IBM has rolled the dice on Swift. The community now has access to the source code and IBM will begin to extend it. All of the development is on GitHub and in the open, Buckellew said. Apple has published a road map and that is where development of the language will continue.
For IBM’s part, it is focusing on the server side. IBM launched its Swift Sandbox, which is a website where developers can upload their code and see Swift running in action on the server.
“The IBM Swift Sandbox is an interactive website that lets you write Swift code and execute it in a server environment – on top of Linux,” said John Petitto, an IBM software engineer and one of IBM’s Swift developers located at IBM’s Mobile Innovation Lab in Austin, Texas. “Each sandbox runs on IBM Cloud in a Docker container. In addition, both the latest versions of Swift and its standard library are available for you to use.”
Within 24 hours of the IBM Swift Sandbox launch, the company saw more than 40,000 code executions across 127 countries. “That really shows that there is broad, broad interest in this,” Buckellew said. “And we’ve got lots of resources where we are going to be working with the community to make sure that we add the functionality to Swift so that it can mature as an enterprise and systems language, and that it’s done with the input of the community.”
Can Swift supplant Java?
According to Diaz, IBM’s role with Swift ultimately boils down to two main areas: contribution and consumption. “IBM is already among the most prolific enterprise adopters of the Swift programming language, and we plan to continue that trend as voracious Swift consumers. We will also help to usher our enterprise customers into this arena and show them the possibilities that Swift affords modern developers,” he said.
Moreover, members of the IBM team will also contribute to Swift.org code, notably the core language and supporting tools that will allow developers to use Swift with cloud services – in addition to extending the scope of Swift as a server-side system language.
However, despite IBM’s commitment to three major languages including Java, with all the talk of a multi-purpose Swift language going on, the question that begs asking is: Can Swift supplant Java?
“Back in 2001 Apple invited our team at Xerox PARC to make the short drive to 1 Infinite Loop and showcase how our learnings from AspectJ could be applied to Objective-C,” said Dr. Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop, who previously worked on the AspectJ aspect-oriented programming project at Xerox PARC. “It was a fascinating day and a step in Apple’s long journey to create a first-class programming language of their own. There’s a lot of great innovation and design in Swift, which will be a boon to the growing number of iOS developers.
"But what’s made Java strong is an open ecosystem of countless vendors contributing new frameworks, libraries and tools. That’s how Java got so broadly adopted and so sticky, and this effect had prior and greater impact than Java being open sourced. As it stands, Swift is on course to be Apple’s version C#/.NET, which is an important step. For it to make a dent on Java, an open development process with incentives for both contributors and vendors would need to be established, as Microsoft has been increasingly doing of late with Azure and Visual Studio. Expect Swift to become a great new programming language, but not to make a dent on the Java ecosystem without first seeing the third-party frameworks, SDKs and tools blooming around Swift as they did in the early days of Java.”