Top 5 IT Skills Needed for Digital Transformation

Top 5 IT Skills Needed for Digital Transformation


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Front End Developers with skills for the mobile age

Our Mobile Web Development academy can teach developers to embrace mobile development skills:

  • Responsive Web Development
  • HTML5, CSS3 AngularJS and jQuery
  • iOS and Android programming


Agile Development Skills will continue to be integral to digital transformation.

Digital transformation needs an agile development team who can adapt, deliver, and diversify.

Key roles include:

  • Scrum Masters who act as facilitator for an agile development team to help create plan cohesion and drive production forward.
  • Product Owners who provide the goal for the scrum team, defining the finishing line for each project.
  • Coaches who help development teams become agile by working with them to implement agile principles.


Solution Architects who find technical solutions for business problems.

Key skills include:

  • Full stack knowledge to give solutions architects a more thorough understanding of the possible ways to solve problems.
  • Cloud knowledge as an integral path to finding solutions.
  • MicroServices developers who can create lightweight solutions for modular services.

Machine Learning and Data Analytics Skills to power new technology

Machine learning and data analytics are finding new applications such as the technology behind self-driving cars and online shopping recommendations.


DevOps Engineers to help drive digital transformation within a business

Engineers must have a unique skillset to claim the title DevOps:

  • Incredible communication skills
  • An understanding of the needs of ALL stakeholders in a business
  • A drive to meet business goals
  • Process re-engineering experience
  • Coding and scripting knowledge
  • An understanding of agile and lean principles

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Configuration Management – Just Do It!

Configuration Management, as applied in DevOps, is the practice of using tools to manage the configuration of our technical architecture.  Put simply, we document the desired state of one or more servers in a machine-readable form, and then use a configuration management tool (e.g. Chef, Puppet, Salt, or Ansible) to setup the real items to match the configuration.

Why?  As with many things, you might think “I barely have time to setup this server manually, never mind write a script for it”.  But the reality is, in today’s world, we’re probably going to have to do the same setup multiple times.  In enterprise environments, the software engineering process will require deployment to several environments (development, integration test, user acceptance test, performance test, then finally production).  It’s critical that all these environments are identical (so far as is practical).  This is a key tenet of DevOps operating practices – we can’t apply learnings from one environment to others if the environments are different.  Even in a simpler environment, you’re probably going to replace your servers in a fairly short time frame.

Once upon a time, we used to buy server hardware and nurse it along for years.  Nowadays, hardware and system software ends up obsolete in a matter of months, not years.  If you’ve done your CM work properly, it’s faster to deploy to a fresh OS image than to patch an existing image.  And if you’ve embraced virtualization or a cloud environment, you’ll find it’s easier to replace a server than to troubleshoot it.

There’s another advantage to Configuration Management:  The system state is documented and version controlled.  There’s no need to do archaeological work to find out what your technical architecture has evolved to – you just look at the configuration scripts.

So here’s your challenge for the next year: Stop managing your servers by hand.  Setup an open-source Configuration Management system and create a configuration repository (I’m partial to Ansible.  See for some tips to get started).  Every time you find yourself ssh-ing or logging in to a server, stop yourself and create a playbook, recipe, or run-list in your CM repository.   Make it a habit to use manual tools only to examine the server state, not to change anything.  Run your servers the way developers write code:  If it isn’t in version control, it didn’t happen!

For that matter, do the same thing on your laptop or workstation.  You’ll soon find that you’re much less stressed about maintaining your configuration or upgrading your hardware.

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Using k-means Machine Learning Algorithm with Apache Spark and R

In this post, I will demonstrate the usage of the k-means clustering algorithm in R and in Apache Spark.Apache Spark (hereinafter Spark) offers two implementations of k-means algorithm: one is packaged with its MLlib library; the other one exists in Spark’s package. While both implementations are currently more or less functionally equivalent, the Spark ML team recommends using the package by showcasing its support for pipeline processing (inspired by the scikit-learn Machine Learning library in Python) and its versatile DataFrame data structure (probably inspired by R’s DataFrame matrix-like structure similar to tables in relational databases, also wildly popular in Python’s pandas library.)

The k-means clustering is an example of an unsupervised ML algorithm where you are only required to give a hint to the computer as to how many clusters (classes of objects) you expect to be present in your data set. The algorithm will go ahead and use your data as the training data set to build a model and try to figure out the boundaries of those clusters. Then you can proceed to the classification phase with your test data.

