11 programming trends to watch

From JavaScript everywhere to everything on the JVM, new tools, techniques, and troubles are changing how developers work

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Programming trend No. 6: Bandwidth is no longer free

Web programmers have grown up believing bandwidth is free and getting ever faster. No need to worry about slow download times -- in a year, everyone's connection will be zippier, and the problem will disappear. Unfortunately, those days are over, thanks to more and more ISPs adding bandwidth caps and metering.

Regardless of whether you see this as a need to crack down on bandwidth hogs destroying the commonwealth or as a power grab by those who own the pipes and, by coincidence, want to sell pay-per-view video feeds, bandwidth is something programmers need to worry about consuming.

This will change many of the gimmicks built around the cloud because traffic from your home machine to the cloud will be metered. Will radio stations be able to stream every bit that we hear and still make enough money on the pennies from ads? Will online backup be viable?

Optimizing bandwidth consumption when designing apps is becoming imperative. Minimizing JavaScript files and CSS files isn't just for speed; it also saves bandwidth. If programmers don't heed this trend, users of their code could be driven away by higher bandwidth charges in the near future.

Programming trend No. 7: Energy is no longer free, either

The cost of keeping a computer plugged in has never been an issue. It never mattered how much energy your rack of servers sucked down because the colo just sent you a flat bill for each box.

No longer -- energy consumption is a big issue, whether you're programming for smartphones or the server farm. The biggest limitation of my Android phone is that it can drain its battery in 8 hours doing nothing but sitting there. Design an app that eats up battery power faster than GPS features do and watch downloads of your app plummet.

The problem is less understood by server programmers, who could always take power for granted. You worry about speed, but rarely the cost of energy for completing a database transaction. Google is one of several companies in front of this issue, investing in finding the lowest-cost electricity to do extensive searches. It's likely the company is already deciding how to fine-tune a search based on energy costs and how much ad revenue the search will generate.

Cloud computing is helping make this issue more obvious. Some of the more sophisticated clouds -- like Google App Engine or Amazon S3 -- don't bill by the rack or root password. They charge for database commits and queries. While this is a new challenge for most programmers, it's making the cost of energy more transparent. Get ready to start thinking about the cost of each subroutine in dollars, not in lines of code or milliseconds of execution time.

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