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IBM releases open-source web server software written in Swift

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February 24, 2016

Earlier today, IBM said it has released Kitura, an open-source web server framework written in the Swift programming language.

Developed by Apple, Swift is a new but popular programming language which was designed for iOS and OS X.

Big Blue held a press conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to update the IT industry on its MobileFirst offering, which supports enterprise applications on Apple iOS devices.

A number of things were notable about the event. Although IBM presents MobileFirst as a partnership with Apple, nobody from Apple bothered to turn up at the conference.

Second, the assembled press had to endure a panel of no doubt worthy but hardly notable app demos from various customers, and a number of journalists headed for the exit before IBM got around to delivering its actual news-- that it was supporting Swift on the server with a new web framework.

To be sure, IBM simply loves Swift, according to MobileFirst vice president Phil Buckellew. "Each one of the over 100 apps that we have delivered is built completely natively using the Swift language," he said.

"IBM has become the largest user of Swift as a programming language for building enterprise apps. We have found the language to be extremely powerful, useful and code-safe." But not everybody believed that claim, however.

When Apple open sourced Swift about 2 1/2 months ago, IBM took advantage by creating a Swift runtime for its Bluemix cloud platform. It is now going a step further with Kitura, now available to the public on GitHub.

"On any given day, developers usually have to connect apps to multiple back ends. Often those back-ends are written in different languages, and of course that creates conflicts between back-end teams and front-end ones. We’re bringing Swift to the enterprise segment so that back-end and front-end people can work more closely together," said Buckellew.

"We are very excited about Swift as a systems language in addition to being a client language. It is compiled code and it runs fast because it is like a scripting language it is easier to use but it doesn’t have the memory management challenges you see with Objective-C or C++, added Buckellew.

Kitura itself has the ability to respond to web requests, so it does not require a web server such as Apache or Nginx. It runs on Linux or on OS X, so developers can run it locally as well.

Although IBM's MobileFirst is for iOS clients, Buckellew says that "eventually we expect Swift to move to other mobile and other front-end platforms because of the rapid growth of the language."

Soon, Big Blue will also support an event-driven programming model using Swift. IBM's affection for Swift is in part an effort to attract the millions of Swift client developers to its Bluemix cloud and more important, its enterprise services.

The story about using a common language for front and back end is only partly true though, since Kitura's code really sits in between the client and the real back-end, which is likely to be written in Java or C++.

Nevertheless, if the company is serious about Swift as a systems language, that could change. We'll keep you posted on these and other IT news as they happen.

Source: IBM.

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