Meet the 18.5 million people who rule your world

According to IDC, there are 18.5 million software developers worldwide, and the rise of DevOps shows that they're the ones setting the IT agenda.

Earlier this week, International Data Corporation (IDC) estimated that there are 11 million professional software developers around the world, and another 7.5 million hobbyists.

Here's the thing: That thin slice of humanity constitutes the most powerful, most important force in technology today. Developers -- not CIOs, not network architects, not hardware makers, not any other portion of the IT universe -- are driving the future of technology.

Developers Rule, IT Workers Drool

"Developers are king, deal with it," said Barton George, Dell's director or cloud development programs, in an interview at the recent Dell World conference in Austin, Texas. Consider the enterprise's increasing move toward DevOps teams combining developers and IT staffers. The reality is that the IT alone is no longer a difference maker. Keeping your site up and running 24/7 is just "table stakes," Barton said. "If no one goes there because it's lame, youre a loser."

DevOps -- and the rise of the developer class -- poses a direct challenge to IT’s way of doing things, and the new world order is going to be a bitter pill for many IT traditionalists. If the DevOps concept is going to work, IT needs to recognize this new hierarchy, and that could take a while. "Culture is the hardest bit, it really is," Barton said. "It's gonna be a generation before it really takes root in the more traditional companies."

It would rally help, Barton said, if the developers "put some skin in the game, too. They can't just be prima donnas" leaving all the real-world headaches to IT operations. Barton suggests making developers "wear the pager so that if there's a problem with the code they get pinged in the middle of the night."

Yeah, like that's going to happen.

Developers in demand, and in control

Like it or not, developers are increasingly crucial for corporate technology efforts, which is why they're in such demand and why their influence -- and their pay -- is skyrocketing. The situation is compounded by web companies' even more insatiable need for developers, and they're eagerness to throw big bucks and serious equity at rock-star coders. And it's those very same web companies that are increasingly setting the example for enterprise IT's technnology strategies.

Given all that, it's no surprise that IDC expects developer ranks to swell. "While the numbers of both developers and ICT-skilled workers are expected to grow over the next few years, shifts in how IT is being delivered through cloud services will favor the growth in developers over other ICT-skilled workers," said Al Hilwa, Program Director, Application Development Software at IDC, in a statement. At the same time, IDC noted, the growth in mobile technology is boosting the ranks of hobbyist developers. IDC notes that almost one in five (19%) are based in the United States, followed by China (10%) and India (9%).

I, for one, welcome our new overlords.

Disclosure: I was an invited guest of Dell at Dell World, and the company paid my travel expenses.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in