With k-means, you, essentially, have your computer (or a cluster of computers) perform a partitioning of your data into Voronoi cells where the cells represent the identified clusters.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Angular 2 Property and Event Bindings

Have you noticed that many of the directives built-in to AngularJS are missing in Angular 2.0? Well there two reasons for that; “property bindings” and “event bindings”. The various binding types in Angular 2 remove the need for many of the directives built into the prior version of the framework.
Here are a few examples of Angular 2.0 property bindings:
AngularJS Directive
Angular 2 Property Binding
Hide/unhide an element
ng-hide = “expression”
Disable an element (ie Button)
ng-disabled = “expression”
Set href for an anchor tag
ng-href = “expression”
Set src for an image tag
ng-src = “expression”
[src]= “expression”
Here “expression” can take a number of forms:
Example Expression
Refers to:
A component property named myVariable
“2 + 2”,
“myVar * 3”,
An expression that will be evaluated by Angular
A call to a method in the component
In addition to property bindings Angular 2 includes event binding syntax which also replaces various AngularJS directives. Here are some examples:
AngularJS Directive
Angular 2 Property Binding
Bind code to a click event
ng-click = “expression”
(click) = “expression”
Bind code to input keyup event
ng-keyup = “expression”
(keyup) = “expression”
Bind code to mouseover event
ng-mouseover = “expression”
(mouseover) = “expression”
Bind code to submit event
ng-submit = “expression”
(submit) = “expression”
Here an “expression” is typically either an angular expression or a component method call.
The addition of property and event binding syntax in Angular 2 opens up binding to all DOM properties and events and dramatically reduces the number of built-in directives the Angular development team needs to maintain.
For more information on property binding see:
For more information on event binding see:

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Spark RDD Performance Improvement Techniques (Post 2 of 2)

In this post we will review the more important aspects related to RDD checkpointing. We will continue working on the over500 RDD we created in the previous post on caching.

You will remember that checkpointing is a process of truncating an RDD’s lineage graph and saving its materialized version on a persistence store.
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Spark RDD Performance Improvement Techniques (Post 1 of 2)

Spark offers developers two simple and quite efficient techniques to improve RDD performance and operations against them: caching and checkpointing.

Caching allows you to save a materialized RDD in memory, which greatly improves iterative or multi-pass operations that need to traverse the same data set over and over again (e.g. in machine learning algorithms.)

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Apache Spark class development complete

Last week I completed development of our 2 day class teaching Apache Spark which will be integrated in our Big Data and Data Science classes after the QA cycle.
I will be feeding some fragments of the material with additional comments and notes that would help you get a taste of what the new content is all about and see if it can help you in your work.
Stay tuned!

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SparkR on CDH and HDP

Spark added support for R back in version 1.4.1. and you can use it in Spark Standalone mode.

Big Hadoop distros, like Cloudera’s CDH and Hortonworks’ HDP that bundle Spark, have varying degree of support for R. For the time being, CDH decided to opt out of supporting R (their latest CDH 5.8.x version does not even have sparkR binaries), while HDP (versions 2.3.2, 2.4, … ) includes SparkR as a technical preview technology and bundles some R-related components, like the sparkR script. Making it all work (if at all this is presently possible) is another story and making it run on YARN may be a whole novel of a size of War and Peace.  So you can view this more as a demonstration of Hortonworks’ commitment to Spark, and we are left with the original supported language triad: Scala, Python, and Java.

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Spring Boot Training Available

The Spring framework has been a highly popular framework for Java applications.  So popular in fact, it is pretty much the defacto standard of Java application frameworks.  One of the issues many projects run into though is just getting started with a new Spring project with all of the different features and configuration that might be required of a Spring project.

This is where the Spring Boot project can help.  Spring Boot makes it easy to create production-grade Spring applications that “just run”.  The following features taken from the Spring Boot site make it easy to get a Spring project going and focus more on the “What is this project supposed to do?” instead of the “How do we get this project setup?”

  • Create stand-alone Spring applications
  • Embed Tomcat, Jetty or Undertow directly (no need to deploy WAR files)
  • Provide opinionated ‘starter’ POMs to simplify your Maven configuration
  • Automatically configure Spring whenever possible
  • Get out of the way quickly as requirements start to diverge from the defaults
  • Provide production-ready features such as metrics, health checks and externalized configuration
  • Absolutely no code generation and no requirement for XML configuration

Since we have had many clients asking about Spring Boot recently we have added a 2-day Spring Boot training course that can help you start learning how to use this very useful project.  You can find the outline here:

WA2511 Spring Boot Training

Spring Boot is definitely one of the newer Spring features that prove this application framework isn’t going away anytime soon, it continues to grow!


