IBM i Open Sourcerers
July 11, 2016 Dan Burger
Who will inherit the IBM i? And what will that business computer look like? My crystal ball is in the shop, so I’ll have to rely on what is currently going on and make some projections based on that. Collaboration would seem to be the key. Even without my crystal ball, I see new technologies being explored and applied. For IBM i to be relevant to future generations, open source software and the collaboration with other innovation teams needs to take place.
Development of the IBM i platform is not happening on its own island anymore. It’s an integrated world.
Open source will have a major impact in the future of business computing and what we see happening with IBM i support for Ruby, node.js, Python, and PHP is a preparation for the future, Give IBM credit for realizing the future of the platform requires that multiple open source programming models be supported. At the operating system level, we are seeing collections of open source applications bundled into core groups that form open source business solutions. Those solutions will include IBM i, which is a whole heck of a lot better than IBM i standing pat on the same programming technologies that it has supported for years.
Figuring out the technology integrations was a critical decision for the technical people at IBM. Removing the barriers that prevent easy access to IBM i has been be a greater challenge for Big Blue. Without easy access, people are disinclined to involve IBM i in their creative collaborations. So the fact that i is technically capable doesn’t matter.
Easy access to IBM i is what Litmis Spaces was designed to provide. The access is not only simple, it’s free. And what you are accessing are preconfigured, turn-key IBM i open source environments in the cloud.
“We’ve been using Litmis Spaces for labs at all of the 2016 spring conferences and the response has been positive,” says Aaron Bartell, director of innovation at Krengeltech, the company that is not just hosting Litmis Spaces, but is building and supporting frameworks for disseminating knowledge and empowering a community. “We use browser-based development tools so there’s nothing to install on your laptop. You can literally be coding with open source languages (Node.js, Ruby, or Python, with PHP soon to be added) on IBM i in under a minute.”
The free offer allows users to access one Litmis Space on Krengeltech’s multi-tenant server. It’s basically a place to play and learn. When more space is needed, it can be purchased online with a credit card. The charges are determined on a pay-for-what-you-use basis.
David Dressler, a software engineer with skills in PHP, Zend Framework, and IBM i, has provided feedback to Bartell on his experiences compiling PHP7, venturing into areas such as bringing additional open source libraries from perzl.org, and working through “make” and “configure” files.
Dressler is a subject matter expert on the IBMi using PHP and SQL to develop modern applications on Power Systems. He’s contributed to the open source community by adding security to the PHP IBMi toolkit. He blogs on topics related to IBM i and PHP at davedressler.com.
Other changes at Litmis Spaces that came from feedback include switching from Google Chrome’s Secure Shell client to an in-house built browser-based ssh client that didn’t require as much setup and work on a Litmis Space that is geared toward doing serious GCC compiling of open source.
To sign up for a piece of Litmis Space (with access to the Node.js and RubyOnRails study labs), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As you noodle this open source idea in your mind, take into account that Litmis Spaces was the runner up in the 2016 COMMON-IBM Innovation Award competition. At the very least, that’s an indicator that it’s been judged by a jury of your peers and they’ve found it to be quite good.
The IBM i open source community is taking shape, too. A group called IBM i OSS is approaching 400 members as of last week, according to the group’s lead evangelist Bill Gravelle.
“We’re connecting and starting to gather momentum here, so now it’s time for the next step in our evolution,” Gravelle posted on the group’s LinkedIn page. “In the past few days some of us have been experimenting with a new collaboration/communication platform–molding it into more of a hub that aggregates information from many channels instead of forcing members to go ‘cavorting around the web,’ as someone described it. I believe it may enable a more integrated, sustainable foundation to improve the global participation necessary to propel us forward together in our OSS on IBM i journey.”
Gravelle described the community as “business-delivery focused,” with value for all levels of expertise beginning with novice. A survey, available on the LinkedIn site, is designed to collect information on the specific needs of individuals and the organizations where they are employed.
There are multiple sources of IBM i open source information taking root.
Bartell created a Wiki page that aggregates the websites, repos, collaboration efforts, events and other open source on IBM i resources. You can find it at: http://bit.ly/ibmioss. Like all wikis, it is meant to be a public resource and is designed so anyone can add, subtract or edit content for the express benefit of the community.
David Gibbs, owner and operator of the midrange.com mailing list and forum, has a new mailing list called email@example.com.
Open source advocate Pete Helgren, a member of the COMMON Board of Directors, is working with that organization to provide an information hub at www.common.org/open-source.
COMMON is also organizing and presenting an open source conference August 24 and 25 in Chicago with a focus on Ruby, Node.js, Python, Git, and IFS containers. Bartell, Helgren, and IBM’s Kevin Adler will be handling the instruction.