But the advantages of the cloud run deeper than a turnkey dev and test environment. These days, development teams are often dispersed around the globe, and Web-based social media tools such as wikis provide a great way for developers to hash out issues, provide status reports, and otherwise keep the communication flowing. If there's a native cloud application, it's collaboration. You also want to put your source repository, build automation, and bug tracking in the cloud where everyone can access it.
Of course, many dev shops have moved to Web collaboration whether or not they work in a cloud environment. But think for a minute how well the bursty nature of the cloud fits the testing cycle. If you convince ops to scale up for regression testing or full-scale load testing, it's going to cost you a bundle. With the cloud -- particularly public cloud services -- you just fire up the VMs as needed and spin them down when you're done, pay-as-you-go style.
Cloud-based application development also fits nicely with agile development. When you bite off work in smaller chunks, with more iterations, you don't want to be slowed down by manual provisioning. You want to spin it up, test, deploy, and move on.
One consequence of cloud-based application development will almost certainly be a multiplicity of projects and applications spread across various public and private platforms. This presents a management challenge. Monitoring, integrating, and reporting across this diversity requires a new class of cloud app dev management tool that is only beginning to emerge. Solutions here range from VMWare's Hyperic, which provides agent-based application monitoring in virtual environments, to Nimsoft (acquired last year by CA), which provides both management and service desk capabilities, to zAgile, which provides a unified view of an application across its full development and deployment lifecycle.
Ultimately, the benefit for developers who learn how to leverage the cloud isn't just greater efficiency -- it's creating the apps that do a better job of meeting the needs of business stakeholders and deploying them with the same agility that is applied toward their development. With the time saved getting various environments provisioned properly, developers spend more time interacting with the business side -- and raise their profile in the organization.
Many people in IT complain, or at least worry privately, that the cloud threatens their livelihood. Developers enjoy the potential to make themselves more vital than ever.
This article, "What the cloud really means for developers," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.