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Ten Years of RedMonk

Ten years ago today the DARPA funded paper describing REST was six months old. There was no Firefox. No Eclipse Foundation. No Facebook. No Amazon Web Services. No Twitter. No LinkedIn. No YouTube. No Etsy. No Gmail. No Hadoop. No iPhone. Apple, in fact, was worth $5.143B, or about what they made every month and a half in 2012.

Much of what we take for granted today didn’t exist then. Like the industry’s affection for developers.

When James and I officially incorporated RedMonk ten years ago yesterday, the technology industry cared little for what developers thought – all of the focus was on “enterprise” buyers. Which we never understood. It seemed self-evident to us that with access to technology steadily being democratized by open source and later cloud, SaaS and other wider industry trends, developers were increasingly in charge, not the erstwhile “IT decision makers.”

This is our understanding of the world.

For the last ten years, then, we’ve been paying the most attention not to what CIOs want to buy, or what software vendors think they want to buy, but what developers are using.

From our perspective, if you want to understand where the industry is headed, your best answers will come from those who are actively determining that path. Our time with developers – or more precisely, practitioners of any one of a dozen or more different technical disciplines – has gifted us with a reasonable ability to predict where the industry is headed. Granted, not always with a high degree of temporal precision.

If there’s one thing we at RedMonk have learned over the past decade, it’s that the ability of the technology industry to change substantially outpaces the industry’s own ability to understand and adapt to that change. What we understand at RedMonk to be true today might take as many as five years or more to be widely understood. Hence our saying “we can tell you what will happen, we just can’t tell you when.”

Here are a few of the subjects we’ve covered since 2004, when we really began blogging in earnest.

  • In 2004:

    • We were advocating for REST support. Today, it’s the majority of tracked APIs.
    • We argued that there was room for Linux distributions besides Red Hat (and SUSE) in the enterprise. Today, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution on AWS and HP supports the platform on its enterprise cloud.
  • In 2005:
    • We disputed the assertion that enterprises were not leveraging dynamic programming languages. Today, virtually every enterprise PaaS offering supports more than one.
    • We believed that relational databases needed to be supplemented by non-relational alternatives. Today, NoSQL and non-relational datastores are mainstream technologies.
  • In 2006:
    • We were bullish about Amazon’s Web Services platform. Today, AWS is almost as dominant in the cloud as Microsoft was in operating systems.
    • We predicted that no pure play open source vendor besides Red Hat would break the billion dollar revenue mark, and that Red Hat would do so in 2012. Today, no pure play open source vendors besides Red Hat have broken the billion dollar revenue barrier. Red Hat eclipsed $1B in revenue in 2012.
  • In 2007:
    • We recommended that commercial open source vendors augment service and support revenue streams with network and data models. Today, vendors such as 10gen (MMS) and Sonatype (Insight) are complementing open source revenues with network and data based revenue models.
    • We were surprised at the lack of attention paid to Decentralized Version Control Systems (DVCS) given the surging developer adoption. Today, DVCS accounts for nearly a third of the project traction on Ohloh, up from 14% in 2010. Git is the standard deployment mechanism for a variety of cloud platforms, and in July, GitHub was valued at three quarters of a billion dollars.
  • In 2008:
    • We argued that open source relational databases would eventually see substantial adoption in the enterprise. Today, Oracle owns MySQL and both Salesforce.com (via Heroku) and VMware are investing heavily in PostgreSQL.
    • We made the case that lock-in was one of the major obstacles to using Google App Engine. Today, Google allows GAE developers to leverage the MySQL-like Google Cloud SQL, and has added support for Java alongside the original Python to widen the addressable market. Later-to-market competitors such as Cloud Foundry, Engine Yard, Heroku or OpenShift, however, continue to take advantage of the limitations of GAE.
    • We recommended that everyone read Fivethirtyeight.com for election coverage. Today, well, you know.
  • In 2009:
    • We asked who was going to build the App Store for the enterprise? Today, the Google Apps Marketplace (03/10) and the Microsoft Office and SharePoint App Store (08/12) are two plausible answers.
    • We believed that programming language and platform fragmentation would have profound implications for vendors moving forward. Today, VMware’s determination in building Cloud Foundry (2011) – that it be open source software and support multiple programming languages from day one – are typical rather than revolutionary.
  • In 2010:
    • We observed that companies such as Facebook and Twitter tended to default to open source, embrace language heterogeneity and favor permissive licensing. Today, this attitude is perhaps best summarized by GitHub’s Tom Preston-Werner, who wrote in 2011: “Open Source (Almost) Everything.”
    • We summarized our long held beliefs by saying Developers are “The New Kingmakers.” Today, every major software vendor, every major consumer devices producer, the majority of enterprise hardware makers and even a number of chip manufacturers have programs designed to attract and engage with developers.
  • In 2011:
    • We predicted that ARM would emerge as a server player. Today, AMD has announced its intent to manufacture ARM servers for the 2014 market and Dell is already experimenting with 64 bit ARM server designs from AppliedMicro.
    • We took issue with claims from other analysts that Java was a dead end for enterprise application development. Today, we see a robust market for Java skills not just within enterprises, but consumer startups (e.g. Twitter) and open source projects (e.g. Hadoop).
  • And in 2012:
    • We wrote that software was the new On Base Percentage, an asset undervalued in the 1970s and 1980s that was overvalued in 2012. Today, Microsoft’s entry into the hardware business and its incorporation of an advertising model into Windows 8 seem to confirm that Microsoft, at least, is hedging against challenges to traditional software revenue streams.
    • We asserted that the market for a business is less important than the business model underlying it. Today, we’re waiting on more data to test this hypothesis.

