IBM Opens Source to Toolbox for Java

Hoping to demonstrate its commitment to cutting-edge technologies, IBM recently released JTOpen, the first AS/400 product to be made available as open source.

“We think this helps us both from an image perspective, that we’re on top of the latest technology with Java and open source, and it helps our business partners from another perspective as well because they can get exactly what they need,” says John Quarantello, AS/400 e-business marketing manager for IBM.

JTOpen is an open source version of the AS/400 Toolbox for Java product, a library of Java classes that provide access between Java programs and AS/400 data and resources. The classes can be used by Java applets, servlets and applications.

Several factors influenced IBM’s decision to open-source Toolbox for Java, according to Bill Wiktor, IBM’s development manager for JTOpen and Toolbox for Java. One reason, he says, was that some IBM business partners had requested access to source code for debugging. In addition, stealing a page from the open source movement’s manifesto, the company says JTOpen will make it possible for IBM to deliver product enhancements to the market faster and allow others to contribute enhancements that can then be made available to the whole community.

In the first month of its release, Wiktor reported there were over 600 downloads of JTOpen. The application runs on any client or server that utilizes Java Virtual Machine, and, as with Toolbox for Java, does not require any additional client support. Customers can download the source code to use as an application development tool or to modify it, add functions or identify problems for their own use. The project has been approved by the Open Source Initiative (www.opensource.org(new window)), and IBM is currently looking for users to become involved in the JTOpen development process.

“We don’t want it to be viewed as a strictly IBM JTOpen project,” Wiktor says. He added, however, IBM does not intend for the project to be a development free-for-all. Because the newness of Java on AS/400 makes users skeptical about its performance, IBM has set up a core team of developers who will screen submissions and determine which changes are viable and whether they will be distributed as enhancements to JTOpen.

“This is not intended to be a dumping ground for snippets of code,” he says. “We really are trying to create something in which users can have as much confidence as they do in the existing applications.”

To help strengthen user confidence, IBM has set up a dedicated forum for JTOpen and Toolbox for Java, in order to stay in step with new developments being suggested for or incorporated into the product. However, Wiktor warns, users who take advantage of the open source opportunity should look to other users for technical support, not just to IBM.

“By its purest definition, open source is really an as-is kind of support model,” he says. “We need to start thinking of it as a community of users, helping each other rather than just one-to-one, consumer to IBM.”

Quarantello adds that there are no specific plans to open source other AS/400 products, but suggests JTOpen is being floated as a kind of test balloon to gauge the response IBM might receive for other similar projects.

“If there comes a time down the line when IBM considers open sourcing another application, at least we’ll have some results, where we can say, this is the type of response we’re getting, this is the type of feedback we’re getting, this is the type of press coverage we’re getting,” Quarantello says.

The JTOpen source code download is available through IBM’s Web site at www.ibm.com/developer (new window).

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