DevOps Executive Spotlight: Icenium’s Doug Seven, Executive VP of Telerik

Not too long ago, DevOpsANGLE spent a moment to examine Icenium from Telerik—a cloud-to-developer environment that makes a great tool for any mobile development shop to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to producing and maintaining mobile apps—and now it’s our great pleasure to speak with the man behind the curtains. Doug Seven is executive VP of Telerik and the motive force behind Icenium’s amazing approach to development tools.

Software development and operations isn’t just a sphere full of technology without a master, it’s about people. In the end, all software and technology comes down to the human factor—it gets built, it’s going to be sold, and it’s going to be used by an IT department or a development studio or laced through an enterprise full of people.

Here, DevOpsANGLE hopes to spotlight the human factor as well as the industry by bringing people like Doug Seven into our virtual studio and let him speak in his own words about how he sees the industry and how he fits into it. As a result, there are two sections: the first is about the industry and professional concerns involving HTML5, mobile application development, and Icenium; and the second is about Doug Seven himself and who he is as a person.

DOUG SEVEN THE PROFESSSIONAL

During my interview, Seven told me that he’s excited that Telerik has allowed him to take his vision as far as he can. He sees a huge wave of mobile development on the horizon and that at the same time our reach is greatly exceeding our grasp—in many ways the mobile software and technology itself is so fragmented and separate from its roots that the tools for building and upkeeping it themselves are falling behind.

He’s been working in the developer framework and tool space for the past 10 years and he’s a strong believer in tools as making things easier. “We tend to neglect to advance tools at the same rate as the end technology,” he says is the modus operandi behind Icenium–getting back to basics, right-tool right-job, is the best friend of the developer. “Identifying what I thought to be the most painful parts of the development world and solving those.”

Kyt: How has the industry adoption of HTML5 affected your decisions in putting together Icenium?

D7: There is one technology stack that works across all platforms – including desktop, server and mobile platforms – and that’s HTML/CSS/JavaScript.As HTML5 began evolving it opened up more possibilities for building modern, compelling applications that would incorporate video, audio and device sensor capabilities. Since there is already a large population of developers with skills in HTML/CSS/JavaScript it means that developing apps for devices becomes possible for what is likely the largest population of developers in the world.

For Icenium this created a huge opportunity. Traditional mobile development with platform SDKs and native languages was not only hard, it was alienating to this huge population of developers. Frameworks like Apache Cordova/PhoneGap had the promise of simplifying device development and making it more accessible to web developers, but these frameworks, and other competing tools in the space, fell short of making device development simple enough. They all still required the platform SDKs and some amount of native development. For web developers, these requirement were still alienating and enough of a barrier to keep device development out of reach. While the growth in capability and popularity of HTML5 was definitely a factor in choosing Apache Cordova for Icenium, it was only half of the equation – the Cloud was the other half.

Kyt: More and more mobile software releases are going with update-on-demand making it much easier than before to push out patches. How do you see this changing the earlier concept of DevOps placing as many updates together into one patch (as would have been necessary with slower connections and larger products) or do you see a lot of publishers who would rather do lots of smaller patches?

D7: I think this will become the expected norm by all of our customers. It’s not a choice we are making as much as it is an expectation from our customers. It’s also the right thing to do. We live in a world where there is no reason we can’t update software frequently and provide our customers with a continuous stream of value. Of course that has to be balanced with the impact it has on the end user – frequent updates to sensitive or mainline components may be less desirable than the continuous evolving of productivity software – continuously improving how people accomplish their objectives. As more and more products move to the Cloud, or become hybrids of resident software with Cloud services – like Icenium – the ability to update frequently, with little or no downtime, becomes a reality.

Kyt: I’ve seen from Icenium that it leverages the cloud to allow developers to more easily work together, by putting the software in the cloud it’s possible to open and use an instance anywhere; how do you see this reflecting onto the operations side of the equation where installation and deployment become paramount?

D7: Installation and deployment are necessary for resident application – server software that powers an app backend, or desktop software that leverages offline capabilities. The core issues facing adopters of Cloud-based products is trust. Do you trust the software vendor and their Cloud infrastructure? Are you willing to allow your IP – whether it’s code, documents, or sketches – to reside off-premise, in the Cloud? As Cloud-based products become more popular, IT organizations will be forced to start accepting them and define standards for how they vet and approve Cloud-based software. The Icenium team, for example, is geographically disparate, with team members in Sofia, Seattle, San Diego, Boston and London. As a team we use a lot of Cloud-based software, which gives us the ability to share easily regardless of where we are, including GitHub, Evernote, DropBox, Google Drive and more. We have created standards for how we use these tools and for when we use on-premise tools.

