Bring Docker To IBM i
November 15, 2017 Dan Burger
One of the fundamental shifts in the way people think about building applications is the use of containers, packages that include: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries, and settings. Containerized software runs equally well regardless of the environment. Docker is the most popular of the container platform providers. And there is a group of IBM i advocates who would like to see Docker support added to IBM i.
One of those supporters is Kim Greene, a Domino on IBM i consultant, with clients who would benefit from Docker support. Specifically, Greene sees an opportunity for supporting Verse on Premises (VOP) and Connection 6 (code name PINK).
Verse is the newest version of the Domino collaboration interface. It was initially a cloud offering available only on Windows and Linux, but AIX and IBM i shops wanted Verse for their on-premise environments. Verse integrates with IBM Connections, the collaboration platform. Verse gives all the Domino workflow applications a fresh interface. (You can learn more about Verse at: https://www.ibm.com/us-en/marketplace/business-email-platform.)
“Most of my customers don’t want to put their data in the cloud,” Greene says. “They want it on-prem. So that’s a requirement IBM has heard loud and clear. So they came up with Verse on-prem. Docker is the key to getting that supported along with Connections 6.”
Support for Connections on IBM i has been missing for several years. There are older versions of Connections still running on IBM i, but Connections 6 will not be available to IBM i shops without IBM i support for Docker. There is no release date established for Connections 6.
IBM has been looking at the use cases for supporting Docker. These two use cases — Verse on Premises and Connections 6 — from the Domino user base could become influential in getting Docker support.
“There are people inside IBM who would really like to get Docker on the platform, but I don’t know the exact viability of that at this time,” Greene says. “The reality is what gets ported to the IBM i comes from the AIX base. That’s why I am pushing (in the RFEs) to get Docker on AIX as well as IBM i. The ball is going to start rolling quicker coming from the AIX side.”
Greene started working with IBM to determine what was required for an on-premise version of Verse. That led to a discussion about putting it in a Docker container, which would be supported on any platform (in this case AIX and IBM i).
Using Docker gives IBM a way to support multiple platforms with a single development effort as long as the platforms support Docker.
On IBM i, it’s the PASE AIX runtime environment, integrated into the IBM i operating system, that brings the added functionality of open source software, which has become a big deal for the future of the platform. Docker one of the most popular open source projects in history.
“I know both the IBM i and AIX communities want to have VOP and Connections PINK supported on their respective platforms,” Greene says in her Domino Diva blog. “The key is that the port of Docker to the IBM i will start with the port of Docker on AIX, so I am asking that you please vote for both of these RFEs to ensure both platforms become Docker enabled.”
In her blog, she also asks Docker voters to add comments about business benefits — how do you want to grow from where you are to where you want to be in the future — at the time they vote. A comments section is provided.
The importance of Docker support goes beyond the Domino collaboration support that interests Greene and the sizable Domino on IBM i installed base.
The IBM i open source software community will certainly be in favor of Docker support as well.
One of the most involved advocates of open source on i, Aaron Bartell, says Docker has two important and positive implications for IBM i, The first is separating workloads/applications on a single machine and the second is automation. He says both are “hugely important” for IBM i development to remain competitive with Linux development.
Bartell says the key to getting Docker support on IBM i is first getting the open source programming language Go Language ported to i. He posted an RFE (#20775) on this topic nearly a year ago.
Anyone with a Web browser and a valid IBM ID can participate in the IBM RFE Community program. An IBM ID is an easy sign up process. Once you’re in, you can view the list of RFEs, the number of votes each RFE has received, and the comments voters are making about the value the proposed enhancements would bring to their organizations.