WebSmart For Node.js Beta Project Under Way
February 29, 2016 Dan Burger
When IBM i got support for Node.js eight months ago, it lit a fire. BCD Software threw a log on that fire last week by announcing its Web development environment WebSmart supports Node.js as well. It’s a beta project now, but if things go according to plan WebSmart for Node.js will be generally available in three months. Will the open source Node.js be as popular in the IBM midrange community as open source PHP? We will have to see how that plays out.
IBM’s support of Node.js certainly gives it a much better chance of success than development languages not supported by IBM i. Without support from IBM, we wouldn’t see one of the major players in IBM i software vendor community moving forward with Node product development.
“It’s early in the market for Node in the IBM i community, but it reminds me of where PHP was when it started,” says Marcel Sarrasin, vice president of marketing for BCD and BCD’s parent company Quadrant Software.
BCD incorporated PHP in its Web development products in 2007.
“Although Node.js sounds like a new technology, it’s been around since 2009. We’ve seen the adoption of the technology on other platforms and we’ve seen big companies creating critical applications using Node.js. These are indications of the future for this technology. We feel the time is right,” Sarrasin says while pointing out that companies such as Walmart, PayPal, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Yahoo have adopted Node.js.
BCD’s Web development products use templates to facilitate the implementation process. It’s WebSmart for PHP, for instance, features seven templates for creating Web-based desktop applications, plus three templates for mobile development. The beta version of WebSmart for Node.js includes three templates. Sarrasin says more templates will be added by the GA date. The Node.js templates include one for multi-row order entry, one for query lookups, and one for editing style sheets used in creating static Web development. These templates include desktop and mobile development capabilities in the same template.
The XML Service toolkit is also part of this package.
Sarrasin is recruiting participants for the WebSmart Node.js beta process. He’s hoping to attract developers from a variety of development environments. Load testing is the current priority.
“Whatever someone creates in the beta can be kept,” he notes. “The initial GA release of WebSmart Node.js will be free. There is no runtime license. There is no runtime server and no licenses. Anything developed can use any editor. We’d like them to use WebSmart as their editor, but they get to choose. There’s no lock-in, nothing proprietary.”
Of course, if someone chooses to use the WebSmart development tool, that is a licensed product.
Tim Rowe, business architect for application development for IBM i proudly wears a Node.js hat. (Rowe has more hats than Stetson, by the way.) He predicts Node.js will attract new programmers as the traditional RPG hiring pool shrinks while also facilitating experienced developers as they absorb new technologies.
From my perspective, it would seem more likely that new developers with Node skills will be introduced to IBM i than RPG developers being introduced to Node.js, although I agree both will occur. For IBM i shops that are actively hiring new developers, working with a modern, open source language like Node.js is helpful in attracting new talent.
“It’s pretty quick to onboard someone developing in Node.js on IBM i. and leveraging RPG,” Sarrasin says. “If a shop is going to invest in its RPG or COBOL programmers, they will look at PHP and Node. RPGers may lean toward PHP if they are new to Web development. People a little more technical in Web development may want to use Node. But they should be able to learn both at similar levels.”
BCD will be offering its Web development expertise as a service for companies that want Node.js applications developed for them and also for companies that require some guidance through the install and configuration process. One-on-one mentoring is also available.
IBM’s Rowe, along with open source expert Aaron Bartell, are joining BCD’s chief knowledge officer Duncan Kenzie for an introduction to Node.js webinar March 3. It will cover the fundamentals of getting started and the longer-term capabilities of Node. Follow this link to register for the event.