Kyt: Where do you see the current Mobile/Application development industry going over the next few years? 

D7: I think we will see continued growth the development of hybrid applications that use native capabilities mixed with HTML-based user interfaces over the next few years. By 2015 I expect that the majority of new development will include a significant amount of HTML mixed with connectors to native functionality. We have seen this evolve over the past few years with Apache Cordova/PhoneGap and now we are seeing the mainstream adoption of these concepts with HTML-based apps for Windows 8 and Google Chromebooks. If you are building a platform and you want to attract developers, you had better speak their “language,” and right now their preferred language (ok, so it’s mark-up) is HTML.

DOUG SEVEN THE DEVELOPER AND HUMAN BEING

By now, you’ve probably noticed that Doug Seven’s initials in the interview are “D7.” Readers have probably already deduced this is because his last name is a number, Seven. I asked him about this and he says that, yes, he does initial things as “D7.” It’s quickly become a shorthand for his name and hearkens back to how interesting it is to have a last name that can be summed up with a digit.

During the interview he mentions that he got into programming and wrote a text adventure program for the TRS-80. He cannot recollect what the adventure game was about, but he does recall that he grew up loving Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books and mystery books like The Hardy Boys—his father was a software developer and so he worked with his father to make a program that told an interactive story.

No doubt, his love of games, mystery, and the tools of a programmer gave him the foundation to become the person he is today.

Kyt: How did you get into developing software for developers? And do you do much coding yourself?

D7: I grew up around computers, writing my first Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game on a TRS-80 with cassette-based storage. I started building websites in the mid-90’s after learning about The Web from my brother, who is a scientist and had been using it to collaborate with other scientists.

By the late 90’s I was running online magazines with RealPlayer streaming audio (I refer to this as the Golden Age of the Web). In 1999 I began working at Microsoft as a Developer Support Engineer – troubleshooting issues with Windows developers. As Microsoft introduced the .NET Framework, I left Microsoft to build some online resources for developers using .NET (this evolved into DotNetJunkies.com, which is now offline). We built everything using Notepad and command line compilers because the beta versions of Visual Studio were too buggy.

In 2005 I returned to Microsoft to run a team build online resources for developers in MSDN, and spent a lot of my time looking at the overall development process. There was a lot of evolution happening at the time in Test-Driven Development, Agile and XP. In 2007 I decided to use my observations to improve the tooling experience for developers and took a job in the Developer Division of Microsoft where I focused primarily on the higher end tools for ALM. From 2007 until 201 I worked across the Visual Studio product line, and when I left Microsoft I was the Director of Product Management for the core platform development tools, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone tools and the .NET Framework and managed languages.

The time I spent working on developer resources and focused on the tooling story taught me a lot about what developers need versus what platform vendors want to sell, and gave me a rare perspective on the tools space – very few people have the opportunity to oversee a billion dollar devilment tools business. There was a lot to be learned there, and it is what is driving my vision for Icenium.

Kyt: What’s your favorite mobile app? It can be a game, a distraction, or just something that makes your life easier.

D7: I love Flipboard – I can spend hours flipping through it on my iPad.

My new favorite is a physical services enabled by a mobile app is über (which I use on my Google Nexus). It may be the greatest invention to come along sine the iPhone. I use it everywhere I can, and I love it. For a traveler, it makes getting around town super easy.

In the same way, the Starbucks app is a favorite. It improves how I engage with one of my favorite vendors – I don’t need to carry money with me, it helps me find stores and I get rewarded for using it.

Of course I spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter as well.

I’m also spending some quality time with my Surface now and have been playing Armed a bit – it’s a throwback to Age of Empires and a great way to waste a few minutes.

About Kyt Dotson

Technology and civilization walk hand in hand and civilization is nothing without the skin of society, brushing up against itself, speaking strange nothings across dimly lit avenues and computer screens. If we're going to understand ourselves in this digital era, it will be through watching the adoption of technology by people to express themselves as people. I am an anthropologist and an author of science fiction and fantasy--and with my technology, I hope to open up new and exciting worlds that will not just enlighten the humanity of my friends and fans but also educate and enhance the expression of their own personhood. Find more of my work on Google+; send tips to @kytsune.