IBM to Offer Free EGL Tool for Web 2.0
June 23, 2009 Alex Woodie
“Free” is not typically a word that’s associated with IBM, especially when it comes to System i and System z programming tools, which can carry seven- or eight-figure price tags for the biggest customers. But Big Blue is making a big gamble that a free version of its EGL tool for creating Web 2.0 applications, tentatively named EGL Community Edition, will pay off in the long run by establishing a large community of users who are familiar with EGL, and provide an alternative to PHP and Ruby on Rails.
IBM announced plans to deliver a free, unsupported version of its Eclipse-based EGL development tools for creating Web 2.0 applications at the recent Rational user conference in Orlando, Florida. Some of the details, such as the product’s name, are still being hashed out. But if everything goes as planned, the offering will be available by the end of August.
Will Smythe, IBM’s product line manager for the Rational Business Developer and EGL development tools, brought IT Jungle up to speed on the new offering. Smythe, who works out of Raleigh, North Carolina, is charged with driving the success of the RBD products, including Rational Developer for SOA (RDi SOA), and according to him, putting some core EGL (Enterprise Generation Language) capabilities into the public realm is a great way to ensure the long-term success of the product.
The free EGL tooling will be relatively small and compact–around 100 to 150 MB, depending on whether the user already has a version of the Eclipse development framework already installed. It won’t include all of the capabilities of EGL that users would find in the RBD or RDi for SOA product sets, such as the capability to generate COBOL or to generate text-based user interfaces (which aren’t applicable to Web 2.0 applications anyway), or the WebSphere test environment. Any server platform that runs a DB2 or Derby database will be supported; that leaves Oracle and SQL Server databases unsupported (at least in the first release of the tool). It will also only run on Windows with the first release. RBD and RDi for SOA users can run the software on Windows or Linux workstations.
EGL Community Edition users also won’t need to know much about EGL to get started with the product, according to Smythe. “We’re going to try to make the new project wizard very simple to use so that they won’t be asked a ton of questions up front. We’re not even going to ask them what server they’re planning on deploying this to eventually,” he said.
Customers will be able to start their project using templates provided by IBM, Smythe said. “We’ll actually fill in some of the code for them right off the bat, so if they want to do just a simple data access application, or they want to do an application that calls another service and it integrates with some other services, we’ll actually generate some of that code for them to get them up to speed faster.”
This will help the users become more proficient at EGL, Smythe said. “For somebody who doesn’t necessarily know EGL, we think that’s the way to help them learn it,” he said. “Besides taking some of our free courses, we think that showing them code and letting them play with it and change it, is one of the better ways to get them up to speed.”
While some people in the System i have been skeptical of EGL and its business benefits, roughly 60 percent of the customers adopting EGL have been System i shops, with the remainder mostly mainframe shops, according to Smythe. Since the December release of the new “Rich User Interface” technologies within the version 7.5.1 releases of RBD and RDi for SOA (an IBM i-only product that includes RBD, RDi, and the HATS toolkit), IBM has been pushing to simplify development of Web 2.0 applications.
IBM still has a lot of catching up to do with EGL if it wants to match the widespread popularity of PHP or Ruby on Rails. It also has to compete against the variety of third-party development tools from business partners like BCD, CNX, GeneXus, LANSA, looksoftware, Magic Software, mrc, PlanetJ, ProData, Profound Logic, and many more. For some customers, a third-party solution from one of these vendors may be a better fit for Web 2.0 development. But it’s tough to compete against free.
The feedback on EGL Community Edition (or whatever the product is eventually named) has been good so far by current EGL customers, and by business partners, Smythe said. The partners like it because it builds the EGL base, while customers like it because it provides a broader test-bed for new features that will eventually trickle up into the full versions of the product they use.
“They realize that the more people we can get using IBM EGL the better it is for them, the better it is for us,” Smythe said. “It will allow us to get new features in front customers and potential customers faster.”
Users can register to be notified by IBM when the product is ready for download later this summer at the EGL Café Web site, www-949.ibm.com/software/rational/cafe/community/egl. All that’s required is a valid e-mail address.