And that is strictly my research, because it’s what I remember best. My colleagues have produced even better predictions and research over the last decade, and there are dozens more predictions we could point to that have subsequently been proven out: identifying Amazon as a credible enterprise threat, for example. Many more, such as our expectations with respect to software and data-based revenue models, are years away from becoming mainstream.

A lot has changed over the last decade. If you owned a thousand shares of Apple, for example, they’d be worth $576,750 more today than when we incorporated. RedMonk has changed as well. We’ve changed webhosts no fewer than six times. Domain registrars four. Email providers three. Content management systems three times. We’ve been through two recessions, maybe half a dozen offices between us, and the firm has moved its headquarters no fewer than three times.

We’ve also changed how we work. As more developer related data has become available, for example, we’ve aggressively embraced quantitative analysis. Whether it’s our research, or collaborating with third parties like Black Duck, Jaspersoft or New Relic on their own data, the “we-don’t-do-numbers” shop is all about the numbers today. We’ve added services around green and sustainability research in GreenMonk, and you’ve probably heard that we also now organize conferences in the Monktoberfest and the Monki Gras.

But what hasn’t changed about RedMonk is more important than what has. Ten years later, our culture is still family oriented – a good thing given the marriages, births and adoptions. Our focus, meanwhile, remains the same: we are still firmly convinced that developers are the most important constituency in technology, and that our ultimate purpose as a firm is to be their advocates within the wider technology community.

When we look back over the last decade, it’s as impossible to measure our effectiveness as developer champions as to count the MySQL instances in the world. If we’re lucky, the metric isn’t disk space: the bulk of our professional output is housed in a MySQL database that weighs in at a paltry 135.8MB.

We hope that developers have and continue to find our research useful. We hope that we’ve been able to help improve their lives, whether that’s helping them get new jobs, serving as their voice for vendors or even just buying them beers. Most of all we hope the industry eventually realizes what we at RedMonk know: that developers are the New Kingmakers.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank my colleague James for being a great partner for all of these years, Cote for all of his years of excellence, Tom for bringing RedMonk to new arenas, Donnie for picking right up where Cote left off, Marcia for being the most important person at RedMonk, my parents, Sheila and Steve, for helping to support me while we got RedMonk off the ground, and my wife Kate both for keeping us out of legal trouble and for being beyond patient with odd hours and worse travel schedules.

Thank you to all of the developers that have taken the time to read our research, educate us or simply tell us why and where we’re wrong. You are why we exist.

Perhaps most of all, I’d like to thank our clients. A decade later, and we are still here. Your support is what makes that possible, and your engagement, your creativity and your willingness to really listen to us is what makes this job still fun a decade later.

Thank you all for a decade of RedMonk and here’s hoping we’ll have another ten years together.

Postscript: in anticipation of the question, yes, we will be doing a tenth birthday celebration, but conflicting with the holidays seemed like a poor idea. Stay tuned.

Categories: RedMonk Miscellaneous.

  • http://twitter.com/alexwilliams Alex Williams

    Congratulations to Red Monk – you guys continue to help me get a perspective on the market that I can’t get anywhere else.  Cheers – here’s to the next ten years.

  • http://twitter.com/TomRaftery Tom Raftery

    in anticipation of the question, yes, we will be doing a tenth birthday celebration

    Wohoo!!!

  • http://www.jd-od.com Dennis Howlett

    Well done fellas – the bit about family is bang on the nose.

  • http://www.theopenforce.com/ ZUrlocker

    Congrats on 10 years.  Seems like even in the earliest days, RedMonk was an idea whose time had come, putting developers and infrastructure software at the forefront. Well done everyone!

  • Mike Maney

    Happy decade to the best non-analyst analyst team in the business.

  • Charles Gold

    Congrats, Stephen! Big achievement — and a well deserved position in the marketplace!  

  • Chris

    I’ve enjoyed following along and have found RedMonk invaluable along the way. Congrats!

  • philsheard

    That history of spot-on forecasts says it all. My London network has utmost respect for the work that James does in the UK and for RedMonk generally. Good on you for having the vision and executing brilliantly.

  • http://twitter.com/ghaff Gordon Haff

    Congrats on the ten years! Sorry our paths don’t cross more often these days.

  • http://twitter.com/Roebot Aaron Roe Fulkerson

    Great work RedMonkers. 

  • http://twitter.com/neilwd Neil Ward-Dutton

    Hi Stephen (and James) – this is a great achievement. If in 3 years we can put together anything like as long a list of successes as this together, I will be very happy! Here’s to many more years of cerebral agitation.

  • http://twitter.com/lskrocki Linda Skrocki

    Congrats!!!

  • http://twitter.com/lskrocki Linda Skrocki

    Congratulations, guys! :-)

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  • Jeff Jones

    Happy birthday, you guys!  May the next ten be equally revolutionary.  

  • http://twitter.com/monadic alexis richardson

    Happy birthday Redmonk, and long may you continue.  

    Kudos for all the prescient calls.  What did you get wrong in the last 10 years?  Show us that list too!

  • Mike Olson

    Planning to be at that party.

  • http://bjelkeman.com/ Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson

    Good work guy! Next, a piece about the predictions which didn’t work out as well would be very interesting. I don’t write down many of my predictions, but a bunch of them didn’t happen the way I saw it. I would be interested in learning about what you didn’t see or what you predicted wrong.

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