IBM Rolls Out New Developer Language Tool

IBM is aiming to make it easier for developers to code JavaScript-based user interfaces without actually developing in JavaScript itself.

The company released its new Enterprise Generation Language (EGL) Community Edition (CE), an Eclipse-based development tool that is intended to simplify JavaScript development.

While EGL CE is new, it is derived from technology that IBM (NYSE: IBM) has been shipping for several years in its Rational Business Developer (RBD) solution.

Unlike RBD, EGL CE is freely available. It’s also targeting a different group of developers — which is important at a time when JavaScript use is on the rise for open source developers, according to a recent report.

“EGL CE is specifically targeted to a new community — Students, Web developers, PHP developers and JavaScript developers,” Will Smythe, product line manager for IBM Rational Business Developer and EGL, told “EGL CE delivers the key capabilities for coding rich user interfaces in EGL ultimately deployed as JavaScript, as well as coding service-oriented business processing and data access ultimately deployed as Java-based services.”

Smythe added that a visual designer and intelligent editor is included as well as a common debugger for both browser and service-based processing. The commercial RBD product includes the ability to generate COBOL and RPG-based business processes which are not part of EGL CE.

The goal behind EGL CE is to support the development of rich, JavaScript-based user interfaces without writing any JavaScript, and Java-based services without writing any Java code. Smythe noted that the actual end product (that is, the code that is exported for use on a server) is still compiled into standard JavaScript and Java.

JavaScript itself is not an entirely homogeneous language, and different Web browser vendors have and use different versions. It’s a disparity that EGL CE addresses.

“We have designed EGL CE to support compilation of EGL code into a wide variety of JavaScript flavors, including those supported by the most popular Web browsers,” Smythe said.

Freely available, but not open source

IBM is making EGL CE freely available to developers, but the technology itself is not yet open source.

“EGL Community Edition is the first phase of our long-term Free and Open strategy,” Smythe said. “The goal of the first phase (Free) is to increase adoption and usage of EGL by providing a free, Eclipse-base tool for building fully capable applications. The second phase (Open) is where we will make components of EGL available as open source projects (like or open commercial (like projects.”

As to why IBM has decided to make EGL CE freely available at this time, Smythe stated that IBM’s view is that the market now demands free access to languages.

And because IBM Rational Business Developer already has the capabilities provided by EGL CE, plus more, EGL CE doesn’t have a commercial roadmap, Smythe said.

There is a development roadmap, however. Smythe noted that IBM is still working through the plan, but it expects to deliver enhancements in a number of areas.

For instance, future enhancements could focus on “extending the capabilities delivered in our EGL Widget set, integration to the EGL Cafe enabling rapid interaction and exchange within the broader EGL Developer community, and open-language-based API’s that can facilitate extensions by third parties,” Smythe said.

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