years of writing experience for B2B IT solution providers. Jay is co-founder of XaaS Journal and DevPro Journal.

Jay McCall

Jay McCall is an editor and journalist with 20 years of writing experience for B2B IT solution providers. Jay is co-founder of XaaS Journal and DevPro Journal.