IBM offers free tools for building grid functionality

IBM is offering free tools that programmers can use to develop products for on-demand computing environments. The suite is available as a free download from IBM's AlphaWorks site.

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IBM announced this week that it has made available free code for developing grid and autonomic tools for use in on-demand operating environments.

The free code is available for a 90-day trial from AlphaWorks (http://www.alphaworks.ibm.com ), IBM's tools Web site. Developers can find new resource areas on grid and autonomic computing, as well as Eclipse, an open-source, Java-based, extensible development platform. The available code makes it possible to create e-business applications.

At its core, grid computing is based on an open set of standards and protocols that enable communication across heterogeneous, geographically dispersed environments. Autonomic computing is a self-managing computing model where a system is capable of monitoring and correcting itself while keeping the complexity invisible to the user.

Developers building businesses around emerging technology now have access to dozens of free, on-demand application tools, including the new version of IBM's Emerging Technologies Toolkit.

IBM also announced this week an updated version of its IBM Community Tools (ICT), a communication toolkit that lets users communicate by instant message with entire communities, such as customer and partner communities, in a peer-to-peer network. ICT has been used by iSeries customers and business partners since February and is now available to the public on AlphaWorks.

In addition to the Emerging Technologies Toolkit, IBM has made available a number of other tools, including Directory Replicator for Grid, Manageability Services for Linux, Application Tools for Extension Services, Visual Application Builder and Generic Log Adapter for Autonomic Computing.

John Brandt, a programmer and vice president of technical services with iStudio400.com, a Texas-based consulting firm, is a regular user of AlphaWorks and says that this new on-demand offering is good move on IBM's part.

A lot of development work for on-demand is coming from programmers being able to download this free code, he said.

"The idea behind on-demand is that they're not charging for the software -- they're charging for the on-demand requirements," Brandt said. "If they give you free software, there's likely to be more integration … so you develop more applications that require the on-demand services. It's like only charging by the mile, but then giving you more miles to drive."

But Brandt said AlphaWorks is IBM's best-kept secret. In fact, he doesn't know of a lot of programmers that even know it's there, let alone use it. Brandt said there's not a lot of information about the purpose of AlphaWorks, the technology it supports or how the licensing works.

However, for those that know it's there, the technologies a programmer can get access to are "spectacular," Brandt said.

"My job as a programmer is to get the most value for what I have to spend," he said. "If there's a place where I can get free software, then that's the first place I'm going to go."

Marc Goubert, manager of AlphaWorks, said that AlphaWorks is available to anyone but is typically used by "early adopters."

"It's an early showcase for IBM," he said, "to preview the components, frameworks and utilities that they may see built into products later on.

"There's a great deal more to programming than numbers. You have to stay ahead of the game to be successful. Programming for the sake of programming doesn't enable you to be successful. There's [an] additional level of research, top new technology trends. AlphaWorks is a valuable channel to do this. As a developer, it [means] when they do hit the marketplace, they have an edge on the competition."

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