IBM says: ‘Swift is now ready for the enterprise’

An interview with Mike Gilfix, IBM’s VP of MobileFirst and Smarter Process

Apple, iOS, OS X, IBM, enterprise, Swift 3.0, server
Credit: IBM

“Apple is smartly creating great digital experiences and I think they know that great digital experiences mean unleashing tons of innovation from the community overall,” Mike Gilfix, IBM’s VP of MobileFirst and Smarter Process told me, discussing Swift 3.0.

Swift 3.0 goes server side

I was speaking with Gilfix to mark IBM’s official introduction of IBM Bluemix Runtime for Swift, new software developed by the company to unlock all the server-side capabilities now available in Swift 3.0 for building microservice APIs on the cloud. The release is incredibly important as it means enterprise developers will be able to build next generation apps in native Swift from end-to-end, client-side to server-side, on the IBM Cloud. It has been made possible by Apple’s decision to make Swift open source.

In layman’s terms, it makes it possible for developers to create the apps you use on a smartwatch, iPhone, Mac or PC and the server side apps upon which all those connected devices depend using the same programming language. There’s lots of ways this benefits everybody – more efficient apps at the front end, and the capacity to quickly and easily introduce new apps and services hosted at the back end. That’s even before considering the data analytics opportunities inherent within all of this.

final infographic swift is ready for the enterprise IBM

Developers are engaged

Apple and IBM have taken a huge step to unlock the digital transformation of everything: “Swift is one of the drivers for a first class mobile experience. There’s incredible developer energy around it and Apple has made it its focus,” he says.

“With this release, Swift is now ready for the enterprise,” Gilfix says. “I used to be a language hacker back in the day…. It’s not every day you see the birth of a new programming ecosystem like Swift is going to be. I think we’re only getting started.”

Starting today IBM's full suite of Swift tools -- Kitura web framework, the IBM Swift Package Catalog, and IBM Cloud Tools for Swift – are Swift 3.0 compliant. The IBM Swift Package Catalog includes IBM Watson services, IBM DB2 and DashDB, IBM Cloudant and Couchbase, IBM ObjectStore and Apache Cassandra.

There’s also Swift Sandbox where developers of any level of experience can actively build server-based code. “If you go to developer forums they are using the Sandbox as an easy way to do collaboration,” Gilfix explains. “Since launch we have seen over 2 million code runs from over 100 countries.” In a message to anyone curious about Swift development he urges, “Get inside the Sandbox…it really is that easy.”

Where it’s at

With an ongoing convergence between mobile and cloud, most enterprises also want to optimize their IT spending while increasing return on investment. For these people a modern and accessible programming language that enables small developer teams to create end-to-end code connecting the edge devices with central servers is critical.

Citing IBM Institute for Business Value Gilfix confiemd that around 72 percent of enterprises plan at least five enterprise mobile initiatives at this time. He also pointed out that with lots of Swift developers working on Macs it was important that IBM has made its solutions integrate with Xcode.

“It lets them use their favorite tools to build server side code,” he said. “Apple supplies a rich device experience and we are extending that to server side logic,” he observes. “That’s an incredible thing because in the connected world all these devices talk to each other – we have to make that easier.”

Community driven

Gilfix was at pains to thank the wider open source community. IBM’s Kitura was introduced as open source code in February. Developers liked and contributed to it and it now has over 4,000 stars on GitHub.

“There are tons of digital agencies building high fidelity server apps, they are already choosing Apple technology,” now with Swift on the server and xCode they can create state-of-the-art mobile solutions.

IBM also has its own strong community of coders, “We have one of the largest Swift development shops working with clients to implement MobileFirst for iOS applications,” he said.

With Swift on the Cloud, enterprises will benefit from faster back-end API performance, safer and more reliable transaction and integration support, and the ability to re-purpose Swift developer skills on the client and server-side.

This integration delivers tangible benefits to enterprise IT. City Furniture was building an app to handle clearance furniture. They had intended building their front end apps in Swift, but were able to work with early versions of the tools IBM introduced today to build the back end code in the same language.

“They were able to build that in an incredibly short time, a few weeks,” he said. City Furniture is a perfect example of the kind of small, nimble development teams that will underpin the future of enterprise IT. “They had one developer and we helped them a bit. That one developer was also able to contribute to the project

This is not a big enterprise it’s an example of small nimble development teams, “They had one developer and we helped a little bit, the one developer was able to contribute to the [Bluemix Runtime] project.”

“We’re only just getting started”

Underpinning the approach is an understanding that when you get an Apple product it has not just the experience Apple creates but the really smart people from the ecosystem around it that create the solutions you need.

“By opening up Swift they are are enabling a bigger community to get really innovative with it and I think what we saw which made us enter the partnership was that today innovative experiences are powered by the network effect… We saw the opportunity opening up for people to create more powerful digital experiences,” said Gilfix.

“We have opened up huge opportunity for people to create great business tools,” he said. “I think we’re only just getting started.”

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