Profound Marks 20 Years With A Free Dev Site For Node.js
June 5, 2019 Alex Woodie
Profound Logic turns 20 years old this year, a remarkable achievement for CEO Alex Roytman and his crew. But instead of receiving presents, the Dayton, Ohio, company gave the IBM i community a gift in NodeRun, a website where developers can create and deploy full-stack Node.js applications that can run in the cloud or on-premise IBM i servers. Best of all, NodeRun is free.
Profound Logic started way back in 1999 by developing utilities for RPG programmers. As the World Wide Web continued to grow, Profound CEO Alex Roytman and company created new tools to help RPG programmers make the leap, such as RPG Smart Pages, which debuted in 2003. From 5250 screenscrapers and IBM’s RPG Open Access handlers to PHP converters and native Web development tools, Profound has consistently been a leader when it comes to enabling IBM i applications to work with the Web.
“At Profound one of the things we’ve done is we’ve really embraced Node.js,” Roytman told IT Jungle during a meeting at the recent POWERUp 2019 conference at Disneyland. “I see that as a big thing that’s up and coming. It’s already big today, but I think there’s a lot of growth.”
The web is involved with a majority of new development and modernization work on the IBM i platform these days, Roytman said, so why not use a language that was developed specifically for building web applications?
Profound Logic already supports backend Node.js development on IBM i with Profound.js, which it debuted back in 2016. That product is seeing steady adoption among Profound’s installed base, both as a licensed product and as a component in the vendor’s growing technical services business, which focuses largely on application modernization.
Now the company is taking its Node.js story up a notch with NodeRun, which Roytman described as a full-stack development environment hosted on the Amazon Web Services cloud.
“It’s a full stack environment for building applications,” he said. “It has all the tools you need. It has user interface tools for designing UIs. It has coding tools for coding the business logic. It has a database built-in for building out your database. Git is built into the platform.”
The service, which can be accessed at noderun.com, is largely built on the Profound.js development environment, but there are some key differences. For starters, it runs as a service on the AWS cloud, which means there’s no need to first configure your Node.js environment before you get started.
“One of the problems that IBM i customers face is it’s traditionally been hard for customers to even install Node,” Roytman said. “How do I install Node? How do I make sure I have all the prerequisites first? It’s gotten a bunch easier, but now with NodeRun, they can get something going without having to configure their system.”
Node.js is a powerful language that can be used to develop all sorts of software. You could even develop an operating system in Node.js if you wanted, Roytman said. But with NodeRun, the service is geared specifically toward creating business applications, which allows Profound to simplify things a bit for developers.
“If you make the assumption that it’s for business applications — and that’s the assumption we make with our framework – then we get you to the next level quicker,” Roytman said. With other environments, “you’re writing hundreds of lines of code just to get a base going, whereas in our environment, you start writing the business logic and you’re interacting with the database, you’re thinking about the data.”
There is also a community aspect to NodeRun. When you sign onto the platform, you can choose to develop in public spaces or private spaces. If you choose public spaces, then other developers can see what you’re up to.
You can tell that Profound did a lot of market research to determine the optimal price point to attract the IBM i community at launch. At $0, the terms are what you would call “developer friendly.” But that doesn’t mean that Profound doesn’t value what it just created and gave to the community.
“You may ask, what’s the end game if it’s free?” Roytman said. “It’s free to develop and build what we call ‘spaces,’ which are your projects. So you’re creating these spaces, but each space we give you for free is going to have limited resources in terms of runtime. You can’t put a production application with 10,000 users on it. You won’t be able to do that on a free space. But if you do bold something real solid, then you will have options with us to upgrade that space to production.”
Once you have an application you like in NodeRun, there are several options for deploying the application. If the user wants to deploy it on the cloud, they could slide the Node.js application over to one of AWS’ many (many) X86 servers. NodeRun runs within a containerized Docker environment, which makes that a relatively easy process.
Once on EC2, the Node.js application can scale to the user’s heart’s content. The default configuration for NodeRun is a MariaDB database on the backend, but users can select MySQL, Oracle, SQL Server, or Db2 databases if they like.
The story is a little different if the target is IBM i. Since NodeRun is largely based on Profound.js, the NodeRun can be moved to Profound’s Node.js environment running on IBM i. The portability and standardization of Node.js applications helps with this transition, and it’s mostly a matter of packaging up the NodeRun application as a ZIP file and moving it over to the IBM i server, Roytman said. As long as the application doesn’t do anything weird or fancy with the SQL statements, the database portion of the NodeRun application should move fairly easily to Profound.js on IBM i utilizing the Db2 for i database, according to Roytman.
There’s no reason why NodeRun applications can’t be deployed to public clouds besides AWS too, Roytman said. And you can even have part of the NodeRun application running in the cloud and accessing data residing in an on-premise Db2 for i database, he said. (Whoever said IBM i shops weren’t interested in multi-cloud or hybrid deployments?)
NodeRun is a unique offering that combines the best of open source developer productivity with the option to tie that back into on-premise IBM i investments. You won’t find this sort of thing anywhere else in the IBM i space. That’s the sort of thing that Profound Logic prides itself on, Roytman said.
“The thing that differentiates us is we’re always coming out with new things,” Roytman said. “We’re innovative. We’re pushing out new technologies, pushing new boundaries. We’re not just sitting on top of [our greenscreen tool].”
Profound Logic is coming off its best year ever and now has close to 40 employees at offices around the world. Its IBM i products and services have delivered that. With NodeRun, Profound is looking to attract other types of developers with NodeRun, and hopefully bring some cross-fertilization of ideas that will benefit everybody involved.
“IBM i is, for the foreseeable future, going to be our main business,” Roytman said. “But you want to be forward thinking and future thinking to see if some of this other stuff that we’ve already developed applies here. So far, the feedback has been pretty good.”