IBM Adds New Bluemix OpenWhisk Tools for IoT Development

IBM added new tools for its Bluemix OpenWhisk serverless computing platform that utilizes Docker. OpenWhisk also features user interface updates.

IBM initiatives

IBM has announced a set of new tools for its Bluemix OpenWhisk event-driven programming model, which uses Docker containers.

The new tools will enable developers to build intuitive applications that can easily connect into the Internet of things (IoT), as well as tap into advanced services such as cognitive, analytics and more—without the need to deploy and manage extra infrastructure, according to IBM.

"What OpenWhisk allows a developer to do is without any server infrastructure they upload their snippet of code, they choose when they want that code to run—like in response to something changing in the database in the cloud, or someone calling a Web URL—and then when that event occurs, the code gets run and IBM will auto-scale it for them," Mike Gilfix, vice president of Mobile & Process Transformation at IBM, told eWEEK.

"So we make sure that it scales to as much demand as they need and they only pay for the compute capacity that they need at the time that the code runs," he said.

Announced at DockerCon 2016, IBM's new OpenWhisk tools—NPM Module and Node-RED—will enable developers to more rapidly build event-driven apps that automatically execute user code in response to external actions and events, according to the company.

Moreover, IBM also plans to roll out new updates to the OpenWhisk user experience to make it easier for developers, including step-by-step workflows, new wizards to configure third-party services and feeds, and a new editor to manage sequences of actions, said Andrew Hately, CTO of IBM Cloud Architecture.

Node-RED is IBM's open-source IoT tool for creating event-driven applications. It enables developers to start prototyping their ideas without having to first write code. Node-RED can invoke triggers and actions within OpenWhisk, giving apps access to Watson analytics, the IBM IoT platform and a host of other Bluemix services.

Hately said IBM has been working to make OpenWhisk more intuitive for people developing in whatever programming language they want so they can benefit from the event-driven, serverless style of development.

"A lot of this is just continuing the drumbeat of making this more consumable to developers working in the polyglot, language-of-choice-style of development," he said.

With that in mind, IBM has continued with its first-class support of Node.js because of its popularity for IoT and device developers, Hately said.

"On the Node side we tie into our Node-RED platform," he said. "This is all about taking multiple open technologies that are getting large developer communities and continuing to enhance them and better integrate them. IoT is probably the biggest example of people wanting to do very, very lean, message-based integrations."

"Within the node community, we have a very large contingent of Node.js users," said Todd Moore, vice president of Open Technology at IBM. "And we knew we could make things much easier for them. We see Node as one of the dominant languages within Bluemix these days. More than half of what we see deployed [on Bluemix] is using Node."