iDevCloud to Provide Online Playground for IBM i Developers
August 10, 2010 Alex Woodie
In an ideal world, every IBM i shop would have its own dedicated development box. But as IT budgets shrink, it’s hard enough to get management to update the production server, let alone provide a playground for developers to experiment with new tools and technologies. But now that www.idevcloud.com is nearing completion, IBM i developers will soon have a place to try out the latest RPG, PHP, and Java tools against a live System i machine, for a very reasonable fee.
In the next few days or weeks, you will be able to go to www.idevcloud.com and sign up to get access to a range of IBM and Zend development tools and compilers, as well as a System i Model 525 server running i5/OS V5R4 and IBM i 6.1 and 7.1 to run against. The library of tools available to iDevCloud subscribers will include:
The cost for the service will start at about $50 per month, which gets the subscriber basic access in a shared library. For $150, a subscriber can get SECOFR authority in his or her very own LPAR. Users will be able to download the tools of their choice from a secured website, and access the System i server over the Internet.
iDevCloud is the brainchild of Jim Oberholtzer, CEO of Agile Technology Architects and a COMMON board member, and Larry Bolhuis (AKA Dr. Franken), the principle of Frankeni Technology Consulting, who is renown for bringing bizarre and fantastic midrange creations to life. The idea spun out of the duo’s work with iEngineer, a group of active System i professionals.
“The intent of iDevCloud is to provide a playpen for i developers to do what they want to do,” Oberholtzer told IT Jungle last week. “If you happen to work for a bank or a financial institution or another organization that has relatively heavy security restrictions, they can’t, by definition, just let you go out and let you play. And not everybody has an AS/400, iSeries, or System i sitting at home.”
The focus of iDevCloud is on education and training. People who want to bolster their RPG skills or try a little bit of Java or PHP can do so in a controlled environment, against a live System i server. “If you’re producing education for the i community, then the service is available to you as well,” Oberholtzer said. “Those folks find it hard to afford a machine and keep it current.”
There are restrictions. iDevCloud is not to be used to build or run commercial applications; a fully paid license to the IBM or Zend software would be required in that case. Subscribers can use iDevCloud as a springboard for becoming an ISV, but they must license their own copies of the software before doing any actual commercial development.
Third-party vendors will also be able to play on the iDevCloud. Oberholtzer is in talks with some utility vendors to make their wares available on the cloud, which will make the experience more rich and rewarding for subscribers, he says.
The iDevCloud is functionally ready to begin business today. Subscribers are beginning to access the Model 525 at iEngineer’s office in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The only work really left to do is to update the front-end www.idevcloud.com website to begin taking orders.
It’s early, but hopes are high for iDevCloud. Oberholtzer and company would like to buy a new POWER 7 machine at some point. And, depending on how things go, the business could morph into a production cloud utility. “Ultimately that’s where I hope to go,” Oberholtzer says. “Realistically, that has a lot to do with IBM’s licensing model, which is really the roadblock.”
Everybody in the Power System and System i community knows that IBM i would make a great cloud platform. iDevCloud isn’t the IBM i community’s first foray into cloud computing. Just look at i365‘s online backup service or Kisco‘s integration to Amazon‘s S3 cloud or Infor‘s new approach to surround IBM i-based ERP products with Windows apps running on Microsoft‘s Azure cloud.
IBM may yet tackle the licensing barriers that are preventing the IBM i platform from flourishing as a cloud platform (and hopefully will do so sooner rather than later). In the meantime, iDevCloud’s bottom-up approach–where individual programmers are offered access to shared IBM i development resources for a nominal fee–certainly sounds like the start of something good.