June 1, 2022
We get a fuller picture of IBM i Merlin, the DevOps offering that IBM introduced last month with the launch of IBM i 7.5. One of the more interesting revelations from COMMON’s annual POWERUp conference last week is that Merlin will be a vehicle for delivering a range of functionality to the platform in the future, not necessarily limited to application development.
IBM i Modernization Engine for Lifecycle Integration, or Merlin, is a new offering from IBM. The software, as it exists in its first incarnation, allows users to develop IBM i applications in the ILE languages through an open source version of VS Code, a browser-based integrated development environment (IDE).
Specifically, Merlin uses Eclipse Theiaan open-source version of Microsoftthe original VS Code, and Eclipse Chewhich provides the workplace server that builds, manages, and orchestrates the IDE in a Kubernetes environment.
In addition to these open source components, Merlin includes software for ARCAD software. There are four areas where ARCAD has contributed to Merlin, including an RPG conversion tool called Transformer (which IBM has renamed Converter); ARCAD’s impact analysis tool, called Observer; ARCAD’s software for the integration of Cottage code repository with IBM i; and ARCAD build management software. IBM has developed its own integration code to integrate support for Jenkinsthe open source project for building and running continuous integration-continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, which is a high priority with Merlin as it currently exists.
One of the big technical requirements for Merlin that can cause problems for IBM i stores is Red Hat OpenShift, the Kubernetes-based container management system that runs on Linux. IBM i CTO and Chief Architect Steve Will said there was no doubt that OpenShift was going to cause problems for IBM i customers.
“Most of our customers don’t have people who know how to do this,” Will said during his Merlin keynote last week at the POWERUp 2022 conference in New Orleans. “It’s going to be one of the biggest initial stumbling blocks you’ll have. I’ll just admit it up front.
IBM has some ideas on how it can reduce the Open Shift learning curve for IBM i folks, possibly including training sessions, Will said.
“We worked with some of our partners who knew this was coming to get them information on how to do this, so they could help you get answers,” Will said. “It will be like learning how to install a Windows environment from scratch. You will understand. [You] won’t need to know much other than how to do it. But it will take time [time] learn.”
IBM is also considering creating a hosted OpenShift environment where it could provide Merlin as a service, according to Tim Rowe, IBM’s business architect for application development.
“It’s one of the things that’s on my list. . . how can we make this easier for our IBM i community,” Rowe said during his Merlin Deep Dive session at POWERUp last week. “Day one may not be something for everyone. We are well aware of this.
One factor that may make OpenShift more accessible to the IBM i masses is the ability to run it in an X86 environment. While IBM executives initially touted the OpenShift requirement as a potential reason for IBM i stores to create an OpenShift environment in a Linux partition on their Power servers, Merlin will actually run OpenShift running on Linux in an X86 server. .
However, once the OpenShift environment is launched, it becomes much easier. According to ARCAD DevOps Product Manager Andrew Clark, who co-presented the Deep Dive session with Rowe, installing Merlin should only take around 30 minutes.
“Half an hour to get it going,” Clark said. “OpenShift: Not half an hour.”
Several ARCAD competitors have expressed their dissatisfaction that they were not invited to participate in the deployment of Merlin. Although ARCAD has a long history of working with IBM and several of its products are listed in the IBM catalog, competitors have indicated that they feel ARCAD has been given an unfair advantage.
However, IBM has indicated that it will work with many change management and DevOps vendors in the future to integrate their offerings with Merlin. Additionally, IBM will even expand Merlin’s reach beyond web application development and operations into other areas.
“When we think of Merlin, an overview, we create a suite of tools to do more than just modernize applications,” Rowe said during his Deep Dive. “We had to start somewhere. We plan to add a bunch of other stuff: app catalog, PTF management, security development, security compliance. Many other options are available to help customers manage both their system and application modernization lifestyle.
OpenShift’s choice for Merlin is an integral part of IBM’s long-term plan to deliver functionality in the future, according to Will. This will include features from IBM as well as its business partners, he said.
“Initially, everything that comes from us will be integrated into this framework and will come from us,” said the technical director of IBM i during his speech. “At some point in the future we open this up. We can plug in other stuff. It’s not on the immediate horizon. But we can consider doing it.
Will has been a big proponent of next-generation apps, which are characterized by features like breaking down monolithic apps into microservices, modularizing business logic, and using REST APIs for communication, etc. Modernizing development lifecycle tools is a logical place to start this process, but it’s only the beginning.
“We were able to build using the technology behind it [OpenShift]and then create a big platform ourselves that has room to grow but has a set of standards necessary for how things are going to interact with each other and how they’re going to look the same,” he said. he declares.
Merlin’s development and delivery time was very short by IBM standards: about a year and a half. This resulted in a somewhat haphazard release schedule, which has the Merlin IDE but no debugger with which to debug code as it heads into production.
IBM has basic debugging functionality that works in the lab, according to Rowe. It could be delivered within the next few weeks or months, he said.
“I’m hoping to put it in a patch bundle and hope it’s not too long,” Rowe said during his Deep Dive session. “I’m not going to ship it until it’s ready. But we are actively trying to set up the debugger and work on it. We have code that works. It’s just not over yet.
You’ll likely see several Merlin patch packs over the summer and fall months, one of which will have the debugger, according to Rowe. The company is also working on version 2 of Merlin which will ship later this year. The functionalities remain to be defined.
IBM worked with a group of early adopters on the first version of Merlin, and it’s open to hearing from the community about what features they want to see in the product, Will said.
“If you start watching this say, ‘God, 75% of this is exactly what I want, but until I get the next 25% I don’t think I can pass it’ – say tell us what that 25% represents,” says Will. “And then we’ll find out if that 25% should come from us or if we should go to the supplier community. We will find that.
POWERUp brings IBM i Base into the Big Easy
IBM Merlin brings a new approach to development on IBM i
In search of next-generation IBM i applications