IBM Enhances Support for the Swift Programming Language

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2016-06-14 Print this article Print
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At WWDC, IBM extended its already-considerable support for the Swift programming language, particularly for using Swift for server-side development.

Apple's Swift programming language continues to gain popularity among developers and IBM, as a key Apple partner, is putting its considerable might behind the technology.

This week at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), IBM announced new tooling and support for Swift, along with updates on the uptick in momentum Swift has seen at IBM and its developer community.

IBM has been creating mobile applications for its MobileFirst for iOS platform using Swift, but the company also is making strides in extending Swift for server-side development.

"From IBM's perspective, Swift on the server is already a global phenomenon," John Ponzo, an IBM fellow and vice president and CTO for IBM MobileFirst, wrote in a blog post. "This month, the number of code runs in the popular IBM Swift Sandbox topped 1.5 million."

If you are not familiar with the Sandbox, it's a cloud environment IBM made public last December with the launch, Ponzo said. At the time, IBM announced it would be participating in the new project to help extend Swift to the server and the company used its sandbox to test its code and shared access with others.

"This enabled developers, regardless of OS, who were interested in server-side Swift to give it a try without needing to stand up their own server," Ponzo said.

At last year's WWDC, Apple announced plans to open-source Swift and delivered it to the community last December. This week, the community launched the first preview of Swift 3.0.

Calling Swift "a game changer for enterprises," Phil Buckellew, vice president of Enterprise Mobile for the IBM Software Group, said IBM is the first cloud provider to enable the development of applications in native Swift.

"IBM has experienced the benefits of Swift on the cloud first-hand, and we are one of the largest digital agencies using Swift today with more than 100 enterprise apps developed in the language," Buckellew said in a blog post.

Adding to its potent support for Swift, IBM offered up two new capabilities. One is IBM Cloud Tools for Swift.

IBM Cloud Tools for Swift, a free app also known as ICT, provides Mac users with a simple interface for deploying, managing and monitoring end-to-end Swift applications, Brian White Eagle, an offering manager in the Mobile Innovation Lab, said in a blog post.

"The application integrates with tools designed by IBM Swift engineers to easily get started writing Swift on the server," White Eagle said in his post, which is a step-by-step guide for getting started with ICT.

IBM Cloud Tools for Swift simplifies the management and deployment of server-side assets, he said. It is a Mac Application that enables developers to group client-side and server-side code written in Swift; deploy the server-side code to IBM's Bluemix cloud platform and then manage projects using ICT.

Buckellew explained that for some Swift developers the key to productivity is working in the Xcode environment on a Mac. ICT simplifies the management and deployment of server-side assets in an environment complementary to Xcode.

"The developer experience is important to us, and we think developing Swift apps on the cloud should be simple and fast," he noted.

IBM also announced Swift on LinuxONE, IBM's Linux-based mainframe servers. Developers are now able to use Swift on LinuxONE, Buckellew said.

"The safety, speed and expressiveness of Swift are now available with a level of performance and scale unmatched by any previous platform," he noted. "Having Swift on LinuxONE allows developers to do fit-for-purpose placement of workloads that need access to data in a high-performing, secure, reliable and scalable environment."

Also, the IBM Swift Sandbox is now enabled with a beta driver of Swift on LinuxONE.

IBM introduced its Kitura Web Framework as an open-source technology in February at its InterConnect 2016 conference. Kitura enables the development of back-end portions of applications for Swift. Written in Swift, Kitura enables both mobile front-end and back-end portions of an application to be written in the same language, simplifying modern application development.

Buckellew cited the example of City Furniture, an IBM customer that used Swift for both client-side and server-side development. The furniture retailer created a mobile solution in just six weeks that enabled the company to transform clearance merchandise from a cost-recovery to a profitable product segment, he said.

"City Furniture recreated 90 percent of the functionality of their previous API with IBM's Swift server-side development packages using Kitura in a fraction of the time," Buckellew said.

Meanwhile, for its part, Apple this week announced Swift Playgrounds, a new app for the iPad that is designed to make learning to code in Swift easy and fun for beginners. Apple delivered a preview release of Swift Playgrounds at WWDC as part of the iOS 10 developer preview and it will be available with the iOS 10 public beta in July. The final version of Swift Playgrounds will be available in the App Store for free this fall.


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