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PowerRuby Brings New Life and Community to IBM i

Businesses exist to create revenue and one way to make more revenue is to have a technology stack that gets things done fast—a stack that lets you focus more on your business logic versus writing plumbing code. That is Ruby on Rails in a nutshell. Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, says, “Ruby on Rails is a breakthrough in lowering the barriers of entry to programming. Powerful Web applications that formerly might have taken weeks or months to develop can be produced in a matter of days.”

I’ve found this to be true in my experience, and I’m excited about what Ruby on Rails can mean to the IBM i space.

Last October, in conjunction with IBM’s 7.1 TR7 release, IBM announced that it has partnered with PowerRuby Inc. to bring the Ruby programming language and Rails Web framework to IBM i. The agreement includes both a free community download and also commercial support. Visit for more information.

Bringing the technology to IBM i is only one of two significant storylines happening now—the second is the vast and vibrant Ruby and Rails community. When I survey the tech sector for which technology stacks are proceeding the fastest, it almost always directly correlates to how lively and large the community is. We lack lively and large. It’s time to adopt, and the Ruby and Rails community is the perfect match.

What’s so special about the Ruby and Rails community? In short, it’s prolific at finding inefficiencies and developing patterns to address them—making programming simpler and allowing the accomplishing of business objectives more quickly. It operates on two mantras that direct every pursuit—Convention over Configuration (CoC) and Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY).

What Is Ruby?

Before I describe CoC and DRY, it would be good to describe Ruby. Ruby is a dynamic, open-source programming language with a focus on simplicity and productivity. It has an elegant syntax that’s natural to read and easy to write. Ruby is a language of careful balance. Its creator, Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, blended parts of his favorite languages (Perl, Smalltalk, Eiffel, Ada and Lisp) to form a new language that balanced functional programming with imperative programming. Matz has said that he is, “trying to make Ruby natural, not simple,” in a way that mirrors life.

Ruby is, at its core, an object-oriented language. No need to get those antacid tablets because this isn’t your Java’s OO. Instead it’s put together in a fashion that allows for many of the traditional OO concepts, like inheritance, but also works equally well in procedural and modular fashion, similar in some ways to RPG and *SRVPGMs. One of the best and quickest ways to gain exposure to Ruby is where you can go through tutorials entirely in the browser without having to install anything.

Where Can Ruby Run?

Ruby isn’t just for the server-side as a Web language. It can also be used on the desktop with, on iOS with and on Android with I’ll admit that running it on the desktop isn’t very appealing, but running it on Android and iOS is highly beneficial for IBM i shops because you can now create native mobile apps with the same language you use on the IBM i server side.

What Is Rails?

As states, “Ruby on Rails is an open-source Web framework that’s optimized for programmer happiness and sustainable productivity. It lets you write beautiful code by favoring convention over configuration.” I liken it to how green-screen programming gives you a working application in short order so you could spend less time being a geek and more time writing business logic. To that point, Bruce Perens, an open-source luminary, says, “Before Ruby on Rails, Web programming required a lot of verbiage, steps and time. Now, Web designers and software engineers can develop a website much faster and more simply, enabling them to be more productive and effective in their work.”

Aaron Bartell is Director of IBM i Innovation for Krengel Technology Inc. and an IBM Champion.



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