Microsoft’s $7.5 Billion GitHub Buy Illustrates Dire State of Developer Deficit

C. Dunlap

Summary Bullets:

  • Vendors ramping up coding campaigns get creative in the battle for programming expertise.
  • Microsoft makes a play to scoop up as much coding talent as possible.

Technology’s greatest deficit today is talent. As the digital era moves into a complex new phase of microservices, serverless computing, blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI), drawing on the expertise of capable programmers and data scientists to help spur adoption of new technology solutions is more important than ever – and difficult. A recent surge in campaigns to attract developers and grow developer communities among application platforms vendors such as IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce, and others reflects the increased importance of gaining vendor loyalties.

Microsoft, however, takes the cake. The application platforms giant acquired one of the most prominent programmer networking sites, GitHub, this week in a stock trade worth $7.5 billion. GitHub, which has become the industry’s most powerful programmer tool and resource community, will now be in a prime position to optimize the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, having easier access to Microsoft’s app development tools and platforms. Microsoft gets talent – a staggering 28 million developers to be exact (a figure provided by Microsoft). But at a deeper level, it helps illustrate the serious state of affairs vendors are grappling with in their growing concern over the lack of qualified software programmers and data scientists – all at a time when innovative machine learning and cognitive capabilities are coming to the forefront through cloud services.

The acquisition follows IBM’s announcement last week of a new coding campaign, ‘Call for Code,’ another move to rally savvy programmers through a humanitarian effort guaranteed to sharpen skillsets. The global effort challenges coders to create applications focused on addressing disaster preparedness and relief. The program encourages software developers to tackle advanced applications by leveraging IBM’s emerging app development technologies, including AI, big data, cloud, blockchain, and microservices. These technologies rely on modern application development architectures, which will pave the way for the world’s largest enterprises to run their mission-critical applications going forward.

Oracle has discovered the value of attracting young coders via social media, oftentimes launching campaigns via YouTube and Facebook to reach new audiences – including ‘Live for the Code’ last year and ‘Why I Code’ this year. The effort has yielded impressive results with a minimal marketing spend. Salesforce has demonstrated enviable results by recruiting programmers and non-programmers alike via its popular Trailhead developer community, which trains ‘Trailblazers’ and is now five million strong. During this year’s developer conference in March, a group of Oakland middle schoolers were even invited to the conference to learn to build an app that tested for water pollution.

These vendors’ primary objective is to leverage campaigns and the acquisition of professional networking communities to spur interest in, and further the adoption of, complex next-generation cloud technologies that support the continuous delivery of applications. The skills professionals are acquiring through GitHub tools and communities such as IBM Call to Code and Saleforce Trailhead translate to business objectives: e.g., setting up modern financial networks to execute secure transactions, applying voice translations to improve information sharing, and analyzing device sensor data to automate responses.

For their efforts, vendors get access to developers, equip them with tools and solutions to develop advanced apps, and try to make them loyal followers of their cloud platform.

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