Bad news for the Swift language developer community. IBM, one of the companies that has been committed to the Apple language from the very beginning and was also the forerunner of server-side development in this language with its Kitura solution, has announced that it is abandoning it and relocating the two engineers who were working on it at the time . Chris Bailey and Ian Partridge, the two engineers who also belonged to Swift’s working group at Apple for the evolution of server-side solutions have left that group and will be relocated by IBM in a clear corporate decision that leaves their Kitura server’s commitment to be orphaned.
In December 2015, Apple launched the open source project of the Swift language and announced that the language had support and compiler, not only for Apple systems: also for Linux, specifically for its Ubuntu distribution. And only one day later, we learned that IBM was betting on Apple’s language and creating an important partnership with them. This partnership gave rise to several tools that allowed IBM’s then cloud service, Bluemix, to have a runtime or cloud-based Swift application execution service, coupled with the first server-side solution to appear with Swift: Kitura .
After this first step of how a compiled server side could be done and with the consequent improvements that this brought, other open source solutions appeared such as Perfect or Vapor . Some of them have had more repercussion than others and in the last years two of the solutions that have had more bet by the community open source have been Vapor and the mentioned Kitura. In fact, Chris Bailey and David Okun edited a book about Kitura and how to work with it for Ray Wenderlich’s well-known website.
In October 2018, given the importance of this type of solution, Apple decided to create a server-side Swift language working group (the SSWG) , whose purpose has been to propose and discuss solutions to be incorporated into the language to improve this type of implementation, one of its greatest achievements being the inclusion of SwiftNIO 2. A networking API that is a real improvement providing a high level non-blocking network architecture over HTTP2 that allows Swift based server side solutions like the future Steam version 4, to achieve incredible efficiency and performance that directly competes with great market standards like Node.js.
IBM was the first major company to go for Swift outside of Apple environments, as well as creating the first server-side solution for the Apple language. Now, incomprehensibly, they are withdrawing without further explanation. Crass error in our opinion.
Unfortunately, all of this is nowhere to be found and IBM decides to continue working on other solutions and the two engineers responsible for this project will be relocated to other tasks, against their will. In addition, they have left the working group at Apple, leaving this one composed of only 4 engineers: two from Apple and two from Vapor.
This leaves the Open Source Kitura project in the air , until we know what IBM will do with it: either release it completely for the community to continue its possible evolution or close it and force other versions to be created in other repositories, if the community wants to take over. In fact, just two months ago version 2.9 was released as well as a series of tools from the library.
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The two engineers who have been displaced from the project and its management, as well as the Apple groups, will be responsible in the coming weeks to coordinate the replacement of responsibilities as the generation of the official Docker images that install the library and some that other elements that allow continuity and not leave users who bet on this solution hanging and in limbo. Let’s hope that the project continues, even without IBM.
It’s strange to see this when IBM has a clear business bet together with Apple, but it’s also true that the latter is more focused on development for Apple’s mobile devices with libraries like those of its MobileFirst solutions that bet on language. But in this part of the server side that is part of the strategies open source of IBM, go on the other hand and not bring them a direct benefit , are not so interested and have decided to close the collaboration.
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No doubt a pity and a wrong strategic decision (in our opinion) by IBM . Although it is true that server-side Swift is not one of the most popular solutions, it is a great bet and if they had invested in making it known they could have found interesting support from the development community. Not for nothing, being able to use the same language on the server side and on the front part of the apps is an advantage at all levels. From here our tribute to Chris Bailey and Ian Partridge for their excellent work during this time and wish them the best in their new responsibilities .