As of today, the Swift programming language is an open source project called Swift.org. I agree with Phil Buckellew that this is important news for any business leader who views software as a strategic asset.

One reason is that I’ve seen its benefits first hand. At IBM, we’ve been using Swift to code for over a year and half. During this time, our enthusiasm as grown because we’ve noticed Swift’s significant benefits to our developers.

We began using the Swift language with its release in June of 2014 when it was first announced, which was around the time we started to grow our MobileFirst for iOS Industry Solutions team. What we noticed first was that the language helped accelerate developer productivity across our platform development efforts.

But there’s more …

Our engineering teams like that the applications developed in Swift require less code— a lot less code. And they love the deduction in defects they see when they use the language in conjunction with Xcode. From the developer tool perspective, the integrated Xcode environment is proving excellent in helping to optimize our applications with instruments support. The language syntax improves code legibility, which increases our sharing of code snippets, meaning we can do more in less time.

Looking closely at the project, I see key technologies that open the door to entirely new benefits and possibilities.

Swift’s benefit to developers is what makes the Swift programming language so popular. It’s fast, secure and interactive. Swift’s move to open source will no doubt grow its user community beyond its current fan base. We hope developers without prior experience with iOS or OS X development experience learn Swift and help apply the language in new areas.

Some of the key technologies included in today’s release include:

  • With the release of open source Swift, developers have an opportunity to contribute to the language, create new packages, and expand its usage to Linux.
  • Open source Swift includes the Swift compiler, integrated LLVM compiler backend, LLDB debugger the REPL interactive console tool, and the Swift standard library.
  • In addition to the basic compiler and tools, Swift.org introduces an early version of the Swift package manager. Package management is a critical feature for code sharing, managing dependencies, component versioning, and distribution.
  • Also introduced is an early version of the foundation framework. Foundation provides the base utility classes on iOS and OS X, and its availability on Linux will add to overall portability.

I have no doubt that developers—whether or not they’re current Swift users—will love this!

What does this mean to IBM’s development efforts and for our customers?

Within IBM, we plan to create new packages for accessing IBM Cloud services, including IBM Watson, IBM Data Services, and Analytics. This will help streamline developers’ use of Swift for IBM’s cloud services. To do this, we are working to provide a wide range of the most common packages developers will need for server-side development. In the future, we will also begin extending our MobileFirst of iOS solution apps to include end-to-end Swift packages that can be used to customize our market-leading solutions. Developers will be able to track our progress and leverage these assets, here, on our Swift @ IBM developerWorks portal.

At the same time, our engineers will help contribute directly to Swift. Our experience with our customers gives us a unique perspective on Swift’s capabilities and its further potential. Our initial contributions will focus on efforts around the core language stack, tools, and frameworks. As a leader in defining mobile as a cornerstone of an enterprise’s cognitive and cloud capabilities, we see the need for a robust and interactive programming language on the client. We look forward to working with the Swift.org Developer Community.

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