Keep An i On Open Source
April 25, 2016 Dan Burger
The marriage of open source and IBM i reminds me of a marriage statistic that recently came to my attention: Approximately $6 billion in revenue is lost by American businesses as a result of decreased worker productivity linked to marriage hardship. Employees in a happy marriage, in contrast, tend to increase a company’s bottom line. From what I have seen of IBM i advocates in relationships with open source, happiness seems to abound.
Cross-trained RPG developers boasting open source language skills aren’t exactly common, but their numbers are increasing as IBM i shops with modernization intentions follow through on plans for Web and mobile development. According to Mike Pavlak, a guy who could fill Wrigley Field with the RPG developers he has introduced to PHP, something close to 70 percent of the IBM i shops that use PHP train their existing RPG staff rather than hire PHP developers and train them to use IBM i. That speaks well for the RPG community, but it also shows that approximately 30 percent of PHP developers in IBM i environments are new to the platform. That’s a good thing, too–new blood, fresh ideas.
Aaron Bartell, one of IBM‘s designated “Champions” is a tenacious advocate for open source on IBM i. A blazer of open source trails, he helped navigate IBM i support for Ruby and Rails and is doing the same with Node.js.
“It is my perception that Node.js is getting a lot of attention from the IBM i side of IBM. For example, look at how many releases have come out in the past year (one or more a quarter),” Bartel notes with characteristic enthusiasm. From his perch on the IBM developerWorks website, he’s also noticed IBM being responsive to “most of the requests” Node users are making.
Bartel reports IBM responded to the request for multiple versions of Node on the same machine at the same time, so developers can test new versions before deploying. The toolkit (product number 5733-OPS) now includes Option 4 for Node v4.x while keeping Option 1 for Node v0.12.12. He also recommends using the “tar” command to save off the Node.js IFS folder before installing updates.
He also is encouraged by IBM adding support for a broader base of native (C/C++) node modules so things like node-inspector can be used by IBM i Node.js developers.
There’s always room for improvement and on Bartel’s list he has ease of installation.
Applying PTFs cannot be described as easy, but he’s OK with the term “easy-ish,” which avoids negativity and the potential disincentive for attempting to load it. Obtaining licensed programs (that don’t require a license key) is quite bluntly “a pain in the butt.” Please, IT Jungle readers, let us know if this surprises you as it is not unique to 5733OPS.
Along with Node.js, the IBM i Open Source Solutions toolkit includes options for two versions of Python, the GNU Compiler Collection, and Git.
Ruby is available via the PowerRuby download page. It’s a licensed software, but nonetheless the tar command allows users to save of versions for “rollback insurance.”