Time For IBM i To Catch Mono–Again
June 6, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Just after Attachmate‘s takeover of Novell and just before it did the breaking of that company into two divisions, SUSE selling Linux and Novell selling everything else, Attachmate told the people working on the open source Mono project they were no longer needed at the company. But it is a lot harder to kill an open source project than taking away techie paychecks, and a new project has sprung up to carry on the Mono work.
Mono, of course, is a project founded by Miguel de Icaza, whose is one of the bigwigs behind the Gnome user interface for Linux and Unix operating systems. In 2001, de Icaza’s company, called Ximian, announced Project Mono, an effort to take the open specs of Microsoft‘s C#, a variant of the Java programming language, and its Common Language Runtime, an analog to the Java virtual machine, and create an open source clone of CLR that would allow C# applications to run natively on all kinds of non-Windows machines. These are the two key components of the .NET Framework that all modern Windows applications are coded to.
Novell toyed with Mono for years, but because it was taking so much money from Microsoft for SUSE Linux licenses–a very clever kind of payola that gave Novell’s managers some breathing room, but didn’t change its trajectory all that much–Novell never seemed to push Mono very hard. The company did eventually create a commercially supported Mono add-on to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 that worked on X64 and mainframe platforms.
I have long argued that if Microsoft was unwilling to port the Windows operating system to Power-based machines (this is clearly not hard, since the Xbox game console is a Power-derived chip running a subset of Windows), or if IBM was blocking it in some way, perhaps the next best thing to do would be to embed the Mono runtime down in the OS/400 and IBM i operating systems and let them run C# applications natively. This seems perfectly obvious to me.
Perhaps now that de Icaza and his compatriots have been cut loose from Novell and have started up another open source Mono project called Ximarin, which is also continuing the development of the open source clone of Microsoft’s alternative to Adobe‘s Flash, which is called Moonlight and is a clone of Silverlight. (Yes, that was an authentic replica of a quasi-exact duplicate.)
The IBM i Manifest US organization has been wondering what it can do to be useful with any money it might raise that would be more effective than taking out an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal in propping up the IBM i platform. Let me give you an idea: Pay de Icaza, while he is strapped for cash, to port Mono and Moonlight to IBM i 7.1. Embed them deeply in the system to goose performance, and see what clever programmers can do to bring over Windows applications and run them better than they do on actual Windows platforms.
Call me crazy, but this is so obvious. I’ll cut a personal check to help pay for it if all of you will.