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What Does the Future Hold for Open Source?

First and foremost, let me say: it’s good to be back! As some of you have noticed, my blog has been “off the grid” for a while. However, I am thankful to have found my blog’s new home, and it’s a pleasure to be working with the great folks at TechChannel to make that happen. In fact, all of my old blogs are now available at TechChannel, and available here.

Since this is my first post since the blog’s hiatus, I figured it would make sense to give a quick recap of what’s been going on with open source on IBM i. Just as important, I will look forward to what the future brings.

Where We’ve Been: A Recap

A lot has happened this year already! I can’t realistically give a comprehensive review, but I’ll hit on some of the high notes. Now more than ever, open-source technology has become engrained into the everyday IBM i discourse. It’s a requested topic in most conferences and user group meetings. It has also been a hot topic for the IBM Rochester Executive Briefing Center. IBM i community members step up to deliver YouTube videos, blog posts and guidance on our social media forums.

As far as technology goes, we have new versions of Node.js, Python and PHP. Plus, we have newer compilers with our recent upgrade to GCC 10. There’s lots of other stuff, too, and I encourage you to visit Kevin Adler’s blog (more on that later).

Where We’re Going

So, what does the future have in store? Some things are obvious, of course. Certainly, the IBM i development team, alongside some fantastic community members, will continue to bring more new technology to the platform. Apart from that, the IBM i open-source community will keep on growing, and companies will deploy new open-source solutions more each day. IBM will continue offering world-class support for open source packages on IBM i, OpenShift and elsewhere.

As the ecosystem grows, integration will persist as a core theme. IBM will continue our investment in technologies that tie open source to indigenous technologies. For instance, we continue to grow and enhance open source capabilities through:

  • Language (Python, Node.js, PHP) integration libraries, which allow you to call CL/RPG/Db2
  • Various Message Queueing technologies (ActiveMQ, Apache Kafka, MQTT, etc.)
  • Integration with cognitive and quantum technologies
  • Enterprise integration tools like Apache Camel and Node-RED
  • Db2 connectivity (including ODBC)

As an example, we just published a massive update to the Node.js ODBC bindings, which allows Node.js applications easy access to the database from anywhere an ODBC driver is available (Windows, Linux, Mac and IBM i).

We will also continue to drive enhancements into the core OS that can facilitate the gluing-together of different technology stacks. For instance, the recent data queue functions (SEND_DATA_QUEUE and RECEIVE_DATA_QUEUE) in SQL were implemented to provide yet another conduit for communicating between Db2 and open source.

Why are these integration pieces important? Simply put, it enables developers to take the hybrid approach to building new solutions.

The Value of the Hybrid Approach 

So what do I mean when I reference a hybrid approach? In essence, it’s a methodology to leverage the “best of both worlds” when it comes to IBM i and open source. Here’s a graphic I often use in conference presentations (it’s obvious that I am not a graphic designer!):

We all know about the IBM i’s fantastic attributes, seen on the left. If you’ve fallen in love with the platform (as I have), it’s probably because of these advantages. I’ve heard people describe IBM i as “a tank” more times than I can count. IT staff love the reliability of the system, and executives love the cost-effectiveness. Plus, I truly believe that Db2 for i is the best relational database on the market. Perhaps we don’t talk about that enough!

We also know that open source is a key strategic initiative. Countless studies exalt the wonders of open source for digital transformation and innovation. For instance, this Forrester study discusses adoption of open source among Fortune 500 companies and the better business and customer outcomes that follow an open-source strategy.

Knowing these things, it’s apparent that a hybrid approach is important. If a company can leverage the best characteristics of IBM i alongside the mind-numbing innovation of open source, great things happen. In fact, if you read through the stories on the IBM i customer stories page, you will see that the hybrid approach is a common technique to digital transformation. Trans Am Piping uses PHP to provide a web interface to their core business. SAIB uses Node.js to interact with Amazon Alexa. Cras Woodgroup uses Internet of Things tech to control manufacturing processes. All of these are cases where the hybrid approach has yielded positive business results.

Follow Along With Open-Source News

In case you’re not following the latest news when it comes to IBM i open source, I’ll give you some pointers. Since you’ve found my blog, you’re already on your way! As mentioned earlier, you might also want keep an eye on Kevin Adler’s blog. He is the technical leader of the North America open-source teams, and he provides regular updates on the teams’ progress—sometimes with a good rundown every month.

There’s more than just blogs available, though. If you’re doing anything with open source on IBM i, or if you are in any way interested, I say it’s imperative that you join the community forums on Ryver (join here first).

These assets, and many more, are now available on the new IBM i open-source resources landing page, found here. This page is still growing, and it’s open source, so you can contribute! You can find links to key pieces of documentation as well as other social media channels (Twitter, Slack, etc.). With all of these options, I trust that you can follow along as the open-source mission continues its revolutionary progress for IBM i!

Like I said earlier, integration tooling will remain key as we look to the future. In my next post, I will introduce an enterprise integration framework known as Apache Camel. It can be used to integrate your IBM i system with pretty much anything. Stay tuned for that. In any event, I’m glad to have my blog back online, and I look forward to crossing paths with you as you follow your path to open source!