Sunday, 11 December 2011

IBM's Open Source Enterprise Generation Language

I recently discovered that IBM have released their Enterprise Generation Language (EGL) toolkit as open source in a donation to the Eclipse project. That is definitely a nice move by IBM who are already one of the core contributors to both the Eclipse development platform and the Linux kernel.

So what is EGL? Wikipedia describes EGL as follows:

"EGL is a high level, modern business oriented programming language, designed by IBM to be platform independent. EGL is similar in syntax to other common languages so it can be learned by application developers with similar previous programming background. EGL application development abstractions shield programmers from the technical interfaces of systems and middleware allowing them to focus on building business functionality. EGL applications and services are written, tested and debugged at the EGL source level, and once they are satisfactorily functionally tested they can be compiled into COBOL, Java, or JavaScript code."

Prior to IBM's release I had never heard of EGL. It seems to have been hidden in their myriad of Rational legacy tools including the VisualAge enterprise tools for code generation and model-driven architecture (MDA). Apparently, it is quite an abstract language, which compiles into a set of different target platforms including Java, COBOL, and Javascript, depending on the solution architecture. Technical middleware and deployment are "hidden" from the developer so that he/she can concentrate on getting the business logic right as opposed to defining the technical configuration. 

Now, what does this remind me of? Sun's (and now Oracle's!) Java EE and the Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) platform. Java EE (previously J2EE) was the call for an open platform specification, which sought to solve deployment and configuration for developers and free up time for modelling requirements and implementing business logic. Transactions, persistence, and scalability were "built in" to the platform. Unfortunately the first versions of the EJB specifications were so horribly complex (remember EJB 2.x?) that developers spent an increasing amount of time on understanding persistence mechanisms, transaction handling, and writing XML files for relatively trivial tasks. Only with version 3.0 did EJB become "human" and demonstrated its full power as a relatively simple, fully mature application platform. That is not to say that EJB was not mature before -- it was just horribly complex. The higher the degree of embedded complexity, the higher is the chance of unintended errors. I know this because I have developed EJB v2 and v3 applications myself. I honestly hope that EGL does not suffer from the same legacy problems as EJB and that it can be integrated with more "lightweight" approaches to application configuration such as convention over configuration, Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY), and fluid interfaces.

EGL is a refreshing toolkit for the open source enterprise community. Even though I now spend my working life as an architect (and no longer as a software engineer), I still follow the enterprise software landscape closely. I have just downloaded the EGL Eclipse package from the web site and will follow up with some comments here in my blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment