Lightbend and IBM Collaborate on AI App Dev Tools

Lightbend and IBM are teaming up to develop a complete toolchain for Java and Scala developers building and deploying AI and cognitive applications in on-premises and cloud environments, the two companies announced today. As part of the move, IBM is taking a "major" equity stake in Lightbend, undisclosed at press time.

Lightbend, the company behind the creation of the Scala language and developer of the Reactive Platform, has worked with IBM in the past, most notably leading IBM's Big Data University's core curriculum. But this new relationship promises to accelerate the adoption of Lightbend technologies significantly, especially in cognitive/AI app development.

"This relationship becomes what you might call the tip of the spear, bringing the Java and Scala communities into the cognitive/AI world," Lightbend CEO Mark Brewer told ADTmag.

In the short term, IBM salespeople will be able to sell Lightbend products directly to their customers, Brewer explained. In the long term, IBM will be integrating the capabilities of the Reactive Platform across its cloud platform and portfolio of cloud services, including data analytics, cognitive and machine learning, and collaborative data science tools, which will extend new capabilities to Java and Scala developers.

The Lightbend Reactive Platform combines several products to support the development of reactive applications on the JVM in both Scala and Java. Conceptualized in the "Reactive Manifesto," which was co-authored by Lightbend CTO and co-founder Jonas Bonér, reactive applications are apps that better meet the "contemporary challenges of software development" in a world in which applications are deployed to everything from mobile devices to cloud-based clusters running thousands of multicore processors.

"We believe the use of the Lightbend Reactive Platform is essential to building today's modern infrastructures," said Bob Lord, IBM's chief digital officer, in a statement. "Lightbend represents IBM's continuous commitment to the Java and Scala communities. Java and Scala are the languages of cognitive and AI development, and cognitive development is the future. The collaboration between IBM and Lightbend can help enterprise developers build cognitive applications and accelerate the era of cognitive computing."

IBM and Lightbend will be working together to create new code and develop new tools and documentation to help developers build Java- and Scala-based applications on the Reactive Platform. Among the potential results of this collaboration going forward, Brewer pointed out, is that developers will be able to leverage existing Websphere investments to take advantage of the latest cognitive and AI technologies. The Watson Data Platform is another likely beneficiary of this collaboration, he said, as are the more than 150 services across cognitive intelligence, data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), security, DevOps and blockchain that are available to devs through the IBM Cloud.

"This gives IBM a better way to own the AI and cognitive world," Brewer said. "Scala is simply a great language for building things -- whether it's an artificial intelligence engine, or some business application -- that are going to be dealing with data in motion."

Scala, which was developed by Lightbend co-founder Martin Odersky, is a general purpose, multi-paradigm language designed to integrate features of object-oriented programming and functional programming. Scala runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and is compatible with existing Java programs.

Lightbend estimates that there are currently 1.2 million developers in the Scala community. It's used by Apple, Verizon and Twitter among others. Several modern frameworks are written in Scala, including Spark, Kafka and Lightbend's own Akka.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].