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Angular 2 Programming Languages

Programming Languages for Angular Development

Angular 2 differs from Angular JS in regards to programming language support. With Angular JS you generally program in JavaScript. With Angular 2 the official site provides example code in several languages; JavaScript, TypeScript and Dart.

JavaScript is an implementation of the ECMAScript standard. Several versions exist including ES5 and ES6. Most current browsers fully support JavaScript ES5. This means that code compliant with ES5 will run on most most browsers without modification. ES6 on the other hand may not be supported and is typically converted to ES5 before it gets to the browser. The more recent version of JavaScript (ES6) adds features and makes certain tasks easier. It is not clear when browsers will be fully ES6 compliant.

TypeScript and Dart are language super sets of JavaScript. This means they include all the features of JavaScript but add many helpful features as well. But just like the ES6 version of JavaScript they don’t work on current browsers. To work around this limitation there are utilities to convert code written in their non-browser-compliant syntax back to JavaScript ES5. In this way they provide the developer with advanced features and still allow code to be run on existing browsers. The process of converting code from one language to another is referred to as ‘transpilation’. Technically this conversion is performed by a language pre-processor that, although it does not compile anything, is commonly referred to as a compiler.

TypeScript is an open source language that is developed and maintained by Microsoft. It provides type safety, advanced object oriented features, and simplified module loading. Angular 2 itself is built using TypeScript. The documentation support is better on the Angular 2 site for TypeScript than it is for the other options. So although you could write your Angular 2 apps in pure ES5 JavaScript you may find it more difficult and find less support if you get into trouble than if you bite the bullet and spends some time learning TypeScript.

Dart is another alternative for programming Angular 2 applications. It is similar in features to TypeScript and has its own loyal following. If your team is already versed in Dart and is looking to start developing in Angular 2 it could be a good choice. That being said,  in the rest of this post, we will be concentrating on TypeScript.

Code Example

A basic Angular 2 component coded in TypeScript:

import { Component } from '@angular/core';
selector: 'hello-app',
template: '<h1>Hello Angular 2</h1>'
export class AppComponent { }


The same component coded in JavaScript ES5:

(function(app) {
app.AppComponent = ng.core.Component({
selector: 'hello-app',
template: '<h1>Hello Angular 2</h1>'
constructor: function() {}
})( || ( = {}));

 As you can see the TypeScript version is more concise and easy to read.


TypeScript Usage Basics

TypeScript support is provided by the Node.js ‘typescript’ package. To use typescript you first need to load Node.js and the Node Package Manager (npm). Once Node.js is installed on you system you would use the following command to install TypeScript support:

npm install -g typescript

This will install the TypeScript compiler and allow you to run it from the command line using the following command:


There are generally three methods to execute tsc. The first method involves passing the name of the TypeScript code file you want compiled on the command line:

tsc filename.ts

Here’s a simple TypeScript code file:

// app.ts
var msg:string = "Hello Typescript!";
function getMessage(message: string){
return message;

Compiling this file produces a JavaScript file with the same name as the TypeScript file but with an extension of “.js”.

tsc app.ts
(produces app.js)

You can test the file by running it using Node.js like this:

node app.js

As your application gets more complex and you have multiple *.ts files in one or more directories you may want to take advantage of the second method of running tsc. To do this you will first need to set up a tsconfig.json config file. Among other things this file tells tsc which directories contain the files you wish to compile. After placing this file in the root of your project tsc will compile any *.ts files it finds whenever they are modified and saved. To use this method you launch tsc in a terminal window and then edit your *.ts files in any text editor. As you save your files they will automatically be converted to JavaScript.

The third method involves using a text editor plugin to determine when you have saved a *.ts file. When that happens the editor itself will call tsc to perform the conversion. This kind of plugin is available for the Atom text editor. Microsoft Visual Studio also includes this type of support. For those who don’t want to load the complete Visual Studio development system Microsoft’s Visual Studio Core text editor also includes TypeScript support.


Using TypeScript significantly simplifies the code you need to write when creating Angular 2 applications. Although TypeScript can’t be executed by browsers directly there are several ways to convert TypeScript into code that browsers can work with.

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