Getting Started with Open Source using what you already know.

One of the problems many people have with Open Source on the IBM i is know just where to start.  I think some of this can be contributed to the way we have started the conversations with all of the new tools and languages that we can now access on the IBM i, many of those who are developing on the platform today don’t have those skills and are therefore scared away from getting involved.

The reality is they don’t need to know or understand all of these new languages and tools, they can take what they already know (RPG) and use it to develop and contribute to the Open Source community.  They can take what they know today and use it effectively.

The Open Source community is basically split into two distinct groups, I will call the first group the porting group, the second the ILE group.

Porting Group.

These are the individuals who are concerned with bringing new languages and tools to the IBM i, they are mainly using the PASE environment and ‘porting’ the tools found on the AIX/Linux platform to run in the PASE environment. Most of the presentations you will see around the IBM i educational arena are targeting this area. They probably have the lions share of the IBM i media’s attention as its what IBM has been pushing as a major reason to see IBM i as a modern system.

ILE Group  

These are the individuals who provide tools and utilities built using the native compilers provided for the IBM i. The tools and utilities run in the native IBM i subsytems and reside in the Library file system. This is a fairly new group, but one which most if not all IBM i developers would be able to  contribute with little additional knowledge than they have today.

I am going to spend the rest of this blog explaining why the ILE Open source group is where you should start and some of the benefits you will gain. I will also add a further Blog posts on how you can go from an IBM i with no Open Source environment to one which allows you to get the most from Open Source and benefit your personal development and the company you work for. It will also show you how to progress from the ILE camp to the Porting Camp.


One of the questions many ask is “why should I even care about Open Source?”, there are lots of valid responses to that depending on who you are, but in the main everyone benefits regardless of who they are and how they get involved. Here are a few of the benefits that I see.

  • Ability to share and develop ideas across a large group of similar minded individuals
  • Learn new programming techniques by example
  • Improved applications 
  • Raised awareness of the IBM i
  • No more limited resource arguments
  • Its FREE


So you want to get your toes wet without fully engaging. This is not a do all or nothing proposition, you can become involved without contributing a single line of code and still benefit yourself and others. Join one of the discussion groups and share your thoughts about how you resolve some of the issues we all face every day. Encourage others in your company to get involved and show management some of the untapped capabilities the IBM i has. Download and install some of the free tools and utilities then show others just how it’s helping you do new things on IBM i. Shout it from the roof top! No point in doing all of this unless the people who make decisions know you did it. Eventually understand how you can contribute and make a conscious decision to do so.


OK so we all come up with reasons as to why we can’t get involved. Here are some I have heard regularly.

  • Too much to learn, well with ILE you already have 95% of the skills.
  • Too Many new things, you don’t need any to start, once you get involved maybe a couple.
  • No documentation, working on that. Lots of people now blog their experiences so it is improving.
  • System access, lots of free access for developers now available
  • Time, OK that’s a difficult one, but getting help from others frees up your time doesn’t it?
  •  Authority from Management. Do it outside work if you have to. Show them the benefits.
  • Need, we all need something
  • Fear, it is not as bad as you think!
So that is the starter, in the next blog post I will show a couple of ways to get involved with the coding side of things and setting up the environment to use git. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to respond.


Here are a couple of important resources you should bookmark. 

  1. Some of the Open Source projects we have contributed 
  2. IBM Open Source Tooling
  3. Great Central resource for all things IBMIOSS

Enjoy and get involved.



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