IBM deepens Apple partnership by driving Swift in the enterprise

LAS VEGAS — IBM released new tools for developers coding server-side Swift this week, making a point to showcase its partnership with Apple Inc. at its InterConnect conference.

Underlining its commitment to Swift and its endorsement of the language as a key tool for enterprises to build out mobile apps, IBM is also the largest developer of Swift, producing more than 100 mobile apps in the language. It’s offering to help enterprises dabbling in using Swift to produce in-house apps.

“We look at this as a way to accelerate adoption of mobile and cloud,” says Robert LeBlanc, senior vice-president of IBM Cloud. “It makes sense to allow the programmer to program on both the front end and the back end out in the cloud.”

LeBlanc invited Brian Croll,vice-president of product marketing at Apple, up on stage during the opening keynote at InterConnect. Croll highlighted the popularity of Swift, saying it has been adopted faster than any other programming language.

“We’re excited by the deep involvement of IBM in the Swift project int he open source community,” Croll said. “IBM is helping to make Swift great on servers.”

Apple first introduced Swift in 2014, an abstracted programming language that gave developers another option to develop native apps for its iOS platform besides coding in C or C++. In December, Apple announced it was releasing Swift to the open source community and along with it, Swift for Linux, allowing it to be used on the server side. IBM supported the move by releasing a Swift Sandbox that would allow developers to experiment in working with server-side Swift.

Now IBM has some new tools for developers that are using their sandbox. Big Blue is driving Swift in the enterprise in several ways, explains Michael Gilfix, vice-president of IBM MobileFirst Offering Management:

  • The Swift Sandbox now has a social sharing feature so developers can share snippets of code with others easily.
  • Developers can now run Swift code as a service on IBM’s Bluemix platform by using Kitura, a new open source runtime that enables REST calls.
  • Also new to Bluemix is OpenWhisk, a platform the allows for automatic code execution in response to events – such as a mouse click – and run it as a micro service. Developers can code in Swift and package it in a Docker container on this platform.
  • Swift packages can now be shared on Bluemix via the Swift Package Catalogue.

IBM’s Swift Package Catalogue on the Blue mix platform has already seen 120 different modules contributed to it, Gilfix says. Developing more will help Swift become a more useable tool for developers in the enterprise.

“We have a great programming language and a great compiler, but we don’t have all the libraries yet,” he says. “This is the first step. This is enabling the community to move beyond snippets of code to real applications.”

Asked if Swift could ever be seen running on a non-Apple client, Gilfix responds that the language was only made open source two months ago. But the uptake by the developer community has been beyond expectations.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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