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10 Amazing Things that Happened in 2018

In 2018, Jesse Gorzinski predicted that it would be a breakthrough year for open source on IBM i, and his prediction held true.

Blue, pink and white lines connecting with a purple "Open Your i" banner

At the beginning of 2018, I stood in front of the IBM i Large User Group and made a not-so-bold promise: it’s going to be a breakthrough year for open source on this platform! Not surprisingly, my prediction held true. For today’s brief blog post, I wanted to list (in no particular order) 10 of the many amazing things that happened in 2018. 
10. Yum and RPM Packages
For some hardcore open source fans, the release of RPM packages and the Yum package manager is the highlight of the year. Not only does it change how packages are built and delivered, it allows for improved quality and quantity of technology. In a very short amount of time, the number of available packages went from a few dozen to a couple hundred! Without the RPM ecosystem that my teams built, most of the other things on this list would not have been feasible. 

For more background on Yum, see my blog post about it or perhaps this writeup from Jon Paris and Susan Gantner. 
9. Node.js Db2 Connectivity Improvements
Of course, if you’re running Node.js on IBM i, you want to talk to the database! In 2018, we made this task easier (and more “normal”) than ever before. 

First, we released our premier Db2 library on the Node Package Manager (NPM) site. To use it, Node.js developers on IBM i can simply install and use the idb-connector module just as they would any other. The documentation was greatly improved and beefed up to include abundant working examples. 

For users wanting to take advantage of Promises, a new(er) feature of JavaScript, we also created a Promises-based library, called idb-pconnector. It allows for the asynchronous database operations to be handled more cleanly. Plus, it includes connection pooling support, which helps performance and shields against common programmer mistakes. Like many open source efforts, this was done collaboratively with community members. 

Also, we worked on the ODBC package to provide support for IBM i. It can also be used in conjunction with the IBM i Access ODBC driver to talk remotely from Linux or Windows applications.
8. Client Success Stories
More and more customers have been achieving success with open source. In my blog post from a couple months ago you can read about some of them. 
7. Third-Party RPM Repositories
With the new RPM-based technologies, it has been thrilling to see community members adding to the wealth of available goodies. In 2018, we saw three new repositories be created.
6. .NET
Yes, there’s a .NET runtime on IBM i! This extraordinary technology represents a true community effort. It is available via a third-party RPM repository. IT Jungle highlighted this information here and here, so feel free to read more.  
5. Machine Learning Technology
IT Jungle also noted some of the great progress with machine learning and data science capability. Namely, some of the popular Python frameworks (such as NumPy, Pandas, or SciKit-Learn) are readily available. This provides yet another option for exploiting IBM i data with this tech, alongside IBM Watson and PowerAI. 
4. Node.js 10 and Community Integration
Code-named “dubnium,” the newest long-term support (LTS) version of Node.js became available on IBM i. Understanding the LTS schedule is important for managing the lifecycle of your Node.js applications, so I suggest taking a glance at the Release Working Group’s documentation. The release of Node.js 10 came promptly for IBM i, more quickly than earlier LTS releases. The speedy availability of new releases is important for those wanting to exploit the latest enhancements. 
Just as important, all IBM i changes for Node.js have been contributed to the main project. In fact, anyone can now compile the very latest code by themselves, using the nvm command. See the documentation here. This includes feature releases and nightly builds. 
3. Containers Became Easier Than Ever 
We’ve had the ability to do lightweight IFS containers for several years via UNIX-style chroot “jails.” In 2018, however, the ibmichroot project got a major facelift. Creating a chroot container is now as simple as running a simple command (something like “chroot_setup /QOpenSys/mypath”). Plus, it’s delivered via RPM package, making the installation a snap! In a future blog entry, I’ll dive a little deeper into this topic.  
2. New Support Offering
In the ultimate assurance that open source is ready for “prime time,” IBM has made available a new support offering. This new support offering provides a comprehensive solution to help you through all stages of the software development lifecycle and is a great addition to the support already available. For more information, see my blog post.
1. Community, Community, Community!
Of course, the term “open source” is nearly synonymous with “community.” Many advancements are made possible through collaboration between IBM, hobbyists, commercial clients and independent software vendors. The IBM i client base has established a strong community, and we’re seeing that as open source continues to grow. In 2018, IBM i folks were adopting more technology, building their own tools, and being social on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Ryver. To join us on Ryver, join here and explore the channels here.
Closing Thoughts
Without a doubt, 2018 was an incredible year! I am indescribably proud of my teams at IBM as well as the many other contributors. As we start 2019, I have some question for you:
  • What were your favorite 2018 moments? 
  • How has open source helped you?
  • What do you hope the coming year brings?  
Internalizing these questions is fine, but if you’d like to respond publicly, you can tweet using the #IBMiOSS hashtag, make notes on Ryver, post to the IBMiOSS group on LinkedIn or comment on this blog post. In any event, I hope you are excited about the future as I